Live Music + Gig Reviews

Gary Numan @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London

9 February 2003

Gary Numan With young children and greying rockers alike making up his audience, Gary Numan‘s latest rendezvous with the Empire looked like a fan convention. They’ve followed the electropop godfather’s ventures into neo-industrial rock, and now were to witness the fruits of his labours with up-and-coming digital axe-wielders Sulpher, with whom he collaborated on his last original album, Pure.

It was the power chord mad Sulpher who opened the evening in dark, brooding style – a barrage of power chords alternating with vocalist Rob Holliday’s whispers and screams – and a mesmerising rhythm section.

Sulpher tore up the stage, Rob Holliday repeatedly throwing his mic stand down and energising his audience with every movement, howl and comment. But from the off, chants of “NU-man” had harked back to football stadiums as the fans awaited their idol. When Gary Numan emerged – with a five piece band playing a bank of keyboards, plus drums, bass and guitar – he was given an ecstatic welcome. And he looked astonishingly thin!

An indulgent set followed, made up largely of current remix album Hybrid, which includes new and old songs. Fans went wild to the older material, like Me! I Disconnect From You, with Gary leaving instruments to his backing band and concentrating on vocals. But some of his newer tracks also brought the house down – noticeably My Jesus, Listen To My Voice and Pure. The words were hard to hear, but the pounding bass sent shivers up spines.

An encore included the standards Are Friends Electric? and Cars, both still cracking tracks, and two other unidentified songs. The house screamed their approval as Numan bowed elegantly, and left. Tonight he could have played a ukelele and still been applauded, but his long set of new and old material left his audience well pleased. Sold out for a month, this gig showed the Numan revival to be well on course.

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