Like thousands of other musicians, Gary Numan had to wait to tour his 2021 album Intruder because of the shutdown of the music industry during the covid pandemic.
Finally out on the road, at Royal & Derngate on Saturday night the pioneer of electronic and industrial rock proved to fans it’s been every bit worth the wait.
Numan is 19 albums into a career spanning six decades and his audio-visual onslaught at the Northampton theatre proved he’s someone still at the top of his game.
You can probably count on one hand the number of bands or musicians this good, this far into their career.
Joining Numan was Divine Shade, a trio who make a sound far bigger than their constituent parts.
Hailing from Lyon, France, they mix industrial rock with cold wave electronica and the result is not for the faint hearted.
The band are afforded a crystalline sound and they put it to good use and the assembled crowd require little goading to clap along to tracks such as From the Sky.
Divine Shade waste not a single second and deliver a take-no-prisoners performance, yet their energetic set wins them many new admirers and closer Black Birds Return ensures Divine Shade won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
It’s been a long two-and-a-half years since Numan last played Northampton and an air of expectation hangs heavy as his fans (affectionately referred to as Numanoids) await his appearance.
That tangible tension is amplified by the elongated introduction which proceeds opening track Intruder.
The suspense is finally lifted as Gary and band appear amidst a riotous cornucopia of light and sound.
The title track from Numan’s recent album, comes awash with synthesizers and a heavy beat that’s punctuated by huge white spaces, while behind the band a bank of screens displays images of fiery suns and nuclear explosions which makes for an arresting spectacle.
The Numanoids are treated to a career spanning set and are transported back to 1979 for a faithful rendition of Me! I Disconnect From You from the Tubeway Army’s Replicas album before being thrown forward to 2013 for Everything Comes Down To This and, despite the years and stylistic shifts that separate these tracks, they make for easy bedfellows.
Throughout the gig an ageless Numan hangs from the microphone stand, writhes like an android and is flanked by a guitarist and bassist who are both bundles of boundless energy and spend the entire gig bouncing from stage left to stage right and back again.
Over the past few decades Numan’s sound has veered in a decidedly industrial direction and that’s exactly the vibe he brings to classic track Down in the Park.
It was always a sinister song and it’s made more so by the haunting images that form a backdrop to guitarist Steve Harris’ stuttering riff.
As you’d expect, Numan’s debut solo single Cars turns the entire venue into a discotheque and a tightly packed capacity crowd find room to dance and hold their pint glasses aloft in salute.
The band, bathed in blood red and blinding white lights make We Are Glass a fitting finale and it is rewarded with rapt applause.
Of course, the band return for two final songs, the second of which, a scything version of Are ‘Friends’ Electric? means that nobody leaves disappointed.
Gary Numan played:
Me! I Disconnect From You
Everything Comes Down to This
Is This World Not Enough
Down in the Park
A Black Sun
Everyday I Die
My Name Is Ruin
Love Hurt Bleed
We Are Glass
A Prayer for the Unborn
Are 'Friends' Electric?