Gig review: Gary Numan at the O2 Academy, Leicester (19th May 2022)

“Numan! Numan!” the crowd chants between every song. It’s almost a year to the day that Intruder, his 19th studio album, was released. Tonight’s show in Leicester is the penultimate stop on the British leg of the tour.

Before this, the support act, a young French band called Divine Shade, impress the crowd with a loud, energetic performance which is kind of industrial techno rock. The bass vibrates in our chests while the guitars pound our skulls. “Merci beaucoup!” someone shouts as the band finish their final song. Divine Shade are soon back, however, to sort out their instruments while the crowd chatter and wait for their favourite electronic music icon. There are different generations here, devoted fans from the early days and younger people who have since discovered Gary’s music.

Excited cheers fill the air when guitarist Steve Harris, bassist Tim Slade, keyboardist David Brooks and drummer Richard Beasley appear on stage. Finally, Gary Numan himself arrives and the crowd screams their appreciation. The band have a look which could be described as dystopian desert goth; artfully rough fabric in shades of black and grey, stripes of paint across their faces. They launch into the title track from the latest album, ‘Intruder’.

Gary has a sort of Middle Eastern dance style now which mirrors the influences on his recent work. Sometimes during a break in the vocals, he retreats to the back of the stage to rest a moment and have a drink. He occasionally plays guitar or keyboard. Steve and Tim rocket back and forth across the stage and have some rather theatrical moves. Richard is distanced behind his shades, drumming the backbone of the songs, while David is somewhat hidden behind the keyboards but can certainly be heard. The light show is excellent and there are images on the screens which are sometimes abstract, sometimes depicting soldiers, computer code, viruses and even plastic pollution.

The setlist is a mix of early, 90s and more recent songs. The early ones have an industrial rock makeover which keeps them fresh. Every song gets a great reception, particularly ‘Cars’ (of course), ‘Metal’, ‘Films’ and ‘My Name is Ruin’ (during which the screen shows Gary’s daughter Persia, who contributed to the vocals on the song but obviously can’t be at every show to sing them). ‘Down in the Park’ is particularly stunning. During the very last song, ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’, Gary’s voice starts going and he needs the crowd to help out. He deserves a lot of kudos for putting his soul into these songs when he’s performed them about a million times already and is in the middle of a huge tour (America before this, Europe is next). Next day he said on Twitter that he had very worrying news from home just before the show. You really couldn’t tell, other than that he maybe started to show the exhaustion you’d expect from performing almost every day.

A fantastic performance from the whole band and a treat for everyone at the Leicester O2, a relatively small venue which allows you to be closer to the performers and has excellent acoustics too.

If you love atmospheric synths, dark electronica, industrial rock, dystopian themes and you haven’t checked out Numan’s music yet… do your ears a favour and have a listen.

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