Friday, June 29, 2012

Amadou & Mariam...on the radio

I say, I say, I say...what do you get if you cross Mali’s number one musical husband and wife and 50% of Brooklyn genre shagging behemoths TV On The Radio? This little gem, one of the more convincing blends of, for want of a better word, ‘World’ music and its more Westernised cousin that you’re likely to hear this year. 

Wily Kataso's out on July 9th...or you could just listen to it here...over and over again...for free...ain't the Internet wonderful eh? 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Editors / PEACE / Free School @ HMV Institute, Tuesday 26th June

It seems to have been a bit of a testing time for Editors recently, what with the recent departure of original lead guitarist and keyboardist Chris Urbanowicz (due to that old favourite ‘musical differences') and the seemingly long, slow, painful gestation of the new album (three years and counting). Tonight (and tomorrow) are the only UK dates this year too...hardly a ringing endorsement that all’s well in the band perhaps. So would the evening be an exercise in treading water, a final farewell or a defiant two fingers to the doubters?

First up Free School who’ve got a bit of a Balearic Bladerunner vibe about other words one moment there’s an edgy coldness to their music the next it all goes a bit blissed out and a little ravey. It’s an oddly great mix. Equally odd are their ever so slightly terrifying masks...some kind of sheep type creature. So next time you see a sheep going three flavours of mental at Aya Napa it’s probably listening to Free School (PS: By a freaky coincidence as I wrote this a Free School track came on Lauren Laverne’s 6 Music show...spooky).

Recently signed to Columbia Brum’s next big thing PEACE have already recorded a brace of classic tracks, BBLOOD and Follow Me (both delivered with a cool nonchalance this evening) and if there’s any justice in this world they’ll soon be playing stadiums, humping super models and sniffing coke off’s ball sack. There’s a pleasing hint of grunge meets 80’s jingle jangle pop to their best stuff and Follow Me’s arguably one of the greatest teen anthems since Nervermind (oooohhh that riff’s sexy). They look cool, they sound cool and...bugger me...they are cool.

If PEACE are the new kings of the Birmingham music scene Editors are their spiritual daddies. Formed in the City way back in 2002 they’ve since released a trio of albums notching up the odd million seller or two. Given this history it’s entirely appropriate that they chose to come back here to play their only UK dates of the year, just weeks after losing founder member Chris Urbanowicz. In fact lead singer Tom Smith recently tweeted that these gigs represented something of a rebirth for the band and, from the outset, it was pretty clear that this evening was more than just a case of going through the motions. Smith’s a pretty intense performer and new track Sugar, a brooding 5 minute piece that opened the show, is the perfect vehicle for him. He spent most of it sitting at the piano twitching with nervous energy and flamboyantly throwing out his arms like a man possessed, seemingly conducting some kind of unseen spirit. There’s always been a darkness to Editors music and any lingering thoughts of a radical change in direction on album number four are rapidly squashed from the off (I guess that Editors happy hardcore album will have to wait for another day then).

What followed was a crowd pleasing mix of greatest hits, near misses (Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool was a revelation tonight...a hidden gem) and fan favourites with a few more newbies thrown in to test the water. It’s surprising just how many Editors tracks had seeped into my head and just how EPIC they sounded tonight. In fact if anything the ‘new’ Editors (I think there’s a pair of ‘em) helped cranked the EPIC up to 11. Bullets, Blood, All Sparks, An End Has A Start...each one stadium rock-tastic.

