Gary Numan

Rock City, Nottingham

It's hard to remember, but there was a time when Gary Numan was seriously uncool. Yes, Cars and Are "Friends" Electric? bestrode the charts, but he was otherwise seen as a pop alternative to serious synthesizer types such as Cabaret Voltaire, while the NME routinely lampooned his Bowie whine and flying misfortunes. Fast-forward 30 years, the Numanoid is still packing venues while many of his so-called cooler peers have long since packed their gear, and his cold, electronic anthems to urban alienation are seen as pioneering.

Tonight's sublime opener, Down in the Park – from 1979's Replicas, when he was still called Tubeway Army – still sounds hypnotic, Kafkaesque and chilling, and could have been recorded yesterday.

But Numan has not stood still, and in recent years his trademark glacial synths have been given an industrial rock chassis. While recent tours have included classic albums such as The Pleasure Principle, he can hardly be accused of resting on his laurels. The set leans heavily on forthcoming album Dead Son Rising. It's a stark, powerful and oddly sensual affair, although with electro-goth itself starting to show its age, perhaps another reinvention (or at least a tweak) cannot be far away.

His effect on the audience, though, is undiminished. Balding blokes travel the country to bellow "Nuuuuu-man!" throughout the set. Meanwhile, with his 18-year-old's body and intriguingly lustrous hair, the black-clad, 53-year-old singer looks better and younger than them all. 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 to pandemonium, you start to wonder if this really is the Numan of 30 years ago at all, or whether he's been replaced by one of the replicants he used to sing about.


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 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

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

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
Gary Numan review – retooled android still sounds like the future
Revisiting his classic albums, Numan blows the PA as he leaves behind the cold, dystopian sounds and gives old “Friends” a new arrangement

Dave Simpson

16, Sep, 2016 @12:39 PM

Article image
Gary Numan and Mary Vango: how we made Are 'Friends' Electric?
Singer-songwriter Gary Numan and makeup artist Mary Vango remember getting a song about a robot prostitute to No 1 without anyone realising

Interview by Dave Simpson

18, Feb, 2014 @8:00 AM

Article image
Gary Numan: 'Critics said I was wooden on stage – I think it's true!'

The 80s electronic star on overcoming stage fright, surviving a midlife crisis and why he'll never do revivals tours

Michael Hann

10, Oct, 2013 @2:46 PM

Gary Numan, The Academy, Manchester

The Academy, Manchester

Dave Simpson

11, Dec, 2006 @10:05 AM