Gary Numan, Nightmare Air, O2 Academy Liverpool 24/03/2018

The Numanoids pack into a boiling hot O2 Academy, as the electronic pioneer returns for his third date in under two years.

Gary Numan is not only an electronic pioneer who created some of the best music in a changing world after robbing Ultravox‘s synthesizer back in the day, he’s an absolute cult icon.

His following, the Numanoids, aren’t usually the causal type, they’ll follow him into the desert and back, and after his latest album Savage, they did just that.

However, before Numan took to the stage we were greeted by Nightmare Air, a LA band featuring Numan‘s tour manager Dave Dupis, alongside other Los Angeles‘ veterans Swaan Miller and Jimmy Lucido.

Full disclosure, Nightmare Air are the best support for Numan we’ve seen. The shoegaze driven rockers ripped through a half-an-hour set with their new record Fade Out as the main vocal point.

Their colliding vocals, the rhythmic strobes (giving A Place To Bury Strangers a run for their money), and stage dynamic showcases the band’s excellent performance.

Who’s Your Lover“, the highlight of the set, has the band air out a somewhat Boy-era U2 atmosphere, with a very New Order sounding synth run. However, it’s definitely Swaan Miller‘s vocals that keep it tied together, different and oddly soothing.

The fans in the crowd with a foot on the heavier side of Numan, or even foot in that realm of psych/shoegaze (that we know Liverpool loves), will appreciate their outstanding performance. Even with the electronics and Miller‘s vocals, even Ladytron vibes come to mind.

After a good amount of time, the crowd’s “Numan!” chants have become more apparent than usual.

He enters to a uproar, with “Ghost Nation” as his deafening opening hit. The causuals in the audience tonight consistently had the “I hope he plays all his old stuff” notes on, while the fact is, after his recent shows where he placed a finger on the catalogue pulse, we actually wanted more Savage tonight, and we got it.

Numan rarely touches base with his Pleasure Principle/Replicas self tonight, however the moments he does, are early. His third song, “Metal“, is a shining moment in his early years, and tonight once again, is loud and demanding.

The Fall” from his 2013 effort Dead Sun Rising is a nice addition, falling between “Metal” and his legendary “Down In the Park“, which somewhat is his grace later on, when the industrial titans such as Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails covered it.

That’s Numan‘s saving grace for his modern-day career, his foray into an industrial standpoint that he helped influence before becoming friends with the likes of Manson and NIN‘s Trent Reznor.

Numan ditches the older stuff again to focus on Savage, Splinter and great 2006 comeback effort Jagged.

Savage tracks “Mercy“, “Bed of Thorns” and “My Name is Ruin” are obvious standouts tonight, the band jolting together while Numan shows off his unandroid-like moves.

After the later, this time not featuring his daughter Persia (however her presecene with Numan‘s screens are felt), we notice a damper in the set.

Numan falls into “Cars“, his legacy number, and seems to disconnect with the song, retreating to his synthesizer at the back at times.

It’s known that Numan dislikes living in the past, playing his early stuff often, and with Replicas/Pleasure Principale having it’s own show in 2016, and Numan‘s Exhibition Centre phenomenon just last year, we didn’t actually need to hear “Cars“.

Strangely, he clicks right back into place with “When The World Comes Apart“, off Savage, before finally showing off a new shortened version of “Are Friends Electric?“.

He comes back and after calming the crowd down, expresses “after every show, we stand back there for a minute and say, “oh well yeah that was good”, but tonight we just want to say, you’re fucking incredible”.

He leaves on “A Prayer for the Unborn” and “My Last Day“, two brilliant songs that aren’t big hitters for Numan, but are beautiful in this setting.

Another phenomenal performance from an icon, and it seems like every six months we catch him, and while a break is in-order, Liverpool will sell-out every time he’s in town.

Words by Jack Cinnamond and photography by Jessica Sharpe.

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