Unsurprisingly there’s a whole lotta love in the room for the band and a “We’ve missed you!” shout out from the crowd early on is met with an equally heartfelt “We’ve missed you too” from Smith. There’s also a sea of arms raised to the roof for most of the gig, visually reinforcing just how much this band means to the faithful. They save the best for the encore though. On top of an orgasm inducing Munich (well one young lady near me seemed particularly ‘moved’ by it all) they played another new track that tonight might well have seen Tom’s best ever live vocal. Two Hearted Spider’s been around a while I think but it’s yet to get a full studio release. Skeletal guitars, more synths than previous Editors stuff, a big phat drum beat and Tom singing like a dude who’s had his heart ripped out then slowly torn into pieces right in front of him. Ouch. Some singers merely sing but the best ones ‘feel’. This was just such a performance. After the crowd clapped joyfully through Papillion (and a brave few did their best to crowd surf) Tom finally revealed they’d be back next year with their new any lingering fears that these gigs represented their swansong seem to be unfounded. All sparks may well burn out in the end but tonight this one burned brighter than ever...

PS: Photos by kind permission of the lovely Mr Wayne Fox

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Moonface - Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips

Moonface "Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips" from Secretly Jag on Vimeo.

Here's a neat little gem from my bulging inbox (which is now so stuffed full of tunes that it's threatening to bring down whole IT systems...whoops...sorry NatWest). With distinct hints of the old Psychedelic Furs Moonface's Teary Eyes and Bloody Lips is one of those tunes that builds and builds, adding new layers as it goes before ending as suddenly as it began. So, a bit like life really...without all the shitty stuff. Actually it's got a bit of an Editors flavour to it too...a band that, by a strange coincidence I'm off to see this evening. I'll give 'em your love...

Friday, June 22, 2012

Getting jazzy with it...

Nearly time for this year’s Mostly Jazz, Funk and SoulFestival (or MoJaFuSo to those in the know) and the good folk behind it all have well and truly excelled themselves this time. Not a duff choice on the bill as far as I can see (and that's rare for any festival) but here are a handful of the best to whet (or given the weather at the moment maybe that should be 'wet') your whistles. Even if you ain't going it's the perfect Friday soundtrack...Odyssey...what a tune! Enjoy...

George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic

Oh come on. The dude IS the funk. As close to a musical god as you’re likely to see here on earth...or in space for that matter. Don’t be surprised if UFO’s pack the skies when he’s on.

Family Stone

Okay, so Sly might be sadly missing in action (living in an RV by all accounts) but the Family Stone are guaranteed to bring da party. And you’re invited...hell yeah!

Introducing presents Endtroducing

In a strange kind of art imitating life sort of way a bunch of musicians perform DJ Shadow's sampledelic classic Endtroducing live. Coming soon, DJ Shadow sampling Introducing playing Endtroducing etc...repeat to fade.


Aaaaaaaaahhhahhhhh...I’m a native New Yorker. ‘Nuff said.

Fred Wesley and the New JB’s

The Godfather of Soul’s backing band during his legendary early 70’s period led by original trombonist Fred Wesley. Brown was well known for being the hardest working man in show business so, despite being dead, he might well turn up and do a couple of numbers...hope he's still got this 'tache.  

Tickets for MoJaFuSo available right here. May be some on the 'door' but don't bank on it...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Irrepressibles / Noblesse Oblige @ The Rainbow, Wednesday 20th June 2012

Blimey, they’ve really tarted up the backroom of this evening’s venue, The Rainbow. I can remember when it didn't even have a roof, now there's decking, a new paintjob, chic bare brick walls...very posh. It’s entirely appropriate given the fact that on their last visits to Birmingham The Irrepressibles played St Martins Church and The Town Hall, arguably two of the more beautiful venues in the City. Tonight was more of a low key, stripped back performance though. The equivalent, Jamie informed us after the show, of a band playing one of those hip n’cool secret post gig sets that the likes of you and I could never dream of getting in to.

