There's no mistaking Gary Numan's voice. He often does weird, awkward things with it. He does inhuman things, as if he were one of the machines he sometimes sings about, a machine only recently learned to sing. He uluates from one note to another unexpected disconnected note that somehow still plays around the accompanying synths and rhythm. And the words they shape speak of vulnerable, mad humanity-- the subject of more than one song on his latest album, Pure, center around broken minds splintered into false godvoices whispering terrible advice.
I saw Gary Numan last night at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, and it was amazing. He interspersed old with new and strutted across the stage with the confidence of someone who all but invented this genre. At times he held a guitar, by the neck or by a corner with one hand as if he weren't quite sure what to do with it, or at times holding it out to the audience as a sceptre of power. And around him, the three other members of his band were hunched black-clad figures hunched over panels and keyboards, working machines-- with the exception of the guitarist, who bounced ceaselessly with the bobbing neck of a deranged bird.
Yeah, I'm being melodramatic in my description, but that was the act. The show was about melodrama-- maybe not so much as a Bauhaus stage show, but Numan played his character well. Really, it might the act might have seemed a bit cliche to some, given the blown out stage shows of bands like Marilyn Manson or Nine Inch Nails (who've both done covers of Gary Numan)-- but Gary Numan was one of the original from whom others took their cue.
Okay, now I'm speaking in past tense about him too much, because the thing is for every classic song he played, he had something new. He's not done yet, resigning to just ride on the playlist of a greatest hits album. The new is more moody, a bit more mature and sure of itself. Listening to an interview with him, he talks about how this album, Pure, had to be so much better than what he'd done in the past. A lot of eyes have been on him, and a lot of "rediscovery" of his music has been happening and he didn't want to disappoint or trash his new credibility.
He certainly hasn't disappointed me.
(So, yeah, the show rocked.)