Date: 14th October 2017
Review & Photographs by Graham Hilling
The queue is stretching right around the Brixton Academy when I arrive just before the doors are opened. It’s an impressive turnout considering the size of the venue and there’s an assortment of various tribes, emphasizing the way Gary Numan seems to appeal to a wide range people and cultures!
Inside the venue there’s still a slow trickle of people coming in when the support for this evening, Jayce Lewis, takes to the stage with his band. Looking like he’s just walked out of a Mad Max film, Jayce is a good fit for support on a Numan tour.
The music is not dissimilar to Numans electronic stuff, with a harder edge and a more percussive feel. Think maybe Numan goes industrial and a very small amount of Killing Joke thrown in for good measure.
With the band consisting of two bass players (one almost playing it like a lead) and Jayce himself taking to guitar duties occasionally (and I think I saw a guy in the wings also playing guitar? Might have been mistaken!) plus, of’course, a drummer and the ubiquitous playback track.
The whole band look comfortable on the large Brixton stage and are not phased at all. Jayce Lewis himself is quite a commanding figure and is obviously enjoying playing (although he never really manages to crack a proper smile).
The percussive elements of the band gives the sound a very hard edge and sadly some of the subtleties of the recorded material just disappear.
It also means that some of the songs lose their hooks and the structure that makes you want to listen again and again. Even so, there’s still a fair proportion of the now swelling crowd who love what Jayce Lewis does though and the set is well received for sure.
It would be good to see more development of the songs, the potential is there but just requires some of that special ingredient that makes you want to keep coming back, being unable to remove a song or riff from your head. It’s just not there for me at the moment.
Anyhow, a good warmup for the crowd and definitely not a damp squib. As is the case at most gigs though, there’s no doubt that the majority of the audience have come for the main course, not the starter.
So, to the main course. Gary Numan fresh from producing what is one of his best albums in recent times, “Savage, Songs From a Broken World” keeps the crowd waiting just enough past the 9pm start time to inject an air of expectation that is almost palpable.
It’s no surprise that there are quite a few songs lifted from this album spattered throughout the set. Good job too, even the most dedicated Numanoids would probably concur that there have been some proper duffers in the discography so far, “Savage” is far from that though and I’d suggest it is up there with the best Numan material. Some of the songs here are destined to become the songs everyone wants to hear from a Numan set, definitely.
When the man himself eventually takes to the stage it is a new Numan (excuse the pun) from the one I saw last time live. This is a guy who is without doubt at the top of his game and there is a ton of energy just pouring from him on the stage.
Same for the band as well, everything is working exactly as it should, the lights are great & even the sound in the hall (which can be quite boomy) is bowing to Numan, almost saying “OK, you can have have the sound you deserve….”.
Starting with “Ghost Nation”, which is also the first track on the album, with it’s fat bass and slow burner feel it sets the tone perfectly. With a chorus and hook most people would die to be able to write, Numan has the audience in his hand from the moment he steps out to see the adoring fans. They’re all singing along as if the song was already part of the “classic” Numan club. Great start……
We then get a couple of older classics, “Metal” and “The Fall”. “Ghost Nation”, for me, eclipses both of these, testament to how good the new material is. Numan looks like he is enjoying every moment on the stage too. “Bed of Thorns” slows things down and shows another side to the music.
Before we know it, it is time for the undeniable classic that is “Down in the Park”, timeless Numan. The audience mirror Numans hand and arm movements on the stage, weaving a strange dance that moves throughout the room like it has a mind of its’ own!
“Pray for the Pain You Serve”, also from the latest album, both sears through the venue. “Mercy” allows Numan to show off his very particular vocal style nicely with it’s slow brooding atmosphere and then we’re in for a real treat. With the venue now looking like it is at capacity, Numan announces “My Name is Ruin”, and that he’ll be joined by his daughter, Persia on the stage.
This is probably the best track on the album (imho) and it is delivered perfectly. Persia doing a grand job coping with being on a massive stage in front of a massive crowd! Numan looks like a very proud Dad as the last chords of the song fade. All very, very impressive and endearing.
“Cars” takes us way back in time and “When the World Comes Apart” brings us back up to date. Throughout the energy levels are maintained and this is shaping up to be one of the best gigs of the year.
Massive singalong choruses fused with impressive song writing, there is something about what Numan does that is difficult to pin down but it definitely makes an impression and connection with me that many other artists just don’t.
Before we can blink the set is over and the band leave the stage. Only to return after a couple of minutes to run through “Films” and the song that made Gary Numan a household name, “Are Friends Electric”. Both are greeted like old friends.
Numan rarely converses throughout the set but does take some time to thank the audience for their continued support. It’s a genuinely humbling moment. And then the gig is done. Definitely the best I’ve seen the man by some measure and great to see such strong new material too. Suspect this won’t be the last Numan gig I go to!