First up Noblesse Oblige, now there’s a decent band name eh? Noblesssssssssse Obligggggggge. Say it out loud. It’s like snogging yourself. Hmmmmmm. Bear with me a minute. Just having a moment. Er...anyway... they’re a Franco German duo (actress Valerie Renay and Sebastian Lee Philipp) with a super cool Euro electro feel. At times Valerie comes off like a cross between Grace Jones and Eartha Kitt, cat like but with a hint of menace...a kitten that’s as likely to bite your face off as it is to nuzzle up and purr gently at you. All of tonight’s tracks were new so I’m relying on my hastily scribbled notes (slightly smudged thanks to my tendency to excitedly dribble cider from time to time) and legendary skill at guessing the names of songs I’ve never heard before. But if set highlights Mata Hari, which had a bit of a tropical feel, and On Your Own, with more of a minimalist Joy Division edge, are any indications of the quality of their new album it’ll be well worth checking out.

Right, on to the main event. The Irrepressibles. A band / concept that I’ve been banging on about for the last couple of years now...and with just cause. Fronted by the hugely talented Jamie McDermott they’ve produced some of the most beautiful music ever made and put on some shows that shame pretty much any other group on the planet. Compared with these events tonight was a distinctly stripped back affair (literally in the case of the two bare-chested drummers), just four people, simple but effective lighting and samplers standing in for the usual budget busting string section. Even so it still felt glamorous somehow, a trademark of all of Jamie’s productions. Billed as the Electro Nude tour the set saw the band revisiting and remixing old tracks as well as unveiling some new stuff, most of which showed a radical change in direction from the lush orchestration of In This Shirt to more of an underground club feel. That’s not the only change though. Who’s the bearded dude fronting the band? It’s Jamie, tonight well and truly rocking the Mad Max meets Max Factor look. It’s a world away from the fragile, somewhat introspective character that he’s previously inhabited. One thing’s still the same though. That voice. That heavenly, heavenly voice. If it was the last thing you heard on the way through the pearly gates you’d die happy (well, relatively happy, I guess that depends on how you ‘go’...being buried alive under a mound of used incontinence pads can’t be a pleasant experience but drowning in a vat of 1811 Chateau d’ you’re talking).  
The Ghosting Season remix of new single Arrow kicked the show off. It’s a haunting treatment of the song, stark piano, slightly menacing synths and electronic drums only serve to further highlight Jamie’s voice and I couldn’t help feeling like one of the luckiest people on earth to be just a few feet away from it. For they say on the street. New track, I’m Yours (not sure of the title but it could be called that), was pure 80’s pop gold and if the Irrepressibles wanted a stab at chart glory this could well be the one. Picking up a pint Jamie then downed pretty much the whole thing (good man) before singing Machino (again I’m guessing at track names) like an angel. With more of a Japanese feel and some beautiful multi-layered harmonies it was another set highlight, once again showing a different side to the band and possibly hinting at the diversity of their new album, Nude, due out in October. Another newbie, Tears Of A Clown (no, not that one, but equally good) prefaced a remix of The Tide from the band’s previous album, the frankly essential Mirror Mirror. It’s unrecognisable from its original incarnation, transformed from a gentle lullaby into a full on electro club cult classic that gives Anthony’s work with Hercules and Love Affair a run for its money.

After the official single version of Arrow, with memory stirring echoes of Yazoo’s synths in the mix, the encore couldn’t have been a better choice. In This Shirt is arguably The Irrepressibles...hell, music’s finest moment to date and, in keeping with the rest of the show, there was a subtle electro twist here and there. This could have been a dangerous thing to do, messing with perfection, but it actually added a neat freshness to a track that I’ve probably listened to more than anything else over the past couple of years. ABSOLUTE BLISS. And then it was all over...all too soon. Noooooooooo. Come back!!!!! Oh well, they always say you should leave the crowd wanting more. Somehow I can’t imagine I won’t be the only one there tonight who’ll be counting down the days until their next visit...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Win tickets to The Irrepressibles @ The Rainbow Warehouse this Wednesday!

