Bristol O2 Academy 22.10.19
New Sound of the Suburbs
Before leaving for LA Gary Numan grew up and lived around the suburban hinterland of Heathrow Airport where I spent the first 16 years of my life. On the edge of the big city with huge reservoirs dotted around – Ashford (Middx), Stanwell, Staines, Wraysbury, Slough. ‘Heathrow jets’…went…’crashing over our homes’, quite literally at one point.
I wasn’t particularly aware of that when Tubeway Army were appearing on Top of the Pops and being top of the pops when I was at school in 1979. Beggars Banquet, Tubeway Army and Numan’s record label had a shop in Kingston which was something of a local mecca but while the electronic era that grew after punk was part of listening to music as a youth I didn’t go to see any of his gigs or own any vinyl…more a jukebox choice for me.
In about 2001 I did have a ticket to see him in north London – the Forum – and after a date mix up I never got there – never done that before or since – but I didn’t see him live until the Dead Son Rising album tour in September 2011, in Bournemouth (Boscombe O2). I remember being surprised how powerful and heavy the sound was. A revelation to me. Subsequent albums have just got even better and I think the heavier versions of older Tubeway Army classics have also added to the new Numan.
I saw him back at the beautiful night club (The Opera House) that is Bournemouth O2 Academy on the tour after the release of the hugely successful ‘Savage’ album in October 2017 and was fortunate to get along to his rehearsals in Manchester last year before the orchestral tour. Great experiences. Wonderful big industrial sounds. I generally pop in my specialist music ear plugs when I need to, or I would be deaf by now, and I recall being near the speaker to get a photo or two and my chest cavity pulsating with the sound. My ears rang despite having the plugs in.
Tonight’s soundcheck in Bristol
Got to Bristol for a 3pm start as my gig buddy Dave had engineered the special bonus of the soundcheck. An opportunity to hear three or four songs as the sound check, get some photos with a bigger camera, closer up, get some stuff signed and meet some ‘Numanoids’ with deeper Numan knowledge and experiences. Amazing what you find out – they do know everything there is to know – including detail of the enforced high quality substitutions on the tour: including Gary’s previous producer Ade coming in on keyboards at short notice the gig before this.
Some soundcheck photos:
Our pre-gig bonus was finished at 6pm giving not much time to get a bite at the excellent and practically speedy Wong’s Chinese restaurant round the corner. This allowed me to drop some stuff off including the bigger camera I would not be allowed to take in (expressly, and quite usual) and a few beers in the old pub – The Hatchet Inn – opposite the venue, full of various shades of black and a variety of Numan tattoos on show and some 79-80s sounds…obviously.
Skipped the support band, partly due to such negative reviews, and bit of an error in staying in the pub too long. ‘A schoolboy’ as we say.
Plenty of time for Numan coming on stage but the place was packed to the rafters when we got in.
I do like the side-on shape and elevated tiers of the tidy medium sized Bristol Academy. I have seen it this full just once and moving around is an effort, for me specifically with a booted strapped up ankle. We try a few upper tiers. I squeezed down a side balcony. These would give great views if you are in early and maintain a place on the rail…otherwise…No.
I couldn’t really see at all from the top balcony so decided to go down to the main floor, persevere through the crowded stair wells and squeeze in a bit. Well worth it. Just don’t move and forget the bar.
I couldn’t fault the set. Songs taken from 14 albums including 3 Tubeway Army ones and a new song, Intruder, the title track of the forthcoming Numan album. (Yes I have to refer to the set list after – I am not a well seasoned Numanoid. I’m new-Numanoid.)
The three from Savage, included opener ‘My Name is Ruin’ were up there and I was amazed at how good the heavier versions of ‘We Are Glass’ (the best) and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ were, with those gruff talky bits interspersed. Another favourite of mine: ‘Dead Son Rising’, which marked my new Numan interest.
An overtly appreciative Numan says goodnight after picking up the guitar for a bit – acoustic – who’d ‘have thought eh in 1979.
It was a good night. My best Numan gig…not got the track record of the real Numanoids but I’m on the bus now.