An authentic rock god experience
Gary Numan - Live At O2 Shepherds Bush Empire

After skyrocketing to fame fronting Tubeway Army in the late seventies, Numan infamously fell on hard times in the late eighties with a disappointing output of material that never reached his early genius – a hardcore fanbase of ‘Numanoids’ was the only thing kept the wolf from the door. It is somewhat ironic, then, that due to acts such as Nine Inch Nails, whose own dark electronic output took heavy influence from the man, Numan found his second wind and the last fifteen years seeing a more industrial/darkwave flavored incarnation of the onetime androgynous robot. The otherworldly vocals and soundscapes are said to perfectly fit the angsty nineties refit, and with this month’s ‘Dead Son Rising’ continuing in a similar vein, tonight’s performance at the charming Shepherds Bush Empire should be interesting.

Decked out in skinny jeans, boots and black tee, the star has kept himself in fine shape, especially when compared to many of his middle-aged contemporaries. Backed by an energised, younger band, the frontman was left to stick to vocal duties as the six-piece bursts into their mechanical noise. Any nostalgic memories of Gary Numan as the po-face, side-parting sporting, office clerk were instantly destroyed as microphone stands were swung overhead, arms thrust in the air and trademark one-hundred-yard-stare used to create an authentic rock god experience.

An incredibly accomplished crowd controller, the 53 year old ripped through material from 2003’s ‘Jagged’ with the air of a man with nothing left to lose. With an aggressive light show and horror-themed projections as backing, the group performed tracks in quick succession. And while always done so with maximum effort, the songs soon blended into themselves, and any noteworthy/interesting breakdowns ruined by over-zealous fans screams. As a performer, the icon has grown immensely; but strangely, his most mature output seems to have been penned in his early twenties – the darker material of late appealing only to wearers of black nail varnish.

An encore of classics such as ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ are predictable and proven highlights. Heavier in their performance, they cause a wave of head-banging, chanting and Beatle-mania-esque screeches. For those tracks alone, Gary Numan has earned his place in musical history.

Words by Sam Walker-Smart
Photo by Stephen Fourie

View a full photo gallery from Gary Numan's O2 Shepherds Bush Empire gig HERE.

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