Gary Numan, Gang Of Four: Exhibition Centre, Liverpool

Gary Numan

Gary Numan

As the goth overlord took to a Merseyside stage for the second time in twelve months, GetintothisDavid Hall took in Liverpool’s newest venue.

One of those artists that never really leaves the radar completely, it seems like only recently that Liverpool caught up with Gary Numan, at his Olympia date last year.

In fact, it’s been four years since his previous studio album Splinter – Songs From A Broken Mind. Time for a new record then, which Numan is in the process of delivering, following a Pledge Music campaign.

But Liverpool Numanoids were clearly itching to get reaquainted with the electro god, and also to familiarise themselves with the Echo Arena campus’ Exhibition Centre, on its first night hosting a gig.

First up however were Gang of Four, the agit-punks now with guitarist Andy Gill as the sole remaining founding member. Their performance in Liverpool took everything you loved about those terse, ultra-condensed sounding albums like Entertainment! and threw them into a fuck off semi-industrial pit of dead industry.

But after a few tracks the noisy sound and punchy bass bedded in well; this is post punk with a much more Public Image Limited, sheet metal template. After being initially dubious, we could only concede fair play to what Gill was trying to achieve with Gang Of Four. It’s like the opposite of a dinosaur act wheeling out the hits each night, by instead drafting in young group hungry musicians as band members. They were full of snarl and bassy attack, really hitting the mark on tracks like Natural’s Not In It.

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Numan took to the stage soon after, which looked great throughout. The staging was pleasingly atmospheric for both acts, in particular when Numan and band were lit mysteriously only at stage level, lending the five-piece a mean and sinister look.

Everything Comes Down To This opened his set, an early sign that Numan would favor tracks from his more recent albums, but sprinkled classics in generously. He followed up with The Pleasure Principle‘s Films, the audience sitting politely as Numan performed his mad pilled-up ballet onstage, arched over his microphone stand one moment, arms outstretched in a crucifixion pose or way over his head the next.

Clearly the layout irked him, as Numan invited the seated audience to the front of the stage, “there’s fucking loads of space” he pointed out and droves duly obliged, surging forward for Bed of Thorns and Metal. The first track released from his upcoming record was previewed at the Exhibition Centre along with several other new tracks, as Numan brought his daughter Persia onstage to sing new single My Name Is Ruin‘s Eastern-sounding melody line.

Video by artdecayed

Other gems included Here in the Black, cast as an awesome slab and driven by a gooey synth delivering an evil melody line, while M.E. stood as a punishing and pummelling yet groovy jewel in the set’s crown, dispatched without an intro but with added an added sense of venom.

The sprightly drumming and swirling stings of Numan‘s breakthrough solo hit, the pure pop of Cars, brought the main set to a close. The encore was composed of a triumphant, stately version of Down In The Park followed by inevitable closer Are ‘Friends’ Electric?. Although Numan is loathe to perform Tubeway Army material, even the king of the goths can afford himself a small smile at the ecstatic response to the song’s enormous hooks and spoken kiss-off of, “And now it’s time to leave… you see this means everything to me”.

What did we learn? Well, as we already knew, Gary Numan is a vital, bludgeoning live experience – and all the better for it – and the space coped well. Perhaps the venue dulled the ferocity of the bass just slightly, and the large space has a hint of echo to it, but nowhere near as distractingly so as the Arena. The layout, with seats at the front and standing tickets at the back, just didn’t work however and will need re-assessing before the venue is rechristened as Space. Overall though, complaints were relatively minimal.

Roll on the very different proposition of Brian Wilson.

Pictures by Getintothis’ Keith Ainsworth