Review & Photography by Manny Manson for MPM
I wasn’t a fan of Gary Numan back in the late 70’s when he made a huge splash on the music scene. I, like so many of my mates at ‘boarding’ school were into the heavier, rockier music of the time, UFO, RUSH, TED NUGENT and of course SABBATH, if it didn’t have long hair and screaming guitars it was totally irrelevant in our little world.
But, as time goes by, you mellow and you reminisce about your younger days and the music scene back then. The barriers are dropped as you now embrace all that’s gone before, and although you may still not embrace the music genres fully, with both hands you find your foot tapping and head nodding as you sing the words, how the hell did that happen?
Recently I’ve covered a spate of bands that, although not my cup of tea back in their heyday, I’ve grown to appreciate their mark on the UK music scene. Having gone and covered the bands with no expectations I have surprisingly come away as a new fan having enjoyed the night.
With hearing that Numan has added a new date to the tour itinerary, it meant I could get to see this music genius after all. May 16th at Rock City was not possible as I was tied in to cover Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons playing a Motörhead set in Derby. Having seen the photo’s that my Peers have shared of the night, it has given me a new impetus to get there and have fun.
Again, this will be another gig without my wordsmith buddy Waldorf (Peter Finn), sadly work has yet again, kept him from coming along. No matter we shall try to keep things up to his high standards.
The ride into Leicester is uneventful. It brought back memories of late night motorbike rides to ‘Ross’s Café’, Wheelies over the long gone flyover; over abbey Lane round about, and general hooning around the bike shops back in the 80’s. Parking up at the big carpark beside the DeMonfort Hall it meant just a short walk down to the venue and the box office.
Getting in and now sorted we wait for the first band. Again, it’s a band I know very little about. I have done my research and know that they’re a French band from Lyon called DIVINE SHADE. They are a trio that include Ren Toner on Vox and Synth, Nico Thonnerieux on guitar and Emile Casas on drums. There is a fourth member, the guy often seen at the side of the stage, the sound tech Pierre Forissier. Their style has been likened somewhat to Depeche Mode and Nine Inch Nails amongst others.
Their ‘Cold Wave’ style with a detached lyric and simple industrial synth driven melody has all the characteristics of this sound from the late 70’s. The ‘Cold’ although detached sound was more controlled than that of their Punk predecessors. The French Scene was described as ‘La Vague Froide’. French Band, Marquis de Sade’s 1979 album Danzig Twist is seen as a classic in the genre.
Through the smoke and lights a sound erupts. The wall of sound would not be amiss in a Jurassic Park movie. The thudding foot step surrounded by the chattering’s of tiny raptors sparks the imagination as the synth and bass combination over loads your imagination.
The track ‘Hate & Oblivion’ is my introduction to this new band, it’s also their latest single from their up and coming album of the same name. It’s droning bass assaults you as a slow deliberate vocal spins around you head.
The synth follows the vocal which is punctuated with grinding industrial sounds, meticulously delivered to rattle your body parts. It’s a cleverly layered song. The vocal deliberate and almost monotone. The crowd are liking this already, and I can see why, it certainly gets under your skin.
This is followed by ‘Ruines and Cendre’ This follows on from the last song. The bass is droning and hard as Ren Toner is holding the mic, it’s obvious where he gets his style from, as he stares at the floor before delivering another monotone masterpiece.
For a band that I’d never heard of before tonight, the crowd in tonight are loving this dynamic trio as they go into ‘From the Sky’ from the 2014 EP of the same name is next. This one has a screamed vocal over a repetitive bass and drum beat. Nico on guitar is hidden in smoke nearly as much as poor Emile on the drums who at times has disappeared. The stage lighting is strobing blue and green for this one. And again, the crowd show their appreciation with plenty of clapping and cheering.
‘Stars’ is another song from their forth coming album ‘Hate & Oblivion’. This sees a predominantly white and blue lit stage. The sound is dramatic as it’s introduced with a fast, percussive beat. Ren and Nico are both on the guitars, Ren has a nice Firebird while Nico is using a Jaguar and is squeezing some most un guitar like sounds from it. Lights flash as Ren shouts to the crowd “let’s make some fucking noise Leicester, I want you to fucking dance”.
