Interspersing classical forms of music with a contemporary electronic edge, support act and Numan-backing band member Chris Payne is an inspired choice, shuddering the Royal Concert Hall’s foundations with songs such as Would Vivaldi Have Liked Electro? and the co-penned Visage pop hit Fade To Grey.
Whereas Payne stands inert behind an Apple-lit laptop or play violin, the purple-lit and smoky scuzz-bombed stage which greets Numan and his four band members is a borderline pageant, filled with costumes, sounds, shapes, and smells.
Scratchy, threatening and entirely on a knife-edge, last year’s Ghost Nation is a swaggering start to proceedings, swiftly followed by Metal from 1979’s The Pleasure Principle album. It quickly becomes apparent that tonight’s host is equally willing to reach out to his original fans just as much as he is out to cement his reputation among the younger segment of the audience.
Affected tai-chi dancing from Numan and his equally erratic band, coupled with a spirited, young orchestra keeps energy high throughout a set which includes Bed of Thorns, Pray For The Pain You Serve, and fans’ favourite Down In The Park. In the latter, the frontman breaks from his own spell to share some laughter with the Skaparis conductor after an initial stop-start to the song.
Numan already has a profound connection with his fans, but these moments of humanity also endear him to the remainder of the audience. This is apparent when his thirteen-year-old daughter Persia joins him on stage to sing impressive vocals on My Name Is Ruin and My Breathing, with Numan playfully cajoling the youngster to react to his teasing and unorthodox dancing.
Numan’s isolated poetry for the disengaged has been covered by the likes of Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, and the prog-rock spectacle of Here In The Black from 2013 is as raw and profound in its twilit message as anything else performed tonight.
However, despite being almost forty years old, Are ‘Friends’ Electric? is still the jewel in Numan’s dark crown. It remains a lofty, brash, and thunderous cacophony which still deserves the adulation it receives so many years later. It’s perhaps a good summation of the Gary Numan experience in its entirety. With a heavily stringed army behind him shooting laser arrows over the audience’s heads, Numan’s assessment that this was “the funnest thing I ever did” is blazingly apparent.
New single and closer for the night, It Will End Here, from 2018’s The Fallen EP signs off the night. One can only hope that the terminal nature of Numan’s song titles and lyrics is not a reference to the future of his clear and unequalled gift.