At the turn of the 1980s, everyone was told that in the future robots would take the place of human workers. In one corner of Manchester, this vision of the future holds. A Numanoid stands before us, walking, talking and almost managing to keep a straight face as thousands of beery men - some in robot makeup - chant "Nu-man!"
The 48-year-old who was Gary Webb in a previous life has been pop's premier android since his 1979 number one, Are "Friends" Electric?, ushered in the machine-pop era. Lately, Numan has had his batteries recharged. The Sugababes have reworked his biggest hit, and advances in hair and tailoring technology means that today's black-clad Numanoid looks, eerily, better than the 1979 prototype. A pulsating stage set is the sort of thing men with specs once drooled over on Tomorrow's World.
Since artists such as Marilyn Manson have named him as an influence, Numan has unfortunately drifted towards a sort of faux-metal. Tonight, however, he reconnects with his electronic soul, unexpectedly drawing on the classic Replicas and Telekon albums. Because no one else has sounded quite like this, We Are Glass, Down in the Park and the rest still sound futuristic.
However, words originally written about alienation now trigger a communal experience. To Numan's obvious bemusement, people chant along to the synth hook in the fabulous Are "Friends" Electric?. And when the artist puts unusual sincerity into the line "This means everything to me", there's even a suspicion that the Numanoid may really be humanoid after all.