Gary Numan, The Picturehouse, Edinburgh, Scotland, November 26, 2009
By: Fredrik "Schlatta" Svensson
In 1979 Gary Numan released his first album under his own name (well, Gary Numan is an artist name, but you get the idea). The title was “The Pleasure Principle”. But of course it was not the first record project that he participated in. In the latter part of the seventies he answered an ad for a guitar player in the band that was to be known as Tubeway Army, I believe they were called Lasers by the time Numan joined forces, but all that changed when Numan became the frontman of the band. They released a self-titled album, commonly known by the name “The Blue Album” amongst collectors since the first 5 000 copies were pressed in blue vinyl in late 1978.
The follow-up album “Replicas” and the UK number one hit “Are ‘Friends’ Electric? released in May 1979 made Tubeway Army and Gary Numan household names in his home country. Numan opted to relaunch himself as a solo artist and in September the album “The Pleasure Principle” was released.
30 years have passed and to celebrate this Numan decided re-release the album adding a bonus disc with demos and unreleased material. He is also doing a tour where he plays the album in its entirety. I had the divine privilege to see one of the shows. Previously, Numan has done shows based on some of the other early albums like “Replicas” and “Telekon”, but he has refrained to be part of the many eighties reunion festivals. Kudos. Numan has never stopped releasing albums and his music has evolved ever since the Tubeway Army days.
Some of you might have read my previous live reports and hopefully found them to be entertaining and filled with lame references to old songs and so on. Oddly, to some at least, many live reviews are from shows in Scotland. Some of you might also wonder why I always praise the artists so much. The simple answer is that I love going to concerts and I do so almost every weekend, but I only chose to write about shows that are really special to me for some reason or another (not to say that concerts I do not write about are bad in any way). It is, to quote another famous English band, a question of time.
Speaking of time, this time around I was travelling to Edinburgh to see the Numan concert and I was supposed to do an interview with Numan before the concert but due to a late schedule change by an unnamed Irish airline this had to be cancelled, for now at least.
Well, on our way we were supposed to at least have enough time after landing at Prestwick airport and then drive 90 minutes to Edinburgh to find the venue called the Picturehouse. In mid-air the pilot informs us that the airport is closed due to a “technical” issue, the issue obviously being the black clouded storm we saw beneath us.
To cut a long story short, we were frightfully delayed circling overland until we were able to not as much land as crash onto the landing strip, run to our rental car and madly drive to Edinburgh - my girlfriend behind the wheel and me reading the map. We made it to the venue just after the opening act had left the stage. They are called Dirty Harry and since there was no sign of riots or eggs I assume they were OK.
A quarter to nine, Gary Numan and his five band colleagues entered the stage to the pulsating arpeggio bass line of “Random”. The venue capacity of the Picturehouse is 1 150 standing and 350 seated on a balcony and I estimate that there were around 800-1000 people in attendance. The venue hosts wouldn’t tell me the exact number. Not sold-out but certainly not empty looking.
I love photography and have been taking pictures at concerts for more than a decade and I was thrilled to be awarded a photo pass to the concert. I and two other photographers struggled to focus on Numan during the intro, the lighting was very sparse and beautiful, but then the track “Airline” started and the full splendor of the stage set was revealed.
For the first part of the show no less than four members of the band played keyboards, including Numan playing a Virus TI center stage. There is something very beautiful with grown men playing keyboards (oh edit that please...) - people playing keyboards. Behind Numan was the drummer with a massive drum kit and to the left and right of the drummer were two keyboardists playing all the lovely pads and melodies, almost everything, if not everything, was played live, at least in most songs. To Numan’s left was the bass player and to his right the guitar man, although playing bass lines on a Roland keyboard for the first part of the show. I was slightly disappointed that no keyboards from the original recordings were used, like the Minimoog and Polymoog, but it sounded awesome nevertheless.
There were two LED-panels and one projector for the visuals and for the first part of the show the images and films were superb, but for the second part they were a bit repetitive, still very beautiful though.
The concert was split in two distinct parts, firstly the “Pleasure Principle” part and then a subsequent part with newer tracks mixed with some old, remade in heavier versions. Here is the setlist as I recall it:
“Pleasure Principle” part:
The concert went very well. I noticed that one of the keyboards failed, or at least was mixed extremely low, during “Cars” and there were also some distorted fluttering noise in the extreme high frequency range, but maybe that was only in my ears, that were affected by my horrible air trip. Apart from those minor disturbancies the band was very tight and the sound was excellent, at least where I was standing.
For a man in his fifties Numan is very fit and energetic on stage and seemed to enjoy himself. The inbetween talk was kept to a minimum, which I prefer. In the latter part of the show Numan abandoned his Virus and played a Les Paul in some songs. The second part of the show was heavier and darker than the first, much like the progression of Numan’s musical career. To me the latest albums; “Jagged”, “Pure” and “Exile” are amongst the best albums produced the last dozen years or so and it saddens me that Numan still have not received the recognition he fully deserves. In my view, he is a top-notch super star.
The crowd was very good and perhaps a bit too well-behaved in my view. To finish the set with “A Prayer for the Unborn” was chillingly awesome, it is my favourite track, and it sent shivers down my spine. This was oddly my first Numan concert and I can happily remove the top name from my must-see-live-before-I-die list.
An hour and forty minutes after they entered the stage the band left the stage and me and my girlfriend we’re invited to a good friend’s apartment to discuss the show and more importantly drink some fine malt whisky from Orkney. I really hope to see Numan again and I do encourage you to catch a show if you have the opportunity.