It’s not every day you get to see a musical giant perform live. And in the world of electronic music, few artists are more influential than Gary Numan.
His heyday in the 80s helped inspire the new wave movement and industrial metal pioneers like Nine Inch Nails, to whom Numan has been adopting within his own music, making it grittier and more apocalyptic. And last week at The Basement East in Nashville, he held his highly anticipated show that saw a packed house, mesmerizing listeners from every age group with his signature sound.
The night started with the dark and industrial sounds of I Speak Machine. This was the perfect way to prime the audience for the heavier direction Numan’s music has been heading in the past few decades. After finishing her set and talking to some audience members, I Speak Machine left the stage open and ready for the act of the night.
After waiting in silence, a mechanical noise sprang out from the dark. The lights in the back glowed red signaling to everyone that the band was about to enter. Soon the group walked on stage dressed in outfits one might wear during the apocalypse. The group opened with the self-titled song from his newest album, Intruder. The mind-melting heavy guitar and bass paired with Numan’s signature yelp immediately let the crowd know what kind of performance this was going to be. Each song in the set bled into each other with the band not letting up. Numan, stone-faced, moved around onstage like a man possessed by the sound.
Half way into the set, a machine whirl put the audience on edge for what was coming next. Three snare hits blasted into Numan’s most popular and influential track, “Cars.” His love of industrial and metal music gave the new wave anthem a bite previously never heard before. As soon as that first line of, “Here in my car / I feel safest of all” was sung by Numan, the audience was jumping with joy. Before we knew it, we were at the end of the setlist. Throughout the night Numan had been completely silent, letting the music and the performance speak for itself. No chit-chat, no fanfare, just straight ahead with the peformance.
As we waited in anticipation, the classic synth-line from “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” blasted through the heavy bass speakers, shaking the whole venue. The audience was completely in a trance, dancing and singing to not just Numan’s vocals, but the iconic synth part also. The band quickly shuffled off the stage, with Numan notably pumped up by the performance.
After about six minutes of audience applause, the group came back for two encores. The first was a heavy and head-banging rendition of the song “M.E.” another classic from his album, The Pleasure Principle. The last song of the night was “The Fall” off his 2011 album Dead Son Rising. A perfectly grungy way to end his intense and resonating show with new and old fans alike.
With one “thank you very much,” Numan left the stage, leaving the audience with a truly special night to remember.