There are few kinds of pop artists who can pull off albums-in-their-entirety sets, but Gary Numan is no stranger to the format, having performed these kind of gigs since 2006, which saw the man perform Telekon at this very venue.
Whilst the comeback that his later, more industrial sounding material has bought him is more than noteworthy, to casual fans and many die hards too, he is defined by a two year era, one that for three nights at The Forum in his hometown, London, he will celebrate by playing Replicas, The Pleasure Principal and Telekon in their entirety.
Tonight is the turn of TPP, Numan’s third album but first after dropping the Tubeway Army name.
As the sole support band tonight, British alt rockers Du Blonde enter a stage so foggy it hard to see them as they start their first song “If You’re Legal” and the smoky voice of frontwoman Beth Jeans Houghton.
Songs from their Mute Records debut, Welcome Back To Milk sound so polished and are so flawlessly performed tonight that at times it’s hard to believed they are actually playing live, but apart from warm applause, the good time rockers receive little more than a static response with most in the audience showing less enthusiasm than I feel is deserved. Maybe its due to the intense heat in the venue, which was recorded at 45 degrees the night before by venue staff!
With the stark differences between Numan’s cold electronics and Du Blonde’s up beat, luscious and guitar driven rock sound, it’s no surprise that the Numanoids reserve all their excitement for the headliner, but the energetic and emotional “Mind is on My Mind” stops their set feeling too one paced and adds some essential bite into their set before they head off stage and the lengthy wait to hear The Pleasure Principle in full begins.
Signalling the Gary Numan’s entrance to the stage, an illuminated triangle hangs above the blackness, before the desolate intro tape stops and the familiar instrumental, “Airlane” begins the set.
Choosing not to stick to the original track listing, Numan delivers The Pleasure Principal’s punchiest numbers first, with a trio of “Metal”, “Films” and “M.E”. seeing the live, industrial tones of the drums and bass adding grit to the undeniably classic synth sounds which we all know and love. His vocals tonight encompass everything from his later, more fragile style to the cold, piercing and powerful style that helped define his earlier sound, especially on the album he is celebrating tonight.
The crowd tonight is an assortment of new generation fans at the front, Dad dancers at the back and even a look-alike, but regardless of the age differences in the audience, the atmosphere inside the packed-to-capacity venue resonates wall to wall with true adoration for Gary, and there’s a true feeling of togetherness.
After ending The Pleasure Principal section of the set with a climatic “Cars”, Numan returns for another hour, and no longer confined behind a keyboard, he walks across the stage to perform Telekon favourites “We Are Glass and “Remind Me to Smile”, which both see huge sing-a-longs.
Despite a thinning crowd after “Are Friends Electric” sees the band walk off stage for the first time, enthusiasm for an encore is still high. As the band return however, it becomes obvious that the hits have run out.
Offering just two tracks from Tubeway Army’s first album, Numan takes to the guitar and maintains the nostalgic feel of the night, but all feels rather anti-climatic, and it’s undeniable that an otherwise electric night has ended on its flattest point. Personally,I feel it would have been better to end on a high, and have included the rarer tracks earlier on, because as much as I enjoy “My Shadow in Vain”, it is by no means as explosive or exciting live as Numan’s best known numbers, and definitely left me feeling a little unsatisfied- but a great experience nonetheless.