Are 'Friends' Electric?

Posted on 11th March 2008

Opening with Replicas

Opening with Replicas

JJ and I went to see Gary Numan last night at The Wulfren Hall in Wolverhampton. After a succesful tour in 2006 playing the Telekon album, which alas I missed, this time around it was the turn of Replicas. Playing the complete album, with b-sides and even a couple of the out-takes it was almost like being there back in 1979. He'd even recreated the same stage set, with the bands of lights behind the keyboard players. Replicas, like most of my generation, was the first album I heard by Gary Numan, albeit as Tubeway Army, and seeing him on Top Of The Pops performing Down In The Park and later Are 'Friends' Electric?, was captivating for an impressionable 14 year-old. It really does seem odd to think I've been a fan for nearly 30 years.

Last week Gary celebrated his 50th birthday at the gig in Manchester, apparently announcing that he was born at 10.30pm, so on the stroke of the half hour, his wife brought out a cake and the audience wished him happy birthday. It must have been quite a strange moment to be on stage, celebrating your 50th birthday, while playing songs that are over 30 years old and still as cherished as they were all those years ago.

The gig last night began with support act, Daggers, who never really impressed me. They sounded too much like so many other bands, and in places their intros even made me think they were about to play a cover by OMD, Ultravox or even Gary Numan. They played well, but they definitely need to strive to carve their own identity instead of chasing the tails of their inspirations.

The audience tape for the night featured Nine Inch Nails and just before the band took to the stage we got to hear Trent's version of Metal. Some of the crowd joined in, and the cries for "Nu-man" died down for a few minutes. The signal came from a stage hand and the lights went out. The bands of lights and backing lights fading up to bright red as the band sauntered on stage. Launching into Replicas, the band showed a very different style to the songs that can be heard on the record. The live sound was much more guitar orientated, understandably seeing as Gary was also playing guitar for many of the songs. It created a very stark sound rather than the big synth sounds that are heard on the album.

Unfortunately, I can't remember the order of songs, but they did play every track off Replicas, the b-sides We Are So Fragile and Do You Need The Service?, together with the later released out-takes The Crazies and We Have A Technical. Ending the main set with Are Friends Electric?, ended the Replicas era songs. returning for the encores the band actually seemed to step up a gear, both Cars and Everyday I Die sounded a lot more like the band were enjoying themselves. The closing song of the night was from the album Pure, A Prayer For The Unborn. Over the last three albums (Exile, Pure and Jagged) I think numan has recorded some of his best stuff. Listening to the band playing A Prayer For The Unborn, it was noticeable that there was a dramatic difference between it and all the other songs of the night. With A Prayer For The Unborn the sound seemed to invade every corner of the room and get inside you, drawing you deeper into the music. This was JJ's first Numan gig, and I wasn't too surprised to discovered that the last song was the one that caught his attention.

There's talk of the next tour featuring The Pleasure Principal. As much as I like the album, I do think I would prefer to hear him playing some new material instead. Last night was a trip down memory lane, and meant I got to hear several songs that I've never heard him play before, and while that's great for a couple of tours, doing a third would just be a bit too much. Still I'll probably go, as I've never yet come out of a Numan gig and felt like I didn't have a great night.

I used my camera phone again, and while some of the shots are a good memory of the gig, I am getting far too frustrated by the ability of the camera for these kinds of pictures. Looking at other pictures on the web, and the fact that several people had camera phones and seemed to be taking far better photos than I was, I'm rather disappointed with the N95. Despite being a 5MP camera, even in daylight unless you are closeup to the subject that pictures just aren't that good. At JJ's suggestion I tried playing with all the settings to see whether it was an improvement. In most cases it was worse. However, I have picked a selection to share here. I also took some videos, but even though we weren't right in front of the speakers the inbuilt microphone just isn't up to the job of recording gigs. I think I'll be doing a little more research later in the year when I get the chance to upgrade my phone again.

File Under: gigs / music / numan / photography / wolverhampton

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