A long time ago Gary Numan asked ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’. At the Olympia Theatre in Dublin on 29 March it wasn’t exactly a gathering of friends, but by the end of the evening we all felt we knew each other, so it may as well have been; and the atmosphere was most definitely electric.
Numan and his band were performing the last concert on their European/UK Tour to promote his eighteenth and most recent album, ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’, which was released in late 2017 after a Pledge Music Campaign announced way back in 2015. Written during the most recent US election campaign, causing Numan to think about what might happen, in light of Trump’s views on climate change, as well as his other policies. ‘Savage’ is a concept album, where the cultures of East and West are blended in a post-apocalyptic world, rendered a desert due to global warming. Think Mad Max. Speaking of the album, Numan said,
“The songs are about the things that people do in such a harsh and terrifying environment. It’s about a desperate need to survive and they do awful things in order to do so, and some are haunted by what they’ve done. That desire to be forgiven, along with some discovered remnants of an old religious book, ultimately encourages religion to resurface, and it really goes downhill from there.”
With this background, fans knew to expect a brilliant show. Many of them knew exactly what to expect as they’d been to many of the concerts on the tour already, although more were there to relive their youth, to remember the first time they saw Numan perform. Quite a number had also already attended the VIP soundcheck session earlier, after which Numan, one of the most down to earth performers in music today, if not *the* most down to earth, spent two hours chatting with fans and having photographs taken. In any case, all of us were very excited, and the atmosphere crackled.
Numan turned 60 this year but could easily pass for 50. He’s spry and agile and a very difficult subject to photograph, but nonetheless made this fan envious of his energy. Walking on stage to rapturous applause (and screams), and dressed in an outfit which might be described as desert chic meets Star Wars, Gary launched into ‘Ghost Nation’, the first track from the new album. Swinging and swaying, caught up in the rhythms of the music, he was the king and we were his court. He could have said anything and we all would have done it, no matter what, such was his power.
Next was ‘Halo’, from his 2006 album, ‘Jagged’, which nonetheless fit well with the theme of the evening. Comment must be made about the background videos and stills which flashed behind Numan and his band. The clarity and starkness of the images was enhanced by the fact that they were often the only constant light source on the stage, Numan and his band darting about like spectres in flashes of colour. The overall effect was obvious, and it worked: in a post-apocalyptic world where computers and other modern technology exist, we really had entered a new dark age; shocking, at times disturbing, at others quite frightening.
Third song, ‘Metal’, took us back to the very beginnning, to 1979’s ‘The Pleasure Principle’, demonstrating that the more things change, the more they stay the same. It would be interesting to know the process Numan went through in selecting his set list for the tour: certainly there was something for everyone.
We were treated to some of Numan’s synth playing as well, with which he demonstrated as much energy as his front of stage singing. Like one possessed – and truly, what musician is not taken over by the love for his instrument, he performed several tracks from behind his keyboards at the back of the stage.
On stage for nearly two hours, he performed a further twelve songs, including ‘Bed Of Thorns’, ‘Pray For The Pain You Serve’, ‘My Name Is Ruin’, and ‘When The World Comes Apart’ from ‘Savage’. But with eighteen studio albums there’s got to be a lot of favourites, both of fans and personally, and those electric friends actively bristled with energy when the opening bars of ‘Cars’ played, with ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’ two songs after, punctuated only by ‘When The World Comes Apart’. It wasn’t the end. Numan finished with the glorious ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’ and the very fitting, ‘My Last Day’, and the entire theatre erupted with applause and shouts and whistles and so forth. It had been an incredible experience for all and one which I want to try and have again in the not too distant – hopefully not post-apocalyptic in reality – future.
‘Savage’ is available now on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify. You can find Gary Numan online and keep up to date with his music and performance details on his official website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.