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 to pandemonium, you start to wonder if this really is the Numan of 30 years ago at all, or whether he's been replaced by one of the replicants he used to sing about.

Contributor

Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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