Gary Numan review – retooled android still sounds like the future

The Foundry, Sheffield
Revisiting his classic albums, Numan blows the PA as he leaves behind the cold, dystopian sounds and gives old “Friends” a new arrangement

Gary Numan’s 1979 Top of the Pops debut, singing Tubeway Army’s Are “Friends” Electric?, not only launched the first mainstream electronic pop star but brought us the first No 1 single about a robot prostitute. Back then, the music sounded like the future – and it still does – although even the most avid fan would have been surprised to see their hero performing to adoring audiences 37 years later.

For his current run of dates, Numan is taking a break from new music to revisit the albums which made his reputation: Tubeway Army, Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon. In the early 80s, Numan’s music – which drew on his Asperger’s syndrome and social alienation – sounded weird, cold and dystopian. Now, it’s all been thoroughly retooled, meaning that the beats are more substantial and the musicians no longer line up in black shirts and thin white ties. Numan himself looks so ridiculously well-preserved he may actually be an android, and Down in the Park sounds thrillingly foreboding. Are “Friends” Electric? has a lovely new arrangement which draws out the song’s drama. Cars and We Are Glass sound predictably fabulous, but there’s unscripted drama when Numan’s performance manages to somehow simultaneously blow the PA system and set off the fire alarm. Luckily, there are no sprinkler systems to play havoc with his circuits, and the audience return after evacuation to be greeted with the rare spectacle of the black-clad, once-austere singer laughing like a drain, asking: “Wasn’t that fantastic?”

  • At Liverpool Olympia on 16 September; Coventry Copper Rooms on 17 September. Box office: 0844-477 1000). Then touring.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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