Those young enough in the crowd to still be mobile oblige as the noise level rises briefly. Its drowned out by the foundry of relentless mechanical sounds that is cascading from the stage. The twin guitars are grinding away full of distortion and fuzz, the crowd are back being noisy again, they are cheering like this is the headline band.
‘Eternal Love’ from the 2020 EP ‘In the Dust’ follows on, I believe this was released as part 2 of the EP. Again, more flashing lights fill the stage, red and white this time, the never-ending smoke fills the stage and the venue. It’s like a smog filled night in old London town, we just need Jack the Ripper to make an appearance.
The twin guitars are riffing along to the slow purposeful drum beat as it crashes hard and heavy around the 1400 cap venue. The scything guitar riffs are almost hidden by the percussive thuds from the drums. The song is brought to an abrupt stop with mad guitars and vocal screams. This one has left me stood there, staring at the stage.
‘Love of Angels’, from the 2014 EP ‘From the Sky’, starts off with a ticking beat behind a heavy drum beat, which is duly engulfed in a wall of smoke. As the synth gets rattling Ren repeated shouts out as yet again the bass onslaught rapes you senses. Nico too is engulfed in the smoke as it envelopes everything in its path, you can just make him out as he throws some shapes while adding to the autonomous sound, which continues to pulse in your face amidst green and pink and purple flashes of light.
Ashes’ is from the 2020, ‘In the Dust’ EP this has a green hue to the stage as the smoke drifts around. The PA crackles to life before fast concussive beats collide with everything in its way, as the lights go out Red and Green spots punctuate the darkness as the pulse around the stage. The heads are nodding to this one as Ren delivers a vocal not out of place in a 70’s Kraftwerk release.
They harmonise briefly as the almost spoken vocal seems at odds to the beat. A single bell chime harks the stop and the start of an instrumental section. Emile is almost mechanical in his delivery as the singing finally brings the song to an end. Again, the band are cheered like they own it .
‘Get Away’ fires up with a grinding almost Cello like sound. The smoke-filled stage is pulsing with blue light in time with Emile’s kick drum as it explodes from the mix. Yellow and blue lights are now dancing around the stage. A snare rattles out as the synth swirls in the depths of the smoke-filled room. A monotone vocal delivery follows as the song is brought to a stop only to fire up again. Ren thanks everyone for coming in early to listen to them play. The venue is a good ¾ full so they have had a good audience. He introduces the band and then back on with the song, with a piercing cry the drums are back to life thudding in away in the smoke.
The audience are more animated now as the thundering beat smashes into them. Ren is calling repetitively while the bass shakes the foundations of the Percy Gee building. Ren’s vocal is now screeched as he hangs is head while supported by the mic stand. He turns to his keyboard and delivers some high-pitched swooping frequencies something that wouldn’t sound amiss in a 1960’s Sci Fi movie. The crowd love it as the cheer and clap this penultimate song.
The final track of the night is the ‘Black Bird Returns’, again from the 2014 EP ‘From the Sky’. The stage is yet again full of back lit green smoke as a crushing bass and thunderous drums once again rip apart the chatter in the hall.
The synth swirls around the bass as they combine to smash you in the face, the bass drone is knee trembling in ferocity as Ren repeated talks out the line “black bird returns”. Ren tries to get the band to hand clap above their heads as the industrial noise continues to pour from the stge.
With both on guitars as the drums add an organic thud, the stage glows red and then is punctuated by a strobe of epilepsy inducing frequency cuts through the stage. And still the relentless thud thud thud of the kick drum continues. Which a crushing grind, Nico and Ren put their guitars done, they again introduce themselves then walk off the stage leaving the crowd looking wind swept and interesting.
A stunning set and the crowd seem to agree as the chatter round and about would indicate.
The stage is now cleared by Divine Shade and the crew. The kit is dragged off the front as well as to the side, ushered through a set of doors for the band to sort and pack away.
The crowd have no gotten drinks and are heading back to as close to the front as possible. There are three of us in the pit tonight along with the tour photographer. The three of us look like the Social class characters from the John Cleese sketch. We are ready as the lights dim and the stage glows red.
The band walk on while a sound wall of pulses and throbs play out. The guitarist Tim Harris and Tim Slade on bass take up their positions either side of the stage. There towering figures are like sentinels guarding the access to a forbidden land. Richard Beasley is off to one side on his kit opposite is David Brooks on keys. The middle, rear of the stage has a keyboard set up for Gary Numan to play when he’s not at the microphone.