Over 20 years of gig going and half dozen years of reviewing there’s one name that sends me scurrying back to the dictionary for superlatives...only to give up after failing to find the words to describe just how beautiful the music they make really is. Fronted by the hugely talented Jamie McDermott The Irrepressibles are a truly unique proposition, blending music, choreography and art to create something that’s as close to musical heaven on earth as you’re ever likely to hear. Imagine an angel whispering into your ear whilst being gently caressed by a thousand cherubs,'s better than that. Oh yes. Having been big in Europe for a number of years now they’re rapidly building a sizeable legion of believers here in the UK and the pant wettingly exciting chance to win two tickets to their Birmingham date, this Wednesday at The Rainbow Warehouse, Digbeth.

To be in with a chance of winning just answer the following question. What’s the name of The Irrepressibles new single?  Send your answer and name to by midday on Wednesday 20th June. The winner will be drawn out of my magical bowler hat. Bonne chance!

Anyone not lucky enough to win head over here to buy your tickets. Trust me on this one...

PS: Why not make yourself a nice G&T and check out my interview with Jamie from 2010 and my review of their last Birmingham show from 2011? 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Milk / George Barnett & The Ninth Wave / Phil Gibbs @ Hare & Hounds, Wednesday 13th June 2012

Clambering over the discarded offspring of our glorious Prime Minister (good to know the country’s in safe hands eh?) we arrived just in time for local singer songwriter Phil Gibbs and his band of merry men (and lady...on the keyboard...not literally...that would just be silly). Had the pleasure of seeing Phil for the first time a few months back and he’s got a neat line in summertime feel good songs like tonight’s opening number (and pick of the set) Part Time Lover (no, not that one...a different one). A bit of soul, a bit of reggae, a slice of pop...what’s not to like? A darn sight more cheerful than the freakin’ weather at the moment.

Next up someone I’ve been tipping for big things for a while now George Barnett & The Ninth Wave. Since last catching him back in February he’s released his amazing debut album, 17 Days, been played on 6 music, booked a headlining gig at the legendary Clapham Grand (July 13th, tickets here), filmed and released a video for new single Bewitched and, just this week, he’s been playlisted at Radio One. Not a bad few months work eh? That’s just some of the stuff I know about by the way. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d written a musical, repainted the Sistine Chapel and discovered a cure for cancer too. This dude’s seriously talented with a rare knack for penning catchy, classy pop that embraces influences from everything from The Beatles through to ‘80’s funk and tonight he and the Ninth Wave transformed the Hare & Hounds into a stadium (well it felt like that at times), filling every little nook and cranny with musical loveliness.

It’s not just a performance though, it’s a real show. It’s clear that both George and the band have put some serious thought into how it all comes together. Opening number Lone Rose saw George playing the keyboards like Animal from The Muppets, a furious blur of hair and limbs, before picking up the cowbell and bringing the good times right out into the crowd. I was exhausted just watching it. And this was just the first song. Other highlights included a beautiful acapella ending to Bewitched with George and the band gathered round a mic, stomping feet providing the simple beat. Magical. The set ended all too soon with Apocolade which this evening was just HUGE. Muse huge. Coldplay huge (big shout out to soundman Greg for doing a cracking job this evening by the way). Whilst I’m not a massive fan of Coldplay as a band they do make some truly anthemic tunes. Well, they can step aside now thank you very much. There’s a new gang in town. George Barnett and the Ninth Wave. If they don’t end up playing Apocolade in stadiums I’ Chris Martin in a bap.

Last up headliners Essex four piece The Milk, self professed ‘new soul rebels’. Dexys were famously searching for just such a thing over 30 years ago, are The Milk the answer to their prayers? Well they’ve certainly got soul and a determination to do whatever they can to get the audience to enjoy themselves “We’re here to make every night like Friday night!” Oh goody, Friday night’s chicken kebab night. Not sure I could eat one everyday though, my waistline’s in enough trouble as it is. The Milk have hit upon the idea that breaks between songs get in the way of the party so it’s pretty much a non-stop set, kicking off with current single Broke Up The Family. It’s an okay song online but oh so much better live. Like fellow Essex boys (possibly their spiritual granddads in fact) Dr Feelgood, The Milk are one of those bands that work so much better onstage, drenched in sweat, getting down and dirty. They’ve been compared to Maroon 5 on more than one occasion and you can hear the similarities but The Milk are a lot edgier. Maroon 5 with bollocks if you like. Less Moves Like Jagger, more Rocks Like Richards. But, like the chart munching Americans they’ve got some instantly catchy numbers, All I Wanted Was Danger, Kimmy Kimmy, Broke Up The Family and My Momma Told Me (think it was called that, a little Jurassic 5 vibe in there...sweet) all hit the spot tonight. A rocking cover of Music Sounds Better With You was followed by an awesome encore skank through Toots’ 54 46 (requested by one particularly enthusiastic fan) before The Milk split. Good times.

