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Gary Numan - Rock City, Nottingham, 8/12/2012

  by Dave Goodwin

published: 6 / 12 / 2012

Gary Numan - Rock City, Nottingham, 8/12/2012


Dave Goodwin photographs and watches Gary Numan play a magical set of industrial synth pop at a show at Rock City in Nottingham

When I was at school, you were either a mod or into Two Tone and Ska. Then the Futurist/new Romantic movement came along, and everyone including yours truly jumped on the bandwagon. To be honest I did like the music. Well, that was the way of it back then. The funny thing was in our school you didn't admit to liking Gary Numan. Now I'm a lifelong fan and was just bowled over with the output Numan created. Everyone gave him so much stick though for creating “artificial” music that didn't involve using “proper” instruments. There was girl in our year that went the whole way and converted to being a Numanoid. I admired her but thought to myself that she was lucky to be a girl and a good looking one at that, so she didn't pick up that much ridicule compared to what might have happened if a member of the opposite sex had declared his undying wish to be taken by the Numanlord! Can you imagine that? Not at our school, matey. You would have had your pants filled with water and pieces of magnesium strategically placed in them to teach you not to venture down the way of the Numanoid... There were a lot of people milling around inside Rock City although we had got there early. The support act was around ten minutes away so we got drinks, and I got my cameras ready in the pit. It turned out the support, the Officers, had been taken under Gary's wing, and done the whole tour which was now coming to an end. The extra bodies in the room had come to check them out as well after receiving good words from Mr Numan and the press too. As I checked out the stage, I couldn't help but notice the scaffolding set up at its back. I could just make it out through the gloom. A fellow photographer commented on it, as he had not been to Rock City before, and I informed him that it wasn't usually this dark. The lighting had been turned right down, and only green was showing and, with an extensive use of dry ice, the whole stage had the atmosphere of an industrial apocalyptic landscape. I was hoping upon hope that it didn't stay this dark as there would not be any chance of taking any photos. Peering into the murk, I realised what the scaffolding was for. It was divided into 3 separate pockets which held on either side an array of keyboards and in the middle pocket the drum kit and the old Linn machines the band used. After a short while, the crowd, which was now buzzing in anticipation, started to cheer and whistle as out of the gloom the dark figures of the band and then the unmistakeable figure of Gary Numan slowly presented themselves to us. It was hot in here, I thought. All the bodies and the dry ice and just general heat were adding to the atmosphere. and now the band were on stage it really was like we all had just clamoured out of a bunker somewhere into a new world and we were staring face to face with another being. The music had started with and totally unexpectedly the familiar sound of the intro to 'Films' weaved its way into my subconscious and back out again. It was unexpected because Numan doesn't do old tunes. He has stated in many an interview that he doesn't like to go over old stuff. Slowly between the green and now yellow shafts of extra-terrestrial light, he came to the fore causing mayhem in the front row as these were the only members of the audience to see him at that time, the room being so thick with heavy smoke and sweat and beer. This was something else. The drums kicked in, and now, because the whole stage had suddenly exploded with white light, Numan was in full view to us all Like some alien converting his catch, he cast his eerie, suspicious eyes over us all as if he had something wonderful but greatly damaging to show us. Numan was here! The first three tracks in which photographers are allowed to take photos came and went as if in seconds, and I was getting a little concerned by the end that I had not got any shots because I must have stood for ages in front of the stage, mouth open, dumbstruck at the sight of a childhood hero I had never been able to see. The sight that had metamorphised in front of me had me transfixed. I got packed up in super quick time, and made my way to the back of the venue where you get a really good view under the balcony, and the sound is maximised because you are right in front of it. This is my favourite place to be at Rock City. I wasn't on my own though. There were hundreds of people who had had the same idea, and the funny thing with this is they were all around my age and in their mid-forties. The place was full of old Numanoids! I stood to the front of the cavelike but industrial structure for a minute taking in the sight. The balcony made of black painted steel with a staircase either side couldn't have been a better backdrop for the scaffolded stage in front of it. I stayed for a track or two until I heard unmistakable intro to 'Metal' slapped me in my sweaty face, and it was then that I retreated a little further back into the darkness where I could succumb to the irresistible force that was taking me away. For track after track Numan worked his magic among the crowd. The whole room was a steam ridden army of writhing pulsating Numanoids. It was fantastic. Numan stopped for a minute about halfway in to soak up some well deserved adoring cheers and applause, and introduced the Officers on stage for a track. They all cuddled and hugged before continuing with the gig. The sound that came out from the stage from this point on was absolutely breathtaking. When he tore into 'Unforgiven' and 'Dead Sun', it was as if the floor had become part of the sound system itself, with the ferocity of the bass and guitar mix rumbling beneath our feet. The lighting show got better and better, and flashed an alien warning to those who dared say that the Numanlord had had his day. We made our way back to the front again to trophy hunt as a frantically received 'Are Friends Electric?' was coming to a close. I had inside knowledge that that was the last number before the encore! Such was the intensity of the performance from Numan, with his winding, almost ballet style Martian dancing and manic crazed dipping and headshaking, that he had totally forgotten about time and we were running over. In no time at all he was back on stage to complete this phenomenal show with renditions of 'Down in the Park', 'Cars' and, to this reviewer’s total delight a storming version of 'I Die You Die’. As it got halfway through the last number, I realised I was standing next to another chap around the same age, and we were both jumping and pointing and sweating hard and chanting the chorus and almost in tears as we didn't want this to end. But in one last flash of light , the green, purple and yellow shafts from above disappearing into the dark and murk from which he had come, and the Numanlord was gone. As I wandered out into the night singing quietly to myself a joyful but rather muffled 'I Die You Die', I realised that I no longer had to hide my passion. I realised everyone else was humming and singing away too. Finally we were all out the closet and free. I listened to 'The Pleasure Principles' on the way back, and marvelled at how much guitar work for it to ever get blasted for having an “artificial” sound. Little did they know...

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