Numan Swaggers on brimming with confidence as the crowd go nuts. The frontline is full of Gary Numan VIP ticket holders, most of these have followed the show around the UK. The Numan chants quickly subside when he saunters up to the microphone.
‘Intruder’ is up first as he stands at the mic and delivers a confident vocal. As the sound builds the ‘Sentinels’ play to the crowd like androids their expressionless look never changes as they deliver. Numan is hanging on to the microphone as he twists his hands around it, hanging from it one minute as the lights flash and pulse behind, the crowd sing along to the chorus as the ‘Sentinel’s’ rock back and forth protecting Numan as he performs.
‘We are Glass’ harks back to the early years all be it with a more industrial vibe. Numan’s voice reflects the older sound as he dances across the stage, twisting and turning as he does so. Gone is the self-doubting deliveries of the 80’s. Keys swirl around as the back wall is a covered in red squares and pulsing white light, the drums crash around the trademark Numan sound.
Cutting shapes, he parades around the stage. This is a different Numan to the last time I saw him on the TV in the 70’s the awkwardness has gone as he commands the stage. The kilt wearing guitars dressed like dystopian roman esque warriors deliver as the twist and turn pointing at the crowd in a controlling manner. The song finishes out to swirling keys and cymbal smashes as Numan commands from centre stage. The crowd erupt as the stage momentarily goes dark.
‘Halo’ is the only offering from 2006’s ‘Jagged’ Blue and white light fight as they pulse to the beat. Numan is parading again as the Sentinels move around either side of the stage. The kick drum is rattling in its delivery. Numan is dancing at the mic as he delivers.
This is a man who is confident in his ability. Still wearing the face make up from old, its more in keeping with the dystopian feel to tonight. Three red streaks adorn his face, his eyes still have the trademark black eye shadow rings. His arms are everywhere as he explodes this song across the venue.
He finishes with his head held low as he crouches at the mic stand.
‘The Gift’ which featured Gazelle Twin on the album ‘Intruder’. This starts with a steady drone, a matrix effect back drop amidst crackles before turning blue and a steady pulsing beat is thrust upon us. Full of percussive beats, Numan is animated at the front again, A virus spins slowly on the back drop screen as he sings about “do you like the gift”.
Percussive noises punctuate an industrial grind as the song moves on. The song picks up pace as the screen shows more virus type images. The solid bass beat thuds out relentlessly. Steve Harris drives it all along with a searing riff as he dances around Numan, who’s snake like entwining himself around the mic. The crowd are loving it, cheers and whistle ring out as Numan performs some form of hypnotic ‘vogue’ style dance mixed in with ballet.
The Pleasure Principle is visited for this next one, ‘Metal’. With a rolling wind type noise that builds as the red lit stage is pierced by white spots as the familiar tones of hits you full on. Numan is back and forth across the stage as he delivers this older song. The organic drum beats smashing through the electronic driven keyboard swirls as Numan adds to the sound, bent over his keys, head nodding ferociously to the beat as he twists knobs and changes the sound as he brings the song to an end smiling at the crowd then darkness.
The destructive grinding beats heralds ‘Everything Comes Down to This’ 2013’s ‘Splinter’. As he prowls the stage the crowd cheer him on. The steady beat throbs as he throws shapes the drums cutting through the percussive sounds generated by the synth.
The bass guitar is rumbling through like thunder. Crouching down the dystopian Sentinels, moving statues from a Jason and the Argonauts adventure sing backing vocals as they dance on either side. A brief respite as the Sentinels march back and forth. Stood at the microphone in silence as the crowd cheer, it suddenly bursts into life as Numan sings “I don’t know how but everything comes down to this” and he walks away the Numan chants start as the song gets great crowd feedback.
Industrial noise fires out as Numan again is prowling the stage like a caged tiger. He throws shapes on the beat before grabbing the microphone and delivering the disenchanted vocal of ‘Is the World Not Enough’ from 2021’s Intruder.
Heavy bass thuds out as the backdrop shows the waves on the sea, a desert floor, full of cracks and a burning wreck. This is a well-rehearsed theatrical piece; Wembley Arena saw Numan’s daughters on stage with him during this one. As Numan hides in the shadows the sentinels again tease and gyrate to the melody, this is a great song, the crowd would seem to agree as they call for Numan throughout.
