Gig Review by Frances Winston
Olympia Theatre, 22nd September 2019
The Godfather of electro/new wave/postpunk has regularly popped over to these shores to perform over the past few years, but seems to do it in a rather understated way. I saw no posters or big promos for this gig. Instead, I found out about it through Facebook – which seems appropriate given that he is such an advocate of technology. Yet when I went to purchase my ticket, I actually got the second last one, so clearly word of his imminent arrival had spread quickly.
This tour is actually to celebrate the 40th anniversary of his first-ever tour in 1979! It’s hard to believe that he’s been on the go that long, but yes fact fans – it’s true.
Numan has a reputation for taking himself rather seriously, which is somewhat undeserved. Admittedly, he does tend to power through his set without much in the way of audience interaction. Well, until the end at least. I’ve seen him live several times, and this is just his style, but fans know what to expect. And it does mean that you get far more bang for your buck, as he manages to squeeze in far more songs than most artists.
Taking to the stage just after 9pm, and opening with My Name is Ruin, he took the audience on a journey through his songbook, and had them in the palm of his hand from the off. Unlike many legacy/anniversary tours, Numan doesn’t present his work chronologically, but rather in an order that he feels gives a flow to the work. Hence we get Cars mid-set, and even Are Friends Electric wasn’t saved for the encore as you would expect.
In fact, Numan ran through so many of his tracks, including Metal, Absolution, Call Out the Dogs, and A Prayer for the Unborn, that when he did emerge for an encore, we were treated to a work-in-progress unrehearsed track, Intruder, from his forthcoming album. By his own admission, it was rough, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind, as they embraced this new song.
There was a moment of hilarity when he started to play Jo The Waiter (because his wife said she’d never have sex with him again if he didn’t) and he actually forgot the words. Rather than try and cover it up, like so many performers would do, he gamely went and got a lyric sheet and started again. It was very obvious that he was thoroughly enjoying himself, and the crowd were loving it too.
Numan remains an enigmatic performer, and it’s impossible not to be hypnotised by him. He has stage-presence in spades. His fans are also reverential in their adoration of him, making his concert experience nearly like attending a religious service. Sunday night’s gig will be burned in people’s consciousness for a long time to come, and I’m sure many fans are still dreaming about it.
1. My Name Is Ruin 2. That’s Too Bad 3. Desire 4. Films 5. Metal 6. Absolution 7. My Breathing 8. Down in the Park 9. The Promise 10. Cars 11. Here in the Black 12. We Are Glass 13. Call Out the Dogs 14. A Prayer for the Unborn 15. Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
Encore: 16. My Shadow in Vain 17. It Will End Here? 18. Intruder 19. Jo the Waiter