Newcastle City Hall
11th May 2022.
In the space between genres, The Jam morphed into Style Council, The Clash - collapsing, PIL were treading individual paths, the white light of pop, teutonic gloom and electronics morphed, and electro-pop was born. Add a Splash of English prog, in a sorta ‘Blind’ pick and mix, and we have the ‘Ultimate Alien’. Gary, (Tubeway Army)’, Numan. Sounds of the 80s, gloomy, ponderous synths, sad notes, depressing lines. White light, white heat, white noise? Not quite.
My e-ticket said 6:30, whatever happened to old fashioned postcard tickets. 6:30 ? huh, I assumed an 8:30 start, does Gary have to get home early? A sip of whatever ‘grog’ City Hall serves up, and in. Two thirds full, oldies, newbies and the curious (me). The theatre, old classic UK rock and roll place, audience on top of the band. Youthful memories of head down, and boogie, rock and roll, Newcastle City Hall has one of theee best reputations for audience fervour.
Balcony seat for ageing me, two musical rites of passage well in my past; ‘Northern Soul Back Flips, and Rock and Roll Mosh-pits’. Still, a great stage view. How did Gary fit all the gear onto the tiny stage? Swamped in tech and lights, LEDs, lasers and a video wall. Speakers purred pre-gig music as roadies did their bit with the cables, mic stands, and waves to the crowd. We waited, lights down, old voices ready for the roar. Dotted around were surprisingly a few ‘Tubeway Army’ Foot soldier holdovers... Hair-Black, Skin-White, Boiler Suits, belts black, it all added to the show.
The stage set was fantastic, a huge video wall of colour, flashes, sadly same old Pink Floyd (almost), Spiritualized (sorta), anti-war, pro-environment, sci-fi, with those post apocalyptic fashions. Lights and lasers, music synced, But... oh dear, lots of heavy electro-beats, power chord guitar, and metal techno thrash, bassist in full length leather coat, real drummer, and two keyboards. These friends really are electric. Gary has gone heavy these days, heavy music, heavy beats, thrash metal, lots of power, guitar licks, no wah, wahs, or feedback solos. False endings all over the place. All well played, all power driven, not my home listen, but I stayed with it.
Guitarists stalked the stage like gunslingers, spraying the audience with chords and sharp snapped notes. The audience whoops, fist-pumped, clapped and cheered. The main man, Gazza, the lead, the star, dropping onto keyboards, picking up a fancy Gibson. Rock and Roll is as much about poses, as playing, He threw a few shapes, foot on the monitor, arms crucifix stretched, mic over the front row. Gazza, clapped, some great soft shoe shuffle, shimmied through a couple o’songs. Back to the audience, bum wagging, Jagger poses, was it ‘stage presence’, I dunno, BUT tons of the 1,200 audience lapped it up, all the way,
So what do I know?
Gary’s NOT a rock star, no matter how hard the sound, no matter how heavy the beats and bass, he’s almost the same as he was, just new makeup. I thought Aladdin Sane, or Adam Ant. The poses, grooves and moves, just not there. Stale, mechanical, almost hesitant, but not in a ‘Robot dance style’, more of an embarrassed first date in 30 years type awkwardness.
There are the hits of course, but played in the electro-metal style, they’d waited and waited and no-one was going to deny them, the hits brought almost everyone to their feet, arms waving, hips swaying.
It was bloody loud, (I am becoming my dad), ears ringingly so. But there is a sense of having seen a spectacle, an Event. It challenged that younger, snobby, sniffy me. My staid certainties and musical prejudices. Yeah there was stuff to laugh at. I was never too sure if Gary was taking himself seriously, but my friend, fellow traveler for the evening and Tubeway Army fan, assured me he was very serious. Utterly professional in performance, presentation and staging, I’ll admit I enjoyed it much more than expected. BUT biggest disappointment, the lack of interaction with the audience… No songs named, no rapport, no introduction of the band members.
Looking at the audience, some glum faces, crossed arms, I almost expected some ‘crusty, bearded face, beer bellied pensioner, with memories of synthesised 80s pop’ to bellow LOUDLY
Gigsters, as they ambled home, some happy, others, wistful disappointed regret, others maybe ruminating on where the time had gone or where their Cars were. There were only few signs of disappointment in the audience, mostly everyone was happy and there were big queues at the merchandise stalls. So something meant so much to someone they were going to wear it tomorrow.
Main Image Gary Numan video screengrab from Youtube