Gary Numan at the O2 Academy, 14th March, 2018

with Nightmare Air

Reviewed by Kashif Hussain






British electronic music progenitor Gary Numan played to a packed out O2 Academy as part of his European tour in support of his latest album Savage (Songs from a Broken World), released last September.

Nightmare Air Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Supporting him was alt rock trio Nightmare Air, hailing from Los Angeles, Gary’s current place of residence. Although the keyboards were piped in, the band formed an intriguing, multi-layered soundscape accentuated by steady percussion and built upon by atmospheric synths, lush bass and dreamy shoegazey riffs.

Bassist Swaan’s dreamy vocals were a perfect fit for their abstract sound, while guitarist Dave’s accompanying vocals provided a nice male/female contrast. Their set lasted forty minutes, consisting mostly of tracks from their recently released LP Fade Out, and was guaranteed to get the crowd pumped up for the headliner.

Nightmare Air Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Twenty minutes after their set and the room erupted as Gary Numan walked on stage with his band. He wore a tattered tunic, fitting of the post-apocalyptic desert nomad aesthetic of Savage, which made up a large chunk of his set. The rest was made up from songs across his career spanning four decades, giving a glimpse of his evolution as an artist.

Gary Numan Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Classic tracks were given new twists which worked well in a live setting, such as guitars on his mega hit Cars and pianos on the spoken word sections to Are Friends Electric? that gave the song a more emotional tone. His newer tracks have a darker atmosphere and a clear industrial influence, namely the pounding Love Hurt Bleed and the orchestrally charged Here in the Black, both from his penultimate release Splinter: (Songs From a Broken Mind).

Gary Numan’s bass guitarist Photo: Kevin Gaughan

The stage was lit up by spotlights, lasers and screens showing visuals such as clips from music videos and trippy patterns, making it just as much a visual spectacle as it is a musical one. Gary’s on-stage dancing and posing was a little awkward, but fitting of his android-esque stage persona. After supposedly finishing with Are Friends Electric?, he and his band returned with an encore of This Wreckage and ending the night with the synth-heavy Metal.

Gary Numan’s guitarist Photo: Kevin Gaughan

Not many musicians can say they’ve had an active musical career since the late seventies and are still going strong at the age of 60. Numan provides an exception, and with legions of loyal Numanoids young and old he’s sure to carry on growing as a musician, expanding his already huge discography and putting on more amazing live shows.

Watch this video, by Kevin Gaughan, of Mercy, from tonight’s gig.