Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gary Numan at the El Rey Theater


After seeing Gary Numan join the final Nine Inch Nails shows at the Henry Fonda, the Wiltern, the Echoplex and the Palladium, I knew I had to see a full show by Gary Numan. His addition to the Coachella line-up was one of the high priority targets on my list but ultimately erased due to the Icelandic volcano ash. When it was announced that Numan would return to perform his highly influential album The Pleasure Principle in its entirety, my calendar was immediately cleared.


Seeing two Virus Access TI keyboards placed at the front of the stage along with two synthesizer stations in the back, it was difficult to contain my excitement. The swirling sounds of "Airlane" were hypnotic and still sounded fresh even though the song was recorded thirty years ago. Flashbacks from some of the Nine Inch Nails occurred during "Metal" with its sawtooth synthesizers and metallic overtones. Numan's voice sounds just as good if not better than the recorded version with him belting out the lyrics.


Switching the order of the album, the pulsating tones of "Engineers" were augmented by the propelling live drumming beats that gave the song a greater sense of urgency. "Films" continued the barrage of synthesizers as the crowd at the front of the barricade enthusiastically sang along. I wasn't surprised to hear a security guard scream out "Basement Jaxx!" when the characteristic bass synth line of "M.E." pumped out of the speakers since the song was sampled by the band.


The instrumental "Observer" sounds extremely close synthesizer patch wise to "Cars" but was tweaked nicely in the live format. A dynamic shift of energy in the room occurred when the undulating waves of synthesizers for "Cars" blared throughout the El Rey Theater. It was interesting to see that the tambourine made an appearance during the song as this could possibly be influenced by his live appearances with Nine Inch Nails.


After the astounding completion of The Pleasure Principle, Numan still had plenty of firepower left in the arsenal as the "Rock" portion of the show started with a fiery version of "The Fall". A brooding intro for "Down In The Park" became an electronic dirge with Numan occasionally waving his arms back and forth. Crunchy guitars roared for "Jagged" before transitioning to menacing synthesizer pads. Possibly the pinnacle and highlight of the evening was an anthemic spine tingling version of "Are Friends Electric?" with a majority of the crowd chanting along.


A three song encore of "I Die:You Die", "Zulu" and "Prayer for The Unborn" had me wishing I bought a ticket to the next night to take it all in again. Numan easily proved why he is considered a synthesizer pioneer. I have no reservations saying that this was the best synthesizer show of the year.

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