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Gary Numan, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review and pictures

By James Driver-Fisher | Entertainment | Published: | Last Updated:

Introverted and fame shy, but at the same time lively, hypnotic and a performer at the top of his game.

Gary Numan at Symphony Hall. Picture credit: Dave Cox

Whether it’s the late 1970s or just yesterday at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Gary Numan knows how to work a crowd and just belongs on a stage.

Having attracted millions of adoring fans in his 20s, and then shunned the limelight soon after for a while, he is back in charge of his music, his light show and the direction of his stunning new tour.

He never really went away, but he does things on his own terms these days, which includes touring with a fully-fledged orchestra, which backs up his game-changing electronic music.

Having stumbled across a synthesiser by chance, he knew immediately that was the instrument to take him to stardom – and despite hitting a few rocks in the road along the way, he has never looked back and is still releasing catchy, stand-up-and-listen tracks today.

Gary Numan at Symphony Hall. Picture credit: Dave Cox

I’ll admit, I got into him really late – and his first album came before I was even a twinkle in my father’s eye – but having listened to his early albums on repeat once they had been introduced to me, it was great to see/hear his later tracks in such acoustically-driven venue like the Symphony Hall, while images of Mars, the moon and other-worldly pictures were beamed alongside a stunning light show.

Numan has always been obsessed with extra-terrestrials, synths, ‘Machmen’, androids – basically anything from another world.

But last night was nothing to do with that because, although there was plenty of weird and wonderful stuff going on – including Numan contorting himself into all sorts of shapes in between belting out his lyrics – the gig was just a chance for Numan to go full throttle while his fans sat back in awe.

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Gary Numan at Symphony Hall. Picture credit: Dave Cox

Numan still has the moves and voice of a 20-year-old.

Bearing in mind he officially released Tubeway Army back in 1979, he could put most teenagers to shame.

He’s always had a love-hate relationship with fame but at the Symphony Hall, with a full orchestra behind him, he was clearly in his element and took time every now and again to thank his fans and to let them know how much fun he was having.

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Chants of ‘Numan, Numan’ rang out throughout the gig and it was great to see the artist on top of his game, drawing on the love from the crowd.

Ghost Nation began proceedings, and it was the perfect introduction. Pounding drums, simple and backing chords before the synthesiser was introduced.

Gary Numan at Symphony Hall. Picture credit: Dave Cox

It was eerie, powerful – everything you'd expect from Numan. "We are invisible. We are the dead ghost nation," he sang. There's always more to his songs than simple lyrics.

Metal just shows how creative the artist is. It's simplicity itself but it's the build up and continuous beat that makes it what it is, "plug me in and turn me on", and we were all off.

Bed of Thorns, from his latest album, is another sullen and creepy-sounding effort. It had an almost Indian quality to it, with vague voices heard in the background before Numan took over.

Films has a funky edge to it but still has that unmistakable Numan style. And when you add a full orchestra behind providing the violin section, it's a sight to behold.

Here in the Black, from Splinter (songs From A Broken Mind), adds a bit of the rock guitar that influenced his early career, with Numan whispering his lyrics over the top.

Gary Numan at Symphony Hall. Picture credit: Dave Cox

Personally, it was his very early stuff that turned me towards him – so when he played Are 'Friends' Electric? it was great to see the crowd get on their feet and dance along.

The song has been remade and covered so many times but it was Numan who developed the famous riff that grabbed everyone's attention way back in 1980.

And then he followed it up with This Wreckage, off his Telekon album, which takes you into his weird and wonderful world of telepathy and telekinesis.

Again, when the simple tune on the keyboard is played, immediately you know what song it is and everyone cheered in appreciated.

It was around this time he produced his own guitar and sauntered around the stage showing he has certainly still got it.

Gary Numan at Symphony Hall. Picture credit: Dave Cox

Hats off two to his sidekicks and the orchestra too, who were cheering and clapping along when not playing themselves.

Numan even said, for the final song, the orchestra did not know he was going to perform it, as it was his soon-to-be released single, It Will End Here.

If we were going to end anywhere, that was as good a moment as any. The track was more upbeat than some of his others and the crowd rightly gave him a standing ovation as he left the stage.

It was great way end a truly unique gig, full of stage craft, melodies, harmonies, guitar solos, beautiful violins and horns, and, most importantly, Numan taking centre stage.

James Driver-Fisher

By James Driver-Fisher

Motorsport journalist and entertainment and food reviewer for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star.

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