Live review: Gary Numan @ the Gothic TheatreBy Crawford Philleo and Joe McCabe | October 29th, 2010 | No Comments »
It wasn’t clear whether there was going to be more than one act performing at the Gothic Theatre “>Gothic Theater on Thursday night. A quick glance at the box office window revealed there were to be at least be two bands on the bill — Denver’s industrial-dance duo Blackcell making way for synth-pop pioneer Gary Numan — but three?
OK, stretching the truth just a tad here: really there were only two bands. But as Gary Numan split his set down the middle, the first half a performance of the classic album “the Pleasure Principle,” and the second a selection of his more recent, infinitely darker industrial goth made it feel like there were two Numans to behold.
Most surprising about this schism that Numan and his band displayed was how beautifully perfect the crossover actually was. This was apparent in both the music and in the crowd that modestly filled the Gothic’s floor and balcony. There were goths, punks, nerds, mullets, mohawks, and crew cuts. No one seemed concerned with fashion, but everyone with style and all respectful of each other’s personal relationship with Numan’s music.
For as many who’d come to remember and revel in the nerdy synthed-out pop jams like “M.E.” and “Films,” at least as many had arrived just to howl and headbang along to the show’s latter half and its darkwave dirges.
Joined by a band of five, Numan was stationed behind a synthesizer amidst a cloud of smoke, backlit by blinding LED light towers that flooded and flickered crimsons, blues, greens and goldenrods. The band began skillfully traversing “The Pleasure Principle” tracks, stacking wide planes of synths atop driving drums and thrumming bass with efficient ease. Numan’s trademark nasally croon sounded like it hadn’t aged a day since 1979.
But the band looked almost bored running through these numbers, the players patiently maintaining their posts, robotically recreating (more so than reinvigorating or re-imagining) the older material. After a flawless rundown of the inimitable “Cars,” the stage went dark and Numan’s keyboard was removed to unleash a beast. Numan was reborn, free to prowl the stage, stare hauntingly out into the crowd with those sunken eyes, whip his mic stand around with abandon and reveal himself as a showman in the truest sense of the word. The band matched this energetic spark, picking up guitars and dropping in with bloodthirsty riffage, the group’s overall sound now officially massive, dwarfing the earlier portion of the set.
Still, Numan’s murderous goth rock carried over some of his earlier work’s stylistic quirks, most notably those high-pitched Polymoog analog synths that dominated “The Pleasure Principle” sound. As the set wore on through a three-song encore, the influence of those simple pop tunes of yore became increasingly clear.
As synth-pop proliferated to a dizzying degree throughout the ’80s, Numan’s eyes were set on a much darker application of synthetic tones, and as the last song rang out with industrial guitars, ’70s synths, and live and digital drums in concerted harmony, the story’s arc had come full circle.
Joe McCabe is a Denver photographer and a regular contributor to Reverb. Check out his website.