Gary Numan Manchester Nov ©Phil Newall 2018 for Louder Than War

Gary Numan & The Skaparis Orchestra
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
Saturday 17th November 2018

Many artists have experimented with orchestrated variants of their music – some to great success, others less so; I would rate Midge Ure’s ‘Orchestrated’ as a triumph for he didn’t just add layers of strings over the original pieces, he completely reimagined the tracks and had the material performed by an orchestra, the forthcoming Killing Joke ‘Symphonic’ project has been over two years in the making but again sees the source material played entirely by an orchestra, with the added advantage of the St Petersburg Symphony Choir.

Echo & The Bunnymen took a slightly differing route and have been accompanied by the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Sigur Ros adopted the same tack for the album ‘Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust’ utilising The London Sinfonietta chamber orchestra and a choir.

Numan alongside the fledgling Manchester based Skaparis Orchestra for this series of performances seems to have settled for somewhere at the mid-point, and tonight within the magnificent, and acoustically optimal surroundings of the Bridgewater Hall he elevated the occasion with the addition of the Kantos Chamber Choir delivering a truly compelling set built around his current ‘Savage’ album with a few old favourites added.

The stage layout saw The Skaparis Orchestra conducted by Simon Robertshaw, albeit minus brass and woodwind, in an arc to the rear of the compact stage, the Kantos Choir are positioned on a dais shadowing the orchestra; Numan and band to the fore in their traditional layout, the Orchestra are dressed in tour T-shirts, some with ‘Savage’ face paint whilst Numan and his band are in the now familiar post-apocalypse Savage outfits.

Gary Numan Manchester Nov ©Phil Newall 2018 for Louder Than War (3)

Opening with ‘Ghost Nation’ it was obvious from the outset Numan had invested a great deal of time into ensuring these performances were something special; eight tons of lighting rig washed the stage in an array of complementary colours whilst five enormous rear screens projected images of the ‘Savage’ promo clips; Numan had worked alongside Robertshaw to ensure each element complemented the other; as such the sound was magnificent, Skaparis adding tonal nuances as they illuminated tracks like ‘Metal’ and ‘Bed Of Thorns’ which took on a stronger more beguiling eastern tone, Numan himself cavorted around the stage weaving between guitarist Steve Harris, and Tim Muddiman.

‘Films’ could have been written with orchestration in mind, the strings and additional percussion adding depth to the originals dark majesty; ‘Everything Comes Down To This’ is slick, muscular, and despite the aggression of the track is given a level of subtlety only spoilt by an array of audience voices repeatedly chanting “Numan, Numan” at every opportunity…sadly, this continued throughout the evening… ‘Down In The Park’ saw those familiar synth lines buoyed by the Skaparis strings, stretched out, menacing, complimenting the banks of stark blue lasers now piercing the dry ice.

Gary Numan Manchester Nov ©Phil Newall 2018 for Louder Than War (1)

The grace of ‘Broken’ was evocative, despite the shouting from a few in audience, before buckling beneath a cavernous bass bolstered by dark cello; similarly evident during ‘Here In The Black’ which took on new levels of foreboding, Numan’s own stage antics saw him narrowly avoid mishap as he collided with Steve Harris, recovering into ‘My Name Is Ruin’ sadly his daughter Persia was not onstage, though this allowed the Kantos Choir to shine; I was pleased to hear ‘Jagged’ which in this context morphed into a razor sharp behemoth; ‘Mercy’ was enormous, percussive pulses, scorched earth bass and the ascending voices of the Kantos Choir, this really was something to behold, whilst ‘Are Friends Electric?’ smouldered, the orchestra fully understanding the power of the space within the song; Numan at times having to concede the vocals to the entire audience as he was visibly overcome with emotion before accepting the applause and leading his band from the stage.

Returning to encore with four further tracks; the darkly atmospheric ‘This Wreckage’ the additional strings amplifying the tracks brooding melancholy, the perfect lead into ‘The End Of Things’ which transformed into a glowering soundtrack to a yet to be made dystopian film epic, and ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’ – perhaps the highlight of the night; strings shimmering in the darkness, Numan wrapped around his mic stand ahead of the thunderous reverberating sounds; this was spine tingling stuff.

Gary Numan Manchester Nov ©Phil Newall 2018 for Louder Than War (2)

Numan took the time to thank both Orchestra and choir before introducing ‘It Will End Here’ the lead track from the current ‘The Fallen’ EP; he hadn’t provided either with the music so this one was left to his band, further demonstrating that Numan is far from prepared to rest on his laurels; he is continuing to develop musically, forging ahead on his terms.

Numan at Bridgewater Hall was a moment to remember, every track delivered with precision, yet retaining a dark intensity; despite a career stretching back some 40yrs, Numan is perhaps only now hitting his prime.

1. Ghost Nation
2. Metal
3. Bed of Thorns
4. Films
5. Everything Comes Down to This
6. Pray for the Pain You Serve
7. Down in the Park
8. Broken
9. Splinter
10. Here in the Black
11. My Name Is Ruin
12. Jagged
13. Mercy
14. My Breathing
15. Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
16. This Wreckage
17. The End of Things
18. A Prayer for the Unborn
19. It Will End Here (without orchestra/choir)

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Phil Newall is 47, from The Wirral - he earns his living not writing about music nor playing music...though sorely wishes he could. He was fortunate enough to see many of the first generation punk bands when they played the U18's matinee shows at Eric's, Liverpool. As an attendee at Eric's he was exposed to punk rock, dub reggae, art rock, and all manner of weirdness; as a customer at Probe Records he was variously served and scowled at by Pete Wylie and Pete Burns - he has written for Record Collector, Whisperin & Hollerin, and Spiral Scratch and wanted to write a book detailing the Liverpool punk scene; however with 'Head-On' Julian Cope beat him to it...and frankly did a much better job.


  1. Yes it was an unforgettable performance, definitely in the top 3 of all the times I’ve seen him.,only slightly spoiled by the two fat cunts in front of us and elsewhere who wouldn’t shut there stupid gobs at every opportunity.

    • Not just near us then, why do these pricks spend so much money just to chat and spoil it for everyone else!?!?!?!
      It seems to be every gig now, not just Numan, I’ve got one mate so pissed off with these morons that he’s calling it a day on live performances.
      Totally agree on the ‘Numan’ chants too, go for it between tracks but shut the fuck up during a song!!!
      To finish on a positive, we were at the RAH & Shepherds Bush, thought they were incredible!

  2. Have to agree the shouting of “Numan…Numan” at all the wrong parts, ie when you had the synth, choir and string breaks was really annoying. It did spoil it a bit for me, but obviously goes on elsewhere ?

    • Yes agreed on the “Numan” chanting at inappropriate times, I think many forgot we were watching a fantastic orchestra too. Great review

  3. What a fantastic way to spend Saturday night my hero and my best friend.Gary numan even had time while on stage to shake my hand never to be washed again nuuuumaaaan we love you


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