The thing you should know, first and foremost, about Gary Numan: He’s a showman. And his showmanship was on full display in a nearly sold-out show at 9:30 Club on Saturday.
Gary and his band dropped by to tour his successful new record — Savage (Songs from a Broken World), his 21st studio album, released in September via BMG and The End. And that album came complete with a post-apocalyptic concept familiar to many of Gary’s admirers. In short, the civilized world ended and people grapple with the remains as they wander a desert wasteland.
The setting fed Gary’s flair for the theatric, as he and his band appeared in concert clad as desert travelers, their fashion sense informed by Dune in the marketing campaign for the new stuff. With typical flair, Gary threw himself into the music from the start, writhing and dancing to the beat, which shot crisply through the air, born by pulsating synthesizers.
He began the show with “Ghost Nation” from the new album. The thundering synths of the song were accompanied by lightning flashes from the stage strobes, which signaled opportunities for Gary to reach upward or bob downward dramatically. During his verses, he would weave from side to side while he sang.
And sing he did. Gary’s unmistakable voice was as remarkable if not more so than the alluring synthpop of his recent compositions. No one else sings like Gary Numan, and he made full use of his familiar, haunting vocals at 9:30 Club.
A bit later, Gary and company performed Savage’s “Bed of Thorns,” and the pace slowed to a crawl. Gary changed his singing style to something more whispery as he clung to the microphone stand. In another new standout selection toward the end of the show, Gary broke out “My Name Is Ruin,” a disco-driven, Middle Eastern-flavored industrial track featuring his daughter Persia on prerecorded backing vocals.
The energy throughout the show remained high, particularly when Gary turned to his classics like “Metal,” “Down in the Park,” and “Cars,” the latter of which carried heavier, chunkier instrumentation than usual. The songs served as insistent reminders as to how good are those records, Replicas and The Pleasure Principle, the first two albums of the three-album “Machine” arc that made Gary Numan an overnight sensation nearly 40 years ago.
The band returned for an encore that included “M.E.” and “Are Friends Electric?” For me, the UK #1 hit “Are Friends Electric?” from 1979’s Replicas remains timeless and powerful, and Gary pumped up the fury on the chorus to create a quiet island for spoken word verses that seemed more terribly lonely than ever in the song. Sustained, heartfelt applause brought Gary and his band back for a second encore of “I Die: You Die” from Telekon, capping off a streak of crowd-pleasers from the three Machine-era albums.
The audience wanted him to never leave, but of course Gary had to take the show on the road! Catch Gary tonight, Dec. 12, in Nashville. He’ll be on tour for another week as he makes his way to Aspen, Colorado, to wrap his current US performances on Dec. 19. (Find him in his native England next year!)
Trust me, Gary is truly an “electric” performer. As evidence, here are some pictures of Gary Numan performing at 9:30 Club on Dec. 9, 2017. All photos copyright and courtesy of Paivi.