An artist like Gary Numan was always going to attract a fair turnout, even on a wet and rainy Sunday in Nottingham. Nonetheless, the extent to which Nottingham rock city is packed still comes as a welcome surprise, and, unusually, the majority of the audience is well in place by the time the support band, the Losers, take the stage.
A little background will perhaps help here – working on a reviewing blog like SonicAbuse can have its rewards and its problems. One erstwhile reviewer for the site spoke to me a few months after starting, saying that as a result of the site he had not actually listened to music for pleasure since joining the team – a state of affairs he was not keen to see continue. Needless to say he quit, and it must be said that as a reviewer exposed to a huge amount of new music in any given month, inevitably cynicism sets in. The reason for this brief departure from the main thread is that The losers utterly blew any aspects of cynicism away. Featuring members of the woefully undervalued Cooper Temple Clause, Yourcodenameis:milo and Oceansize, the band are a wonderful, beautifully f***ed up blast of adrenalin-powered electronic rock that takes elements of f*** buttons, Mogwai, Porcupine Tree Cooper Temple Clause and Massive attack and throws them all into the blender to deliver huge, surging blasts of unexpectedly brilliant noise. Opening with two video screens displaying bifurcated clips of disturbing video with the band’s phrase “it’s all in your head” flashing up on the screen subliminally, opening track ‘acrobatica’ (from the band’s awesome second album ‘…and so we shall never part’) could not sound any larger, with the raging guitars washing over an appreciative audience and the band giving a stunningly energetic performance. Clearly thrilled to be touring with Gary Numan, the Losers look ecstatic throughout their show as they unleash a series of increasingly brilliant tracks including an achingly poignant ‘turn around’ (complete with unnerving, sonic youth-esque freak out at its centre point), the creepy electro-ambience of ‘the chain’ and the closing, muscular blast of ‘Azan’. Quite honestly watching the band took me back to when I first started attending gigs, spending my time standing at the front wide-eyed with naïve awe at the gods striding across the stage unleashing carefully controlled chaos from their respective instruments, and the huge rush of adrenalin that surged through my body during the closing number (an inspiration, apparently, for Gary Numan himself) made the simple point that the Losers are a genuinely thrilling, original and exciting band, and from the roars of adulation that met each song, it seemed clear that many in the audience felt the same way. Losers by name, it would seem, but certainly not by nature, the Losers all-too-brief show was a peerless triumph and it left the crowd desperate for more.
It needed something special to follow the Losers utterly remarkable performance, and Gary Numan truly delivered. Taking a leaf out of nine inch nails’ book aesthetically, the industrial uber-lord appeared in front of a giant LED screen that threw out dazzling imagery throughout the tight, demonically driven performance. Cleverly mixing up new material with the classics that the audience will always crave, Gary delivered a set that was second to none, and on his current, crushing form, all visceral muscle and doom-laden electronic grandeur, the show proved to be one of the best gigs of the year. Part of what made it such a special night was the boundlessly enthusiastic crowd who had already received the Losers with great warmth and who now turned their attention to attempting to drown out Gary’s band with their roars of appreciation, while the power of the band and the devastating levels of volume deployed approximated shock and awe tactics. Gary himself seemed entirely bowled over by the level of adoration aimed at the stage, and turned in a mind-blowing performance that included ‘cars’, ‘metal’ (easily out-rocking Nine inch nails’ reverential cover), ‘down in the park’ and ‘are friends electric?’ as well as choice cuts from ‘splinter’, ‘pure’ (including the stunning title track and the deeply moving ‘a prayer for the unborn’) and other recent albums. Well-paced, the set’s strengths lay in the fact that Gary knows the value of his back catalogue and carefully interspersed new material with more familiar numbers making sure that the audience were always on side whilst simultaneously emphasising the power of a record that has been hailed in some quarters as one of the best of his career. Gary Numan is a rare artist whose work seems to be ever improving, and his intense stage presence and remarkable body of work left no audience member in doubt of why he is so revered.
It’s rare that you get two such amazing acts in one evening but Nottingham rock City bore witness to a truly astounding show. Losers are a band who should, by any rational assessment be huge (and having bought the album immediately after the show and played it relentlessly since, it would certainly seem that my senses were not overwhelmed by the gig – the band truly are that good) and there unique, wonderful music was a highlight of a year of reviews, let alone of the show. Gary Numan, meanwhile, is a pioneer; a master whose work has benefitted from a permanently lit flame of inspiration that burns deep inside and his current work stands tall amidst a back catalogue of gems so burned into the public consciousness that even the most ardent Gary Numan hater would surely (and perhaps unwittingly) love at least one track aired over the course of the evening. This is the sort of gig that reaffirms even the most shaken faith in the power of music to tantalise, excite, energise and invigorate and everything, from the remarkable showmanship demonstrated by both bands to the brilliant set lists proved to be exactly right. It was one hell of a night!