When it was announced earlier this year that Gary Numan was doing an acoustic tour, I knew it would be something special. His music is known for industrial and synth sounds, so there is a lot of interest in these shows. Which songs will make the set list and how do they translate into acoustic versions? With drums, two guitars, a bass guitar, double bass and keyboard, not forgetting Gary’s unique voice, Numan and co. delivered a brilliant performance. I actually preferred it to the Intruder show I saw last year – which was a great show, but the acoustic one had a happier, more relaxed vibe. Maybe it was because Gary chatted to the audience in between songs, something he is not known for. He laughed about how ‘miserable’ his songs generally are, described the inspiration behind the songs and some shout-outs to his family, who are very much a part of his music. This was all punctuated by the inevitable shouts of ‘Nu-maaaan’ from the audience.
Backtracking for a moment, there was no support act. Instead, there was a screen showing about half an hour of Gary’s Wembley show from last year, which mostly had different songs to the acoustic set. I think this was a good idea as it made everyone even more excited to see him in person and was also a reminder of what the full sound was like and how energetic the band are, as a contrast with what we were about to experience. It was admittedly odd to see Gary, Steve and Tim seated the whole time instead of swooping around the stage.
The opening track was ‘When the World Comes Apart’, which was an excellent omen. The rhythm is quite fast and the twanging guitars helped it keep that mean edge. This was followed by: ‘You Are in My Vision’, ‘Stories’, ‘For the Rest of My Life’, ‘The Life Machine’, ‘Metal’, ‘I Am Screaming’, ‘The Machman,’ ‘Lost’, ‘Walking with Shadows’, ‘Ghost Nation’, ‘Everyday I Die’, ‘Down in the Park’, ‘Crime of Passion’, ‘Bleed’, ‘And It All Began With You’, ‘Jo the Waiter’; for the encore ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ This was an ambitious selection of songs. Some of the choices were what you might expect, particularly the ballad-type or very early guitar-based ones, but some were a surprise. ‘Metal’, for example, is a very electronic-sounding track but they made it work beautifully and it just might be my favourite of the whole evening. You probably won’t believe me when I say that ‘Cars’ was a surprise, but I’d assumed that it was too electronic and iconic to touch. Gary explained that Steve had an idea of how to go about it, so if we didn’t like this version, that’s who to blame! I really liked this re-working of a much-played classic, so well done Steve.
The sound in the venue was excellent and so was the lighting, which used colour and strobe effects to enhance the mood of the music and even reflected off the enormous pipes of the organ above the stage. I don’t normally take photos at gigs (mainly because they always come out blurry!) but I had to capture the lighting. Note the deep blue during ‘Lost’ which suggests the melancholy of the piece, the eerie green which matches the creepiness of ‘Down in the Park’ and the starry white strobe lighting for the final showstopper ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ (or should that be, acoustic?)