A bouncing bass note and heavy kick drum resonate around the hall, a quick trip around the drum kit breaks up the thrashing, swirling synth sound that’s dominant in this genre of music. Numan stands at the front of the stage singing “I don’t like Films” as we visit the Pleasure principle once more for ‘Films’.
This simple delivery has Numan acting at the microphone as the Sentinels walk around, and play to the crowd. The classic sound is there hidden under layers of crushing bass and synth driven percussive beats. This has captivated the crowd, as I walk around the venue, I noticed that all the bars are clear of customers.
Carrying a Les Paul guitar, Numan is front and centre once again. The crowd is a sea of phones being held up as ‘Pure’ plays out from the self-titled album Pure from 2000. The back drop is a close up of a face in negative. The picked notes sound out as the song gathers momentum. A heavy riff sounds out as Numan eventually takes to the vocals. Steve Harris is rocking out as he swaps sides and grinds out this great tune. Les Paul on hip as Numan delivers the dramatic vocals smothered in bass notes and driving guitar. The talked vocal has the crowd near me talking the words along with Numan. The crowd are bouncing to this dynamic tune plays out.
With an empty stage and pulsing green tv screens interrupting the darkness the inevitable chanting of “Numan” commences. Clapping and stomping from the crowd commence as ‘Resurrection’ plays out with its heavy, distorted beats. The band make their way on stage as the drums kick in the synth swirls with a human like howl.
The guitars fire up as Tim Slade on bass is almost lying down playing his torturous riff. With arms swirling like an octopus Numan delivers a faultless vocal. The crowd copy his arm waving as the pulsing beats permeate the around the hall. It segues nicely into ‘Down in The Park’ and as the strings play out on this number, Numan dances around the stage .
‘A Black Sun’ from the latest album is up next. A gentle piano starts amidst the howling from the crowd, a shot of the earth from space showing the sun is up on the big screen. The swirling synth cruises around the venue as Numan is back lit by a single spot light, delivers a deliberate vocal.
The band join in with percussive beats, Steve Harris cuts a fuzz laden solo on the guitar, as it plays out Numan is hunched down and stares at the crowd. “We love you” is shouted from the crowd. This song gets huge applause from the crowd, ‘Every Day I Die’ follows from 1978’s Tubeway Army.
Its thudding bass and the de-da, da-da from the keys in an almost Are friends Electric type riff. He makes faces at Tim Slade on bass as he marches around the stage. “I’m Looking at Pictures of You’ is sung out as the stage is engulfed in white pulsing light. Leg lifting at the mic, Numan continues with his dystopian Vogue dance moves. The Sentinels are back and forth as they add to the wall of sound. Throwing shapes as the song comes to an end, the distinctive keys sound prominent to the end. The crowd love it
The Pleasure Principle see’s one of Numan’s most famous songs. ’Cars’ has the crowd singing to this ever-popular song. It’s delivered with aplomb as Numan dances back and forth, the synth sound swirls around as the drums crash and the bass hits you firmly. This is the 2022 version with a heavier, meatier sound in keeping with the reset of the set tonight.
Dancing at his Keyboard, back lit by strobing lights Numan conducts the rest of the band through the instrumental part of the song, the Sentinels slowly close in on him as the drums crash out marking the end to the song. The crowd love it and I must say it did bring back memories of being sat in the TV room at school watching top of the pops the lads while drinking tea and eating toast.
Numan’s daughter Persia features on the next song albeit by being on the video screens behind her dad. ‘My Name Is Ruin’ is the exact opposite to cars. A heavy thundering beat erupts from the stage as Numan sets about the vocal.
The multiple screens behind are just blank white screens. Pulsing light pulses around the stage as the middle eastern vibe kicks in. Persia appears on the screens as her dad turns and greets her. She was 11 when the video was made. Numan is singing a duet with the screens. The crowd are bouncing slowly to this great tune the industrial throb continues as it cut and thrusts its way through to your soul. Folk are up dancing their arms outstretched as the song plays out.
‘Love Hurt Bleed’ follows on with its warbling beats giving way to a solid thundering bass riff. Lights flash as red strobes cascade down the stage the clatter of cymbals are heard over the roaring bass sound. Numan is still throwing his dystopian shapes as the stage is engulfed in red light.
