Gary Anthony James Webb (born 8 March 1958), better known as Gary Numan, is an English singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. Born in Hammersmith, London, he first entered the music industry as the lead singer of the new wave band Tubeway Army. After releasing two albums with the band, Numan released his debut solo album The Pleasure Principle in 1979.
Most widely known for his chart-topping hits “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” and “Cars“, Numan achieved his peak of mainstream popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but maintains a loyal cult following. His signature sound consists of heavy synthesizer hooks fed through guitar effects pedals, and he is considered a pioneer of commercial electronic music.
I Am Dust—-To have the chance to see Numan live is a pure joy and indescribable experience. On the stage, Numan sheds his Asperger’s and becomes a type of human monster…flailing around on the stage and delivering his darkest sounds possible thanks to new technology and mastery of years of experience. This release, recorded on Halloween, wrapped up the US jaunt of his Here In The Black tour…..it is fitting we begin with this track off Splinter. The crowd is jubilant, and the sound is impeccable…you catch every groan from the synth lines and every nuance that was captured in the studio. Numan sounds literally possessed by the music…..making you feel ice cold and incredibly excited at the same time. This is exquisite.
Metal—-A constant track in Numan’s live shows, this goes way back to the early days of his career. The amped up version plays so well live…you could never tell the date or the age of the song. The guitars are aggressive while still maintaining the irresistible synth line of the original. Numan delivers his trademark whine of a singing voice that brings a smile to my face no matter how many times I hear this.
Everything Comes Down To This—-My favorite track from the Splinter release, I was super excited to see that this was included in the live set. This is not a happy song…I think there were some problems going on during the recording of Splinter with his marriage. But live this is even more intense and devastating. The groans and effects that come from the synths are just amazing….the huge guitar burst make the song a huge masculine love song…Numan pleads for forgiveness and second chances. This is just fantastic.
The Fall—-A huge guitar intro brings out the crashing synth line and beefs up this track like you can’t believe. The aggressive Industrial style keyboards are better than Trent has managed in years. Numan enters with his ghost like vocal and the song settles into a damn catchy melodic affair. This is triumphant. I never gelled with the Jagged CD…but this track is awesome.
Here In The Black—-One of the most mysterious and majestic songs Numan has recorded in recent history, the escalating synth line drives the song and the crowd to near mania. The whispered delivery of the vocal is full of echo’s and a built in atmosphere all of its own. This is just brilliant….it plays so well live….that synth line is to die for.
Films—-Stepping way back in the Numan catalog, films is another track that always lands on my favorites list….along with M.E. The vocal delivery is what makes this song so fantastic….Numan’s whine and the updated synth lines making the song even more powerful. I guess you can tell….I love this man.The original feel of the song is firmly intact…but the added crash of the synths provide an update that makes it even more powerful.
The Calling—-Slowing down the tempo provides a bit of a cool down for the crowd and Numan delivers this incredibly dark rack with mastery. His vocal is so clear and powerful…rising over all of the effects to allow you to feel the loneliness…the despair and the pain. the stage literally swells with emotion as the song progresses…your headphones will literally sob with this delivery. A master!!!
Down In The Park—-It is hard to breathe new life into such an aged track that has been played literally thousands of times. It is always nice to hear this again…but due to overplay it looses some of the shine for me. Consider the age of the track and the story it told way back when, it is phenomenal it still plays so well. A true classic.
Splinter—-The slow and almost maddening build up to this track fills you with anticipation. the sound of this is odd…lots of chants going on in the backdrop of the song and a slight Oriental feel to the music. Numan turns towards his disdain for God for the basis of this song…it plays well and sounds incredibly fresh. The instrumentation that the live band brings to these songs are just incredible…..a fantastic dense depressing track.
Dead Son Rising—-Beginning with a higher tones synth line and a clear and distortion free vocal, Numan delivers this mundane track with a new and fresh approach live. I love this version….the mystery of the track seems to swirl around the stage as the synth becomes almost maddening with repetition. I like this…but sometimes skip over this during casual listening.
A Shadow Falls—-Returning to the deeper synth line, the surprise is when Numan opens his mouth and sings a note which you seldom hear. I am accustomed to the deeper baritone of his voice and to hear him stretch to catch these notes are mesmerizing. This is slow…melodic and full of intensity. Just about perfect.
Lost—-Quiet and introspective, I think this further solidifies the assumption of some personal problems going on in recent years with Gary and Gemma. This is so sad, touching and personal…I can’t imagine what it must be like to play this live and on display for everyone to hear and share. This is phenomenal….getting this piece of him seems like a treasure. The huge burst of energy at the end of the song further cements the urgency and the plea……just incredible.
When The Sky Bleeds—-This is not a favorite track of mine…but the melody line of the song is impossible to ignore. Numan delivers a vocal that is clear and soaring…begging for a reason to continue with life and needing hope. The aggression kicks in and then ebbs….causing you to almost sit on the edge of your seat the entire song. A masterful delivery.
Unforgiven—-Powerful guitars soar above the multi layered synth lines and give this an almost soundtrack feel. Numan enters with his plaintive and begging vocal that makes you pay attention to every single word that is uttered from his psyche. This is intense….dark and driving. A masterpiece of a song that plays better live then on record.
Love Hurt Bleed—-Another track from Splinter that is in the vein of driving NIN synth lines and Industrial style rock. Numan fits in perfect….delivering his vocal between aggressive bursts of music…this has such a huge backbone…..and the recent trademark Numan sound is all over this track. A masterpiece.
A Prayer For The Unborn—-Sad and introspective with a horn effected synth line, the slight crunches from the other keyboards provide a stark landscape of music for Numan to muse over. This is intense….it has always touched me and made me somewhat sad. That Numan is willing to share such personal moments from his life seem like a privilege to me. This will always remain a favorite track of mine.
Cars—-Over thirty years on, and with major reworking, this track still plays well live. I can’t imagine how sick Numan must be of this song…but he delivers it like it was the first time he has ever preformed it. This is a classic…defining the 80’s….reworked and defining the new Numan generation.
I Die; You Die—-Delving way back in time once again, Numan again manages to stay true to a generation that adored him and still deliver to the generation that view him as a modern God. This has all the trademark synth lines of the original recording…but the huge driving drums add beef and masculinity Numan sounds in such clear voice…you can’t help but pull out old records and give them a re-listen.
Are ‘friends’ Electric?—-One of, if not the oldest track in this song list, this is essential Numan. The song still carries the same alienated feeling and the mastery of the emerging synth machines at the time…but are beefier and so much larger. This is a classic track….I can never tire of this ever……Numan does a great job re-working this.
My Last Day—-Ending this phenomenal show, Numan allows for a slower and darker tense track to say goodbye. This is a gentle ode to his children and perhaps to his fans as well. This is momentous and brilliant. Tender and leaving you walking to your transport shaking your head and whispering to yourself that you have viewed a God in his element.
***** out of 5