wed 26/01/2022

Gary Numan, Royal Albert Hall review - the best night of his life | reviews, news & interviews

Gary Numan, Royal Albert Hall review - the best night of his life

Gary Numan, Royal Albert Hall review - the best night of his life

No 'Cars', but the ageless electropop pioneer is still in the driving seat

Gary Numan: refugee from the desert planet of Arrakis?

There was barely a black-clothed, white-faced Numanoid in sight in the packed auditorium of the Royal Albert Hall as Gary Numan made his first ever appearance at the Victorian concert hall.

His fans appear to have left that kohl-eyed look behind them as they’ve aged over the four decades since he first broke into the charts with Tubeway Army, but their love for him seems undimmed.

Black might have looked a little out of place anyway as the electronic pop pioneer and his band loped on stage looking like a cross between extras from Mad Max: Fury Road and refugees from the desert planet of Arrakis in Dune, but it was still de rigueur for the impressive Skaparis Orchestra who accompanied him and set the atmospheric tone from the start.

It’s traditional at a celebratory event like this one for an artist to play one of their big trumps to open – a song that could easily fit in the encore – to trigger audience delirium, but Numan held back and began the set with “Ghost Nation” from his 2017 album, Savage, Songs from a Broken World. “We live in a windswept hell / Where dust and death are neighbours,” he sang. This vision of an arid land, denuded of life, ran through the show, with striking video projections of unforgiving landscapes.

Numan has done more than 120 shows to promote this album and the confidence of band and singer showed. Savage’s epic soundscapes were distilled into a dramatic rock synth funk, led by the buzz guitar of Steve Harris, that gave the music an intensity and scale that had no problem filling the vastness of the Royal Albert.

He followed it with “Metal” from 1979’s The Pleasure Principle, soon to be followed by “Films” from the same album, which were both rapturously received. Numan turned 60 this year, but to say that he appears ageless would be an understatement. He looked and moved like a boy, as he danced, expressively, at the front of the stage. His distinctive vocal style hasn’t changed – basically it’s Anthony Newley filtered through the vocal chords of Bowie then tuned sharper by a Numan Nexus-6 – but it still sounds great.

There was nothing emotionless about this performance, though. Numan was wired and happy, coming to the edge of the stage repeatedly, arms raised, to absorb the energy of the audience; he brought the house lights up to see their faces, described it as “the best night of his life” and gave a touching thanks to his dad and his mum at one point. Two songs were performed with his 13-year-old daughter Persia, also in Fremen garb, and undaunted by the occasion. “My name is Ruin / My name is vengeance,” she sang, but Numan’s fatherly affection kept breaking through, as he flicked her hair lovingly and hugged her.

The string section beautifully heightened some of the Eastern influences in songs such as "The End of Things", but also added heat to songs that once were cold, such as the closing “Are Friends Electric?”, when excitement reached a peak. The encore began with “This Wreckage” from 1980’s Telekon, and included “A Prayer for the Unborn” from 2000’s Pure, but no “Cars”. Not playing your biggest hit is a sign that you are determined to be seen as an artist still moving forward. Numan made that call, but he could have played it to this audience and blown the roof off.

Numan turned 60 this year, but to say that he appears ageless would be an understatement


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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No, Cars was not missed at all.

The most theatrical jaw dropping performance I was lucky enough to be a part of. Wasn't a big fan before, I just liked him, unlike my husband whose ticket I bought for our anniversary. He loves his work. I'm most certainly a fan now. Bloody fantastic

Totally awesome, Gary Numan never disappoints

stunning performance, set and light show. Gary Numan has upped his game to the point no one ever expected to see. What an absolute legend

Had Cars been played, it would not have blown the roof off. With so many songs where the full might of the orchestra complimented such tracks, Cars would have taken up space in such a concert. Numan made imo so many better songs in the 79/80 era and personally I am sick of hearing Cars. What an absolutely well executed night. Perfect even without Cars. lol

Superb concert.... The pinnacle of 'Numan' s career and no doubt his fans as well!! Long overdue for this guy! So... My question is 'how do you top that Gary'!!! What a year its been!!

Caught the gig at Shepherd's Bush Empire on Sunday night and was totally blown away. Numan's transformation is mesmerising and the orchestra and guitarists were amazing. Its such a fusion of beautiful noise, chant and rhythmic beats. Didn't mind the apocalyptic garb either, added to the unexpected theatre of the gig. And playing 'Cars' would have been a backward step, almost 'uncool' - 'Are friends electric' sounded dated and no where as vibrant as his new material. A truly wonderful experience, I left with a feeling of having witnessed something very special amidst an adoring audience.

i have to disagree are friends electric has stood the test of time and is one of the greatest songs ever in my opinion.

My first ever Gary Numan concert. Think I picked the right night! X

My first Numan gig as well, came with my son who has seen him 9 times - we both thought it was excellent, definitely agree it was the right night ;-)

My wife and i were treated to a box right over the stage as a birthday gift. We are most grateful of that as i remembered the awful mix of orchestra and metallica a few years back so was dubious about this brave venture. I have followed Gary from 79 to date and i prefer his earlier work but still love his stuff. My wife is a fan since i took her to a gig around his Jagged phase. That was it. She was hooked. We both discuss (argue) about which is his best era, old or new. But we both agree this was probably his best ever concert. And i was lucky enough to be at his 'farewell' gig at Wembly. Which leads me nicely to say this was as big if not bigger than that! Epic Gary. Long may you reign!!

are friends electric has stood the test of time still an awe some song

Having seen Savage Tour at the O2 academy Leicester... I was blown away and had to attend the concert at RAH... and with an orchestra! the intensity and rawness to this album is breathtaking... atmospheric with a strong message... for me... Gary Numan has grown, could this be the pinnacle of his career... mmmm I feel there’s more to come... breathtaking and emotional..

Tutt tutt. Are Friends Electric sounds dated according to Andrew up above. Mate, put your tin helmet on and take cover! You're a brave man saying that. I totally disagree as it sounds like nothing else. But hey, you dig Numan so i am sure we will go easy on you. But you have been sent to the naughty step!! As for Cars. The original 7" is perfect. Now i have to put my tin hat on when i say i have never thought any live version or remix has ever come close to rhe studio version. I agree it would not have sat well in this set. But wasn't the gig amaxing hey everyone!? More please Gary.

No shit the fans have aged over 40 years.. By the way the second song Persia sang is My Breathing, a classic from a period where “journalists” hoofed him regardless. I don’t think anything about the performance was Bowie esq. Awesome concert but thus is a cliched and lazy review. Gary deserves better reviews than this, the concert was amazing, his greatest moment so far.

I must have attended a different concert, I thought the set list was drab and the RAH wasn't full to capacity, I couldn't hear the orchestra properly because the band were so ridiculously loud and I'm sure there was a lot of backing used to support Numan's vocals. I must be the only fan who was massively disappointed and his movements on stage were embarrassing, my wife commented several times asking me if he was alright, lol.

Sounds like you were at the wrong concert, or maybe you were expecting something different, like this perhaps?

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