In the Carling Academy Bristol (no chewing gum allowed), the Numanoids are out in force.
All bleached hair, black leather and bawling. “Nuuuuuu-maaaaaaaan!” “Gaaaaarrry!” for the best part of an hour before he comes on stage. Hardcore fans seem to regress mentally into savagery as they get older. Ask anyone who’s been to a recent Bryan Ferry gig and made it out alive.
But no matter, for here he is, the android among us, emerging from banks of fog and a Cylonesque lightshow. Tonight Numan is taking us back to the beginning of his career by playing his electro-pop masterpiece Replicas in full. Well, sort of. The tracks have been swapped around, a couple of b-sides inserted and I Nearly Married A Human’s more ponderous moments tightened up. But this is recognisably Replicas, as robotically funky and icily emotional as ever.
Me! I Disconnect From You is the first of a string of highlights. A polished Are ‘Friends’ Electric? is the show’s clear standout, but a dark, dirgy Down in the Park comes close, benefiting from Numan’s recent industrial explorations.
What’s most striking throughout is Numan himself. As his guitarist preens and struts around the stage, pulling all the usual rock star poses, it’s still Numan that keeps your attention. He’s weird, awkward and a little bit sexy – a proper pop star. The positive critical reappraisal that has been trickling through these last couple of years is not only deserved, but long overdue.
Brave the fans, ignore the doubters and make sure you catch this tour – tonight the robots really did rock.