By John Curley
Gary Numan’s current tour, which features his landmark 1979 album The Pleasure Principle performed in full, hit the Best Buy Theater in New York City’s Times Square on Saturday night, October 23rd. (The Best Buy Theater is the new name of the former Nokia Theatre Times Square.) Numan’s devoted and sizable NYC fanbase saw the 52-year-old musician put on a killer show that was very much a concert in two parts.
The material from The Pleasure Principle was performed first. While they don't seem particularly dated, the songs from The Pleasure Principle are markedly different from the material that Numan released later in his career. The songs on The Pleasure Principle could be classified as synth rock while Numan’s later output borders on heavy-duty industrial. The shift in the show could even be seen onstage when, after The Pleasure Principle portion of the show had ended, a roadie walked onstage and removed Numan’s synth and microphone, and replaced them with a standup microphone. Numan, seemingly freed from the shackles of having to sing while also playing the synth, joyfully picked up the microphone stand and twirled it around. It was quite the extroverted move and, not having seen Numan in concert before, it wasn’t something that I expected him to do. The crowd loved it. Numan also struck many rock-star-as-Christ poses throughout the concert. He didn’t speak much to the crowd, but let his music and gestures do the talking.
While Numan had a few chart hits in his native UK, he is primarily known in America for “Cars,” the huge 1980 international hit single from The Pleasure Principle album. And “Cars” did get a nice reaction when it was performed at the concert. But The Pleasure Principle certainly is not just “Cars” and a bunch of filler. The entire album—which also includes “Airlane,” “Metal,” and “M.E.”—is terrific, and it was quite a privilege to get to hear it performed live in its entirety.
Following The Pleasure Principle portion of the show, Numan played guitar on a few songs. Numan favorites “Down In The Park” and “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” from his Tubeway Army days were also performed in the show.
Numan performed for 95 minutes. His show featured an 18-song main set and three-song encore. He was backed by a five-piece band that featured a drummer, a bassist, and three synth players. One of the synth players switched to lead guitar after The Pleasure Principle part of the show concluded.
During the show, which was part of New York City’s CMJ Festival, Numan revealed that he was under the weather and had cancelled a show earlier in the week due to his illness. He warned the crowd that he might not be able to hit some of the high notes in The Pleasure Principle songs. His voice sounded pretty good for the most part and only showed wear toward the end of the show.
Numan’s North American tour runs through November 4th. Full tour dates can be found on Numan’s MySpace page.
The set list for Gary Numan’s show on Saturday, October 23rd at the Best Buy Theater in New York City was as follows:
Down In The Park
Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
I Die You Die
Prayer For The Unborn