Gary Numan, The Academy, Manchester

The Academy, Manchester

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.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Gary Numan | Pop review

Brighton Dome
Perhaps uniquely among his 80s contemporaries, Gary Numan's fans seem less interested in his past than his present, writes Alexis Petridis

Alexis Petridis

18, Nov, 2009 @10:45 PM

Article image
Gary Numan
By the time he wheels out Cars and Are "Friends" Electric? to pandemonium, you start to wonder if this really is the Numan of 30 years ago, writes Dave Simpson

Dave Simpson

16, Sep, 2011 @4:53 PM

Old music: Gary Numan – Cars

George Chesterton: It's one of the greatest singles in pop history – and unlike many of its contemporaries, it has aged well

George Chesterton

05, Jul, 2012 @8:00 AM

Article image
Gary Numan answers your questions

The electronic music pioneer came online to answer questions from readers – here's what he said

Adam Boult

30, Nov, 2012 @2:32 PM

Article image
Gary Numan webchat – as it happened
He never listens to music, thinks America has better opportunities for women, and loves a Tesco shortcake. The electropop pioneer was here to answer your questions. Read the answers in full here

18, Mar, 2015 @2:25 PM

Article image
Pop review: Gary Numan

Shepherds Bush Empire, London
Rating: ****

John Aizlewood

24, Sep, 2001 @11:00 PM

Article image
When Gary Numan met Little Boots

He arrived in 1979, bringing synthpop to the masses. She is part of the bold new wave reinventing the genre for the 21st century. So what happened when Gary Numan met Little Boots, asks Paul Lester

Paul Lester

03, Dec, 2009 @9:35 PM

Portrait of the artist: Gary Numan, musician

'In 1992, I looked rubbish, couldn't sell tickets and made an LP that was garbage'

Interview by Laura Barnett

18, Mar, 2008 @12:09 AM

Article image
Gary Numan: Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) – review
Gary Numan's latest album puts his recent struggles with depression and mid-life crises to music, and it's an appropriately uneasy listen, writes Maddy Costa

Maddy Costa

10, Oct, 2013 @8:30 PM

Article image
Gary Numan review – terrace chants for thrashing synthpop star
The Numanoids are out in force for their idol, who throws in guitar and beefy rhythms for this 40th anniversary tour

Alexis Petridis

24, Sep, 2019 @12:23 PM