Bow before the Numan race…..
Comeback is a vastly overrated word. Especially when the person in question hasn’t disappeared from anything.
Gary Numan is a man with whom that word was associated with, until he smashed the charts last year with his album, Savage (Songs From A Broken World). He has now decided to turn it up a notch by doing an orchestral tour, and on Sunday 18th November, he treated Shepherds Bush Empire to just such a show.
And yes, I know Metallica have done this sort of thing, but look at who I’m going to tell you all about. Gary Numan, still setting the standard after all these years. Only this time, he is doing it with the wonderful Skaparis Orchestra. They open up proceedings with haunting strings before the band – Tim Muddiman, David Brooks, Steve Harris and Richard Beasley – one by one come onto the stage, before the biggest cheer is reserved for Gary Numan. No sooner are they all as one that they blast straight into Ghost Nation. With the orchestra in full swing as well, an extraordinary night has begun.
It’s a no nonsense approach too as they go keep the music flowing with Metal. Numan busting plenty of shapes with his dancing, and the two guitarists prowling the stage area. Bed Of Thorns is the next song off of Savage to get aired, with Numan getting the crowd going with every move he makes. Crowd? Sorry, disciples would be a better word for them. Then it’s Films to be given the orchestral treatment, and they give this 1979 classic from The Pleasure Principal an extra dimension. The lighting and lasers are certainly helping as well.
The singing section of the Skaparis Orchestra then conducts the crowd from where they are to join in with the clapping as Everything Comes Down To This is the next number of this show. And they duly oblige, as Numan continues to dance and head bang his way through the set. Then it’s back to more Savage numbers with Pray For The Pain You Serve. Simon Robertshaw, the orchestra leader, even gets in on the head banging act in this one, a man who clearly enjoys his work.
Down In The Park is the next Numan classic on the bill, and if ever a song fitted an orchestra so well, it’s this one. The strings follow the synthesizers really really well, and the slow, dark sound of the song isn’t lost at all. Numan, of course, giving the people what they want once again. It’s then thrust straight back into the last two albums of this modern era, Savage and Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) with Broken and Splinter being played, with the orchestra giving a great interlude beforehand, and the screams of, “WE LOVE YOU, GARY!” being heard all around from the adoring female section of the audience.
“NUMAN!!! NUMAN!!!”, is the shout from everyone in the audience as another number from Splinter gets played with Here In The Black. “I’d like to introduce a very small guest….”, announces Numan as it becomes a family affair with his daughter, Persia, entering to play her part on My Name Is Ruin. Large crowds don’t seem to phase her either as dad looks on with paternal pride, whilst keeping himself in check too. Jagged is the next classic to be showcased, and now every single person in the place is buzzing. You can see it with Numan and the band, Robertshaw and the orchestra and the fans loving every song.
Mercy is next up from the new album, and the light show continues, making every song more enjoyable than before and Numan maintaining his remarkable, yet familiar vocals. He still sounds as good as ever, even at 60 years of age. Persia then makes her return to the stage for My Breathing. “She hasn’t done this one before, so she is a little nervous..”, says dad. She didn’t show it at all. The place then erupts for the timeless classic, Are Friends Electric. The orchestra once again make this song even better, and give it that extra emphasis that went down well with everyone. Numan leads the crowd with the obligatory “WHOW! WHOW! WHAWOWAWOWAWHOW!” after his whispered speech in the middle of the song.
Encore time comes around, and Numan addresses the troops for the first time tonight. Expressing his gratitude to his legions of Numanoids and thanking them for making The Fallen E.P number one in the vinyl chart. A shout out to the brilliant Skaparis Orchestra and their leader, Simon Robertshaw, is given by Numan before the chant of, “SIMON! SIMON!” is heard all around. The sound of This Wreckage soon follows after that, and everyone goes nuts for it once again. No musician on that stage losing any momentum at all. 2017 and 2000 are the years featured for the next two numbers of the encore, The End Of Things and A Prayer For The Unborn, before the orchestra gets a very well earned rest as the band finish with a new song, from The Fallen E.P, It Will End Here.
And indeed it does end here, with Numan, the band and the Skaparis Orchestra getting a standing ovation for a brilliant show. And so they should, a lot of work has gone into this tour and it has paid off handsomely. Cars may have not been on the set tonight, but there is a lot more to Gary Numan than just that song. Even down to choosing former Tubeway Army bandmate, Chris Payne, as the support act. And he too played a terrific set, including Fade To Grey, the classic by Visage that he co-wrote. A triumphant night of a triumphant tour, Gary Numan is still streets ahead of anyone when it comes to reinventing the reinvented. Nobody does it better.
Photography © Billy Seagrave and Mark Sharpley.