Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Gary Numan at Sheffield Leadmill - 20/05/24

I have a long history with Mr Numan! Way back in the mists of ancient time, my brother Alan and I happened to catch him and Tubeway Army performing 'Are "Friends" Electric?' on Top of the Pops ... some research suggests this might have been 24 May 1979 ... and there's even a video of the performance on YouTube!

The next day Alan went out and bought the single, and then, when we realised that the album, Replicas, was available, this became the first album that I ever bought ... and I loved it to pieces.

I went on to devour the next album, The Pleasure Principle (released 7 September 1979), now dropping the Tubeway Army name, and Alan and I managed to get tickets to Gary's gig at the Hammersmith Odeon that year as well (on the 18th September) and we were blown away by the performance and the music. (As a sideline, support at that gig was an unknown band called Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, and the two chaps had a tape machine centre stage and set it going and then sung along ... I liked the music but I disliked the singer's voice!)

After that I got Telekon, the third album ... but after that, the music seemed to dip and I was less enthralled by it ... so I drifted away. Later on I discovered (via Alan) that there was a double album called The Plan, containing pre-'Our Friends' tracks and B sides ... and I got and loved that as well ... I also remember from that time a preview of four tracks ('Cars', 'Airlane', 'Films' and 'Conversation') for The Pleasure Principle on the John Peel show (transmitted 25 June 1979) that I loved to bits ... and of course the original Tubeway Army LP, reissued mid-1979which, again, I got and loved!

Now, some 45 years later, and for Alan's 60th Birthday, I managed to get tickets for the Anniversary tour at the Sheffield Leadmill ... the idea of the tour was that Gary was playing material from those first two albums and so that really appealed to me ... And it was just 4 days adrift from the anniversary of that iconic first television appearance.

So we rocked up at the Leadmill after a fairly long and boring train journey, and hung around waiting for the doors to open. Because I had a bad foot from a fall before Christmas last year, and Alan has bad knees, I had arranged for us to have seats in 'the mezzanine' ... and a friend, Alex, had done the same ... so we managed to get in early, beating standing in the queue for ages, and were taken to 'the mezzanine' which turned out to be a small raised platform in one corner of the room, from where we had a great unobstructed view of the stage (ok, we couldn't see the left hand side at all and I didn't even realise that this was where the keyboards/synth player was!) but we also had a rail to lean on and seats when we needed them ... so it was great!

The gig started late - around 9pm (people had suggested 8pm was when it started), but from the outset, it was astonishingly good.  A rendition of 'Replicas' led into 'ME' and the crowd was loving the music and Gary was in his element ... performing and singing, and even smiling on occasion! He was joined on stage by two 'priests' on guitar (Steve Harris (Guitar) and Tim Slade (Bass)), and these solemn. bald-headed creatures rocked the instruments and even played up a little as they went ... there was also a drummer (Jimmy Von Boom - aka Jimmy Vincent Lucido), and the synth player (David Brooks) ... and all were superb.

Pic (c) 2024 David J Howe

The familiar songs came thick and fast, all very familiar from those first two albums ... the lighting was amazing, with strobes, and red, blue and green spots playing out over the stage and into the audience, with strobe and other effects too, all tied in with the music and the songs ... it was superb!

What Gary had done was to take the original songs, and given them some meat and heft so they weren't exactly the same as on the albums, but were all recognisable ... There was a smashing beat and vibe throughout, and thankfully the bass wasn't too loud so you could actually hear them without them all distorting or the beat making your chest and teeth ache!

Pic (c) 2024 David J Howe

I loved the rendition of the instrumental 'Airlane' about half way through, and then we came to 'Down in the Park', possibly one of my favourites ... and it was sublime ... a superb performance ...

As is usual for these events, Gary and the team finished up and waved and headed offstage ... but it's always a ruse ... as a couple of minutes later they were back, and the familiar opening warble of 'Cars' started up and of course the crowd went wild ... then ... the one everyone had been waiting for, 'Are "Friends" Electric?' ... and although his voice seemed to be a little stretched by this time, Gary went for it and turned in a great performance of his breakthrough hit ... When at the end his voice cracked as he said 'You see it meant everything to me', you really believe it.

Thank you Gary for 45 years of music and pleasure ... You made two old chaps very, very happy!

The following Photographs are (c) Alan Howe 2024

The following Photographs are (c) Alex Storer 2024

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