If you hadn’t been paying attention, it may have slipped under your radar, but yet another living legend walked the halls of New Orleans House of Blues on Wednesday, December 13th. Synth pioneer and new-wave godfather, Gary Numan, has just released his eighteenth studio album, Savage (Songs from a Broken World), a follow-up to his 2013 album, Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind). New York 80’s revival band, Me Not You, joined Numan on the U.S. part of his tour for the release of the new record.
Gary Numan put out two albums with the band Tubeway Army in the late 70’s, neither of which were received very well by critics or the public, however, in 1980, you couldn’t go anywhere in England, Canada or the U.S. without hearing his new wave pop anthem, “Cars,” from his debut solo album, The Pleasure Principle. The Pleasure Principle is one of the most definitive albums of 1979, topping the charts in the U.K. and Canada, and reaching number 8 in the U.S. The record’s dynamic, metallic sound was molded by Numan, who produced and recorded it with a backing band. The distinct synthesizer melodies and tones came from Numan’s experimentation with running keyboards through guitar effect pedals. His performances were famous for their futuristic production and thematic direction. Numan and his band would dress in matching mod-style outfits and man the synthesizers in his spaceship-esque stage set-up.
Gary Numan’s style has influenced dozens of now-famous musicians such as Trent Reznor, Dave Grohl, and Marilyn Manson, even though he changed his sound and persona with almost every new release. After his two successful “machine” albums, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, Gary infused elements of jazz and rhythm into his music, which resulted in the album Dance. He also altered his image, sporting a fedora and pinstripe suit on the cover. Dance began a long road of tweaking and reinventing for Numan, not all of which was fruitful, that went deeper into jazz and dance with albums like White Boys and Heroes, and then gradually evolved into what is now blatantly industrial rock. After having been a role model for people like Reznor, Numan himself is now quoted for being inspired by the Nine Inch Nails song “Closer.” Splinter from 2013 and the new record, Savage, are both quite dark and heavy, and Numan has been getting more attention lately than he has in decades.
After a long career of rebuilding himself and working with countless emerging artists on musical projects, including films, Gary Numan is now in full stride again, and his live performing is better than ever. On this tour, Numan’s three daughters, Raven, Persia, and Echo have all made guest appearances to share the stage with their father. Persia contributed vocals and was featured in the music video for “My Name is Ruin” from Savage.
Gary Numan’s stage presence is still heavily coordinated, as he and the rest of the band dressed in what appeared to be post-apocalyptic rags and face paint, reflecting the theme of the new record. The backing band was well-practiced and very lively, but they didn’t overshadow Numan whatsoever. Despite only providing lead vocals for a majority of the show, Numan clearly has not lost interest in what he does. Contrary to criticisms of being “wooden” onstage, his moves seemed infused with martial arts, taking power stances and using his arms and body as tools for interpretive expression in the most photogenic ways. And when he wasn’t standing alone with a mic, he was behind a keyboard or wielding a guitar. His voice is still crisp and unique, and it cleanly cut through all the heavy mechanic sounds of both his recent and classic material.
The show began with strobe lights and thunderous noise as Gary appeared in brief, standing meditation. They started with the brand new song, “Ghost Nation,” and then followed with “Metal” from The Pleasure Principle, which was totally unexpected by the fans and aptly got things rolling. After establishing that this night would be a time-traveling mixture of new and old, the crowd was prepared for an evening of pure satisfaction. Gary and the band pressed on with a suitably well-balanced setlist spanning his entire career, including Tubeway Army. They played everything from “The Fall” off of Dead Son Rising, to Numan’s single for Ghost in the Shell, to “Films” and even the monster hit “Cars” from The Pleasure Principle.
The final song was “A Prayer for the Unborn” from the 2000 album, Pure, which left the audience members in need of one thing, a thirst-quenching encore. As is principle, Numan gave the crowd three times the pleasure. Gary and the band returned for a powerful rendition of “M.E.” from his 1979 album, surprisingly followed by the hit single “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” from Numan’s heyday with Tubeway Army. This sent the crowd in a tizzy, and just when everyone thought their night of 80’s nostalgia had concluded, the band came out one last time for a second, unscheduled encore. They played another surprise deep cut, “I Die/You Die,” from Numan’s second album, Telekon. Black make-up running down their dropped jaws, the crowd gathered their composure and slowly meandered out of the venue discussing, wishing, and hoping for the next visit from the lonely android.