Picture of The Milk courtesy of the lovely Mr Richard Shakespeare aka ShakeyPix.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tonight! The Milk, George Barnett, Phil Gibbs...Daphne & Celeste (I made that last one up...sadly)

Cobblers...meant to flag this gig up a while ago but time seems to be playing tricks on me right now. June already you say? Blimey, how did that happen? The weather doesn't help, keep thinking it's February still.

Anyway, if you're within 100 miles of Birmingham tonight get down to the Hare & Hounds for The Milk, George Barnett and Phil Gibbs. Trust I ever wrong? Well maybe I went a bit overboard with Daphne & Celeste but I still maintain that Ooh Stick You is a misunderstood classic...

Tickets for tonight's gig from our good friends at Birmingham Promoters.

PS: Cop a load at this. Respect due to anyone who stands their ground against this torrent of...well...lord knows what. If this was Kings Of Leon they'd be off if a leaf hit the stage. Bless 'em.


Friday, June 08, 2012

The Semi Regular New Music Roundup Thingy

Just a trio of tracks this time, I blame the relentless rain...makes me particularly picky. Grrrrrrr. First up...awwww bless ‘em it’s CocoRosie with another missive from their twisted fairytale world entitled We Are On Fire. Produced by TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek it’s, to borrow the old reviewers’ clich├ę, ‘hauntingly beautiful’.

Gil Scott Heron cover anyone? Don’t mind if I do. Step forward Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. Jr. (repeat to fade), with an appropriately impassioned (and rockier) take on  one of St Gil’s lesser known classics.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. - We Almost Lost Detroit from Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. on Vimeo.

Last up yet another great track from a Brooklyn band, this time it’s TEEN’s Better. Tribal drums? Check. Slightly drugged up female vocalist? Check? Vintage synths? Check. Handclaps? Check. Play it loud and earn yourself instant hipster points in your office/cell/squat/tower block.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Django Django / NZCA/Lines @ Academy Birmingham, Wednesday 6th June

At the risk of sounding like a little old lady in one of those see thru pink plastic macs (as opposed to just looking like one that is), what the chuff’s up with the weather again? A joke’s a joke and all that but unless we get some sun over here soon we’re all going to go down with a serious case of the rickets. Jeez. Anyway, despite the almost continuous drizzle ‘n’ gloom (hmmm...great name for a band there) there was a decent crowd in tonight in time for opening act NZCA/Lines (hmmm...possibly not such a great name for a band). How the hell are you supposed to pronounce this one? EnZedSeeEhSlashLines? NeZeeSeeAhforwardslashlines? Nzedseeyaslahelines? Whilst it don’t exactly slip off the tongue the band’s (normally one guy, Michael Lovett, but bolstered by a funky bassist and stand up drummer tonight) music’s a pleasingly easy listen, with echoes of prime pop era Scritti Politti in the mix.

One of the few joys about living in 2012 is the vast wealth of music that’s just sitting there waiting for us to gobble it all up. Within seconds we can all access everything from Mongolian throat singing through to experimental death jazz. FOR FREE. Unsurprisingly therefore there are bands out there who’ve presumably been munching away at all this free music since birth, creating some truly genre-less groups. Django Django seem to be one such band. