In 1979 I was eleven years old and still living just outside Swansea in South Wales. I was just getting into music; my favourites at that time being Blondie and The Boomtown Rats. I was aware of a new band called Tubeway Army. I’d seen them on Top of the Pops and they were completely different from the other bands. My interest was piqued but I wasn’t to pursue that intrigue for another couple of years.
Our family moved to Cheshire in 1980 and my love for music was expanding. By this time I was firmly into SKA; Madness, The Specials and Selecter were my favourites and I wore my customised Harrington jacket with pride.
Then I saw Cars on TOTP and overnight I became a die hard Numan fan, discarded my 2Tone image and started wearing black. This was further enhanced by a passion for Soft Cell. However, according to general opinion I apparently couldn’t like both. Soft Cell fans hated the icy emotionlessness of Numan which was the complete antithesis of the sleazy passion of Soft Cell. I’ve never been one for public opinion so both it was!
The first time I saw Numan was in 1984. I’d followed his career with great interest and whenever I could afford to buy an album, I did. I remember buying Replicas. It was a good few years after its original release but along with The Plan, I absolutely adored the heady mix of guitar-based punky riffs and Ballard-inspired lyrics.
Between 1984 and 2002 I was a regular attendee of Numan gigs and was fortunate enough to be invited to after-show parties between 1988 and 1994. I’d travelled the country to see my hero and attended Numan discos run by fans when Gazza wasn’t touring. It was fair to say I was a huge fan.
However in 2002, with the release of “Pure”, and attending what was ultimately to be a hiatus in my Numan gig experience, I fell completely out of love with his sound. The guitar-heavy more industrial sounding tracks were a million miles away from his original innovative synth sounds which I adored. Ensuing albums such as “Jagged” and “Dead Moon Rising” continued in his new direction. It wasn’t until the release of the critically acclaimed “Splinter” in 2013 that my interest was rekindled.
Fast forward to 2015, and with my new-found Numan flame reignited having revisited many of the old TA and early solo albums, I was delighted to hear Gary was to perform a 3-day residency at The Forum venue. One album each night consisting of Replicas, Pleasure Principle and Telekon. I re-listened to each album in turn and made my choice, a difficult one! I chose Replicas with Pleasure Principle coming a very close second. Ideally I’d’ve loved to attended all three gigs however family circumstances prevented that from happening.
On the night of the gig I’d tentatively arranged to meet up with a few people, some of whom I’d not seen in 20+ years! I was delighted to bump into Robin Bornoff in the pub, and inside the venue Nigel (a Depeche Mode fan/friend), and old friends Jan and Carl. I finally found Eleanor and Steph, my London-based friends and the three of us made our way to the front just as the gig started.
Impatient calls of “Numan!” rang around the packed venue, as dry ice filled the stage, the heavy fog was punctuated by geometric lights. Finally, anticipation duly built up, the man himself appeared on stage to rapturous applause.
The gig itself transported me back; suddenly I was that enthusiastic 20-year old once more and the memories of a million Numan gigs that proceeded that one, a lifetime ago, came flooding back.
The gig was excellent and I really enjoyed it, however the second half, after the instrumental tracks “When Machines Rock” and the slower paced “I Nearly Married A Human” really did it for me. The dystopian and futuristic-themed “Down in the Park” sent the crowd crazy and followed by such classics as “Are Friends Electric”, “You Are in My Vision” and “We Are Glass” Numan had the audience in the palm of his hands. He really seemed to be enjoying the gig too, which is always good to see.
The concert ended with “Are You Real” and the brilliant “Jo the Waiter”. I left the venue with that old familiar feeling of gig exhilaration wishing I had the ways and means to attend the next night. A few “hellos” with friends and I was on my way home again.
My personal Numan embargo had been lifted, but for how long? I’d planned for this gig to be the line in the sand of my Numan gig attendance years, one final time, however I await his next album with teenage anticipation!
Time will tell if the Replicas gig was actually to be my last.