A song so full of bass its spilling over the edges as you get a popping key melody behind it, Numan’s vocal bring an organic twist to the cacophony being delivered from the stage. Unfortunately, the effect is to much as a girl faints in front of me, her partner helping her to the floor. The security are quickly on it, ‘Red Beard’ has it under control.
‘The Chosen’ follows on with driving drum beat and crashing cymbals. A grumbling guitar riff ensues before it drops back when Numan starts to sing. The lights are working overtime as they strobe around the hall. The crowd are liking this as the phones are out capturing the stunning light show and no doubt Numan’s entertaining dance routines.
The sound of heavy industrial rock slams out as the band give it 100%. The galloping beat stops and starts several times, each time the crowd cry out in response.
The girl that fainted is now on her feet, smiling somewhat confusingly as she is escorted away by the medics and her partner.
A smiling Numan walks the stage as the last song of the set starts up. ‘I Die: You Die’ is another visit back to Telekon from 1980. As the screens and filled with images of paper ribbon, the crashing drums and bouncing bassline push this song along.
Numan back in 1980 delivering this iconic tune as he throws those shapes during his vocal delivery. David Brooks has delivered a great synth as the song finishes in a flourish of drums and Numan throwing snake shapes. With the crowd throwing dancing arms in the air the they are acknowledged as the band leave the stage.
The inevitable chanting of NU-Man reverberates around the venue. The hand clapping and foot stomping support the continued the demand for more. It’s like a controlled football crowd cheering their team on. The frenzy reaches fever pitch when the band slowly return.
The Encore tonight consists of two more Numan bangers, first up is ‘A Prayer for the Unborn’ from 2000’s album Pure. Numan walks up to the microphone with the Les Paul once again, looking at it as the synth plays out, he places it on his shoulder like a soldier carrying his weapon. Lyric is delivered as plays with the guitar almost weapon like than its back on his shoulder.
3 white lights fan out from behind the frontline. He wears the guitar to his back whilst his hands emulate a bird flying. As the keys swirl and build as the guitars riff out. Numan is hunched over digging deep as the Sentinel’s stand behind like obedient lapdogs grinding out their riffs as the drums crash around them. They group up as a tight unit as Steve Harris leads. He threatens to throw his guitar into the crowd as the song finishes. The crowd love it and are ready for the final song of the night.
No Numan gig would be complete without the iconic ‘Are Friends Electric’ The song that brought Numan to the masses back in the heyday of electronic music. Replicas back in the day was a ground breaking album for this genre. The New Romantics and New Wave scene was flooding the market and Numan brought a little something special as he did so. As pale blue spotlights and the sound of distant thunder mark the beginning of this iconic song the crowd are on it.
Bouncing and shouting as the music builds, the familiar synth sound cries out, the drum beat perfectly supporting the keyboard cries. Numan is all over the microphone as he delivers another faultless delivery. Transporting everyone back to the year of its release. The crowd fill in with the whoa whoa whoa’s. the twiddly bit on the keys allows Numan to take over it all, the crowd cheers as the Whoas start up again. The room is alive with hands everywhere. Numan is clearly enjoying this as he parades about. The lights have come on so he can see the whole crowd singing back to him.
With Numan hunched down the crowd sing back to him “Are friends electric” amongst the frenzy of cheers and repeated calls of NU-MAN. The clapping and cheering starts as Numan walks the stage saluting the crowd. H e stands stage centre arms out as the final drums crash around him. The clapping is deafening as the chanting yet again starts up. The Sentinels are hugging each other as Drums and Keys salute the crowd before they all leave the stage for the last time.
And that’s the night complete. As I walk back to the car my head busy with what I’ve just witnessed. Gary Numan is no longer the shy retiring person afraid to move, that we first saw on our TV screens several decades ago. Tonight, was a polished performance to rank up there with the best I’ve seen this year. The heavier feel to the electronica of earlier songs bring them bang up to date and very relevant in today’s world.
Could the night have been any better for the Leicester fans, without bringing his daughters back on stage, I very much doubt it. The setlist has continued to evolve through-out the tour, tonight’s gave a greatest hits of sorts, we didn’t get a full representation from all 20+ albums. How-ever it did share with the fans how Numan has developed over the 40+ years. The Divine Shade put on an excellent show of modern Cold Wave electronica, a fitting start to a cracking night.
Thanks for a great show, what a night, what a life!