I quite like Gary Numan — the musician and the man.
His new album Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind) undeniably shows influences of his association with Nine Inch Nails — but to be fair, Nine Inch Nails have long been admiring Numan. So it perhaps is only fair that the two musical acts would commingle. Nine Inch Nails guitarist Robin Finck played on some of Splinter’s tracks and joined him live on several recent tour dates.
The influence clearly was felt in the show at the Black Cat on Sunday, Oct. 27. Numan was energetic and in good form with a strong band that handled their goth guitar pretty well. They were very tight on “Everything Comes Down to This,” a new song from Splinter, demonstrating impressive range. The song is at times sparse and ethereal and at other times full and frenetic. Numan’s voice was strong and his physical flourishes added a great deal to his performance.
All of this was quite a relief after seeing him not yet recovered from illness in his performance at the Black Cat three years ago.
The Black Cat was about three-quarters full for the show this time around, and the crowd definitely received the new album very well. However, people got really excited when Numan revisited some of his well-known back catalog, particularly starting with “Down in the Park.” Numan nailed the song to the wild enthusiasm of the audience, delivering a real high point to the show.
His new song “I Am Dust” brings some beautifully crystalline arrangements as Numan sings in a lush hush of sorts. It too builds into a pulsating rhythm. Numan maintains good energy for another live favorite, “When the Sky Bleeds, He Will Come,” from his last album Jagged.
Numan’s encore is a real stunner, however, as he breaks out “Cars,” albeit a guitar-heavy rendition of it (a welcome change perhaps given how ubiquitous the song has remained over the past three decades), as well as “Are Friends Electric?”–a true showstopper. “Are Friends Electric?”, as performed by Numan today, should be on everyone’s short list of great songs to see live. His slow evocative singing, “It’s cold outside/ And the paint’s peeling off of my walls,” sounds cold. And when just for a second, he remembers you, you feel the loneliness in his voice.
Overall, Numan is an amazing performer, even if he’s gone “too goth” for my tastes in general over the course of his career. His songwriting is sharp and his stage presence is powerful.
I’ve become a fan of the man as well through his Twitter feed — on which he has been very active since immigrating to Los Angeles from the United Kingdom recently. His wry humor and his love for his wife and kids shine through in his adventures and goofy quotes from his wife Gemma. With his new life in the United States, hopefully, we’ll see a lot more material from him and another US tour quite soon.