Gary Numan can easily fill venues as large as Shepherds Bush O2 Academy, but it’s humbling to see the Hammersmith-born star perform somewhere as intimate as Bush Hall. Sitting five minutes away from the Academy, the Victorian venue rings of music hall nostalgia and nineteenth-century paraphernalia; and it’s a perfect fit for Numan’s original and timeless music.
Before Numan takes to the stage, Tim Muddiman & The Strange perform to the sold out crowd. Completing two sound checks and two live sets at each of Numan’s most recent shows, Muddiman easily transitions from the brooding bassist in Numan’s line up in to the confident, blues-influenced front man of his own band.
With extensive experience in production and writing, it’s no surprise that Muddiman’s set sounds as clear as the crystals hanging from the chandelier-strewn ceiling. The band play for thirty minutes and the set includes tracks ‘Wildwood Stone’ and ‘Your Drugs’ which are singles from Muddiman’s debut album, Paradise Runs Deeper. ‘Glass Queen’ is also an impressive live listen with its jagged synths and blues riffs, and the crowd reward the band with supportive cheers throughout their performance.
It should be noted that the crowd at Bush Hall behave impeccably throughout the night, and exercise a decorum and respect for each other rarely seen at gigs these days. Of course there are the odd few hooked to their smart phones, but when Gary Numan is within perfect photographing distance wherever you stand in the venue, it takes great restraint not to record the special moment.
Numan has released twenty studio albums, so choosing an opening song is no easy feat; but the job falls to ‘Replicas’ and the synths are mesmerizingly sharp and resonant. Between them, Numan and his band have enviably extensive performance experience, and it’s easy to take for granted the immense amount of innovation and talent it has taken each band member to reach this level of skill.
‘Metal’ follows after chants of “Numan! Numan!” in between songs which is surprisingly endearing. ‘I Am Dust’ is played shortly after, and is as pulse-ragingly sinister live as it is recorded. The set list is as eclectic as the man who made it, and older tracks ‘M.E’ and ‘I Die: You Die’ fit comfortably between the more aggressive sound of Splinter tracks like ‘Everything Comes Down To This’.
Live, ‘Cars’ sounds as fresh as it did when it was released on The Pleasure Principle in 1979, and is still enjoyed with the same enthusiasm by a loyal crowd. The same can be said of the trademark hand-waving to ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ which is equally as stunning live. Numan’s movements are as idiosyncratic as his vocals, and when paired with the dazzling light show it’s hypnotising.
Numan’s mind may be “broken” on his most recent album Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind), but it’s certainly not in need of repair. The urgency of the set’s final track ‘Here In The Black’ is immediate and the delivery is immaculate. Anyone lucky enough to have made it to Gary Numan’s Bush Hall show knows they were in the presence of unforgettable superior electronic music.
Photo Credit: Robert Gershinson