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Gary Numan @ Turner Hall Ballroom

April 1, 2014

Apr. 2, 2014
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Photo credit: Benjamin Wick

While his lengthy career has certainly had its fair share of ups and downs, largely thanks to personal problems and shifting commercial trends, Gary Numan remains a revered, iconic figure for fans of a number of genres, from synthpop and techno to goth, punk and industrial, continually being rediscovered by generations of guitar and synthesizer nerds alike. That loyal base of listeners has followed him through a plethora of permutations and reinventions since his chart-topping, creatively groundbreaking heyday in the late 1970s and early ’80s, but the transformation accompanying last year’s Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind), his bestselling effort in 30 years, has proved particularly invigorating, not only for Numan himself but also the enthusiasm of his diehard followers, a great number of whom came out to pack the Turner Hall Ballroom on Tuesday night.

That crowd, mostly black-clad weirdoes of every age and persuasion, perked up excitedly as a spacey prerecorded intro and some trippy lighting effects heralded his appearance onstage. At 56, Numan, sporting skinny jeans and a hip haircut, almost looks healthier than he did as a pasty-faced young android all those years ago but, beyond his appearance, he also brought a level of energy and physical engagement that shows he hasn’t slowed down much since. More impressively, he managed to keep it up through a 90-minute set, going all out on every song whether it was a dystopian early-era classic, such as “Down in the Park” or “Metal”, an obscure deep cut, for instance the title track off of 2000’s Pure, or a new Splinter track like the dramatic “Everything Comes Down to This.”

While the passion is clearly still there, and his voice is as oddly unique as ever, the focus on being a charismatic frontman came at the expense of showing off his musicianship, but even though it would have been nice to see him take the lead on guitar or let loose on the synth a bit more, his backing band, consisting of a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist and drummer, seemed to truly get the spirit of Numan’s idiosyncratic musical vision and sounded great right on through to the encore, which memorably featured a dynamic, piano-driven version of the paranoid “Are Friends Electric?” The catalog-hopping setlist naturally touched on some of his less inspired industrial material as well his most timeless hits, but overall it was a vivid reminder of how Gary Numan earned that elder statesman status.


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