Gary Numan live - Liverpool March 2018 ©Phil Newall 1












Gary Numan

Rockaway Beach Festival

Jan 2019

Live Review

Well, that was some climax.

The android who fell to earth, whose live stage presence is now closer to Iggy Pop’s feral abandon than the alluring period alien of his Top Of The Pops period tops out the Saturday night headline slot to the biggest crowd the much loved new festival has seen.

Two years of touring, Savage, his biggest-selling album for years saw Gary Numan play the last date on the album tour and exit the stage at the now firmly established and popular festival in a flurry of powerful techno electric industrial noise and skree. 

This is no greatest hits set but a reaffirmation of restless creativity pushing forward with a hyper-modern sounding 21st-century concert that even when it revisits old songs reevaluates and changes them, tweaking their sound, changing their dynamics and making them sit with the current muse and sound and making those classics sound and feel right now.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Numan is still fast-forwarding into the future and has smartly embraced his imitators and fans like Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails and added and enhanced their take on what is increasingly been seen as his groundbreaking music.

In the post-punk period, Numan was looked on unfavourably by critics who called him spectacularly wrong. Of course, success has always soured a reparation and Numan was Adam Ant massive in the period, a genuine pop star with huge hits and a mainstream presence which was pretty remarkable considering just how left field much of what he was doing was. He was an electronic music pioneer and his otherworldly songs were at least a decade ahead of the game.

In the in conversation, I conduct with him with his before his set he himself looks baffled at this success decrying any notion of genius in music and celebrating an instinctive twinge of when an idea works and creating the magic stuff out of thin air.

He talked about creating the alien personae to deal with stage fright and, maybe unwittingly, reflecting his now documented Aspergers. His initial mega success saw Numan as a ghostly presence in the pop party with a series of huge hits that were key in breaking electronic music into the mainstream. It was a sound forged by chance after his initial post-punk was twisted after finding mini Moog in the studio when he was recording songs with the Tubeway Army and moving away from the guitar/bass/drums of their earlier period.

For a few years, the mass success seemed effortless but then came the inevitable slide and a paranoia about writing hits that saw him slip into second-guessing his own music. It was only when he met his now current wife, Gemma, that he began to get on track after she cajoled him into following his own creative intuition and built up his confidence instead of hiding behind a myriad of other musicians. 

The second wave of Gary has continued to this day with a darker and more dystopian take on his style and an embracing of the industrial music that already owed him a huge debt.

And that brings us to tonight – the Savage album has been his biggest for years and seen him in a late period flourish. The set combines a melodic mystery and a machine like power and is still a futuristic take on the keyboards combined with high decibel guitars that has become his staple for years. 

It’s a powerful combination and the band can really rock out but retain that mysterious allure of those keys that makes them still sound future perfect. The singer is now in touch with his human and physical side and thrashes around the stage with an energy that is so opposite of his original public personae and it’s a captivating site. 

He still sings in that distinctive burr of a voice, sounding somehow detached and engaged at the same time. It’s his trademark and quite like anything else. Primarily a songwriter his music is crafted and the live sound is perfection. There is not one flaw or chink in the armour and combined with a scaled down and yet still pulsating light show this is the best permanence that many long term watchers have seen from him as that powerful bond between Numan and his loyal fans is melded yet again.

Where he goes next will be fascinating. 

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Possibly the best review I’ve read about Gary’s Savage tour. You’ve captured everything in this article about the man..THE musician that we’ve loved for 40 years. Thankyou..thankyou

  2. Saw Gary perform for seven gigs on the Savage tour (including the orchestral gig at the Bridgewater hall in Manchester) I also did a M&G at the Bridgewater hall to…Gary is a lovely bloke…I know lots of people say it about him well its true and the energy Gary puts in to every performance…its as if hes less than half his age…let’s face it Gary looks fabulous.

  3. After 130+ savage gigs he should have the miming down to a fine art.
    As for aspergers,why didn’t you ask him which doctor told him he had it,the last time I looked Gemma hadn’t been to medical school.

  4. Hope the writer wasn’t paid for this. No actual serious review of the concert; just a sycophantic, clumsy and historically revisionist portrayal of the man himself, with sentences that only just hold themselves together. If you’re going to review someone, do it properly.

    • Why would you hope that someone didn’t get paid? what kind of worldview does a person like you have? a mean spirited one I’m sure. How much money did you pay to read the review? What kind of life do you have wandering around the internet trolling?

  5. What the feck are you going on about???

    “a reaffirmation of restless creativity pushing forward with a hyper-modern sounding 21st-century concert that even when it revisits old songs reevaluates and changes them, tweaking their sound, changing their dynamics and making them sit with the current muse and sound and making those classics sound and feel right now”

    So you didn’t mind that most of it was pre recorded or mimed then?

    • Mimed? what was mimed? pre-recorded? which bits and even if it was it sounded great which is the bottom line – as soon as you plug a guitar into an amp you are cheating.
      The set sounded fantastic and the music had been remoulded and given a 21st century edge – that’s what I meant.


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