Midway through last night's Gary Numan set, I overheard a group of people trying to figure what they were watching. They were convinced that they had the right stage, but they didn't think they were actually watching Gary Numan. It was apparent that they knew his music and not his face, reminding themselves that he had a huge hit in the 1980s but that he currently looks way too young to have been an adult at that time. Admittedly, we were standing pretty far back from the stage and the lighting on the digital overhead viewing screens was flattering, but there was something about the way he moved and posed that made him look limber like a teenager. His body was enviable, his voice stellar. The people behind me were still unconvinced. They asked themselves, "Is he really dark and edgy like this?" Indeed, he is.
Numan's set made me realize that he's owed a lot more credit than I'd previously given him, in regards to influencing electronic music that also rocks, coming off as Trent Reznor's intelligent and more mellow uncle. I was also paying close attention to how the kids would respond to his performance, or if they'd even ever heard the song "Cars." When it began I saw throng of teens running toward the crowd merrily, so it seems that perhaps he is still relevant to the curious youth.
Dave Segal noted yesterday that it appears that Gary Numan wears a wig and that his band sounds like Helmet. I can only agree with half of that statement, his band is heavy and locked in, adding a heap of sonic fury that reminded me of the hard edged industrial 1990s, or the soundtrack to the movie Lost Highway. On some songs the synths were mixed comically low, so the numbers with keyboard endings had a series of false endings, causing the crowd to cheer incorrectly.
I'd calculate that 70% of the set was newer material, much of it coming from Splinter, his latest release. It's perfectly in line with Numan's output, a great combination of guitars and machines. My social network feeds were littered with people I knew who had met Numan and had photos taken with him, he seems like an affable chap. I was somewhat wary to see a nostalgic act at a music festival, but when the set ended I felt excited to go home and play Telekon really, really fucking loud.