Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, Birmingham – 31 May 2024

In a career that spans nearly half a century, Gary Numan has always been an artist ahead of his time. As one of synth pop’s founding fathers, he is out on his 45th anniversary tour, promising every track from the albums: ‘Replicas’ and ‘The Pleasure Principle’.

A little over two years ago Numan appeared at Birmingham’s O2 Institute, on his ‘Intruder’ tour – one which didn’t linger on the past, but highlighted the continuation of a brilliant late career. However, tonight’s visit has the opposite purpose, to celebrate the classic second Tubeway Army album: ‘Replicas’, and his first solo album: ‘The Pleasure Principal’, both released in 1979.

With no support act, the queue at doors is a given, so the Institute fills to capacity pretty quickly, and it’s a relief to be underway at 8.30. Governing his sunburst Les Paul, the well established and dehumanised appearance of Numan, along with the verve of Steve Harris and Tim Slade, set against a stage of abstract, neon illumination, is absorbing, and the reception is huge.

They go about their futuristic, aural and visual dreamscape, while transporting us back in time. First up is the title track from the dystopian masterpiece ‘Replicas’, before we are pinged back and forth across those seminal albums. ‘M.E’, ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’, ‘Films’, and ‘We Have a Technical’ making way for ‘Do You Need The Service?’ – a fan fave B-side. Remember those?

Both the sound and visuals are truly immersive. As the celebrated catalogue continues to be delivered, I scan the audience and reckon there’s a greater amount of long-time fans here compared to the previous tour. That of course makes sense, but whether an original Numanoid, or a newer convert, all are brought together by their shared admiration for this pioneering work.

Apart from a broad smile and hand on heart, between songs there is nothing Numan needs to say to his adoring fans. A night steeped in nostalgia, yet bursting with immediacy and energy, is played out with the likes of ‘Airlane’, ‘Down In The Park’, ‘Metal’, and the second B-side ‘We Are So Fragile’. Individually and collectively reminding us we are in the presence of a true icon.

This tour is more than a tribute to two ground-breaking albums; it’s a testament to the lasting impact of Numan’s music. The unsurprising, but nonetheless fantastic encore of ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ bring an ovation which not only honours this performance, but also a career that has consistently challenged and expanded the musical landscape.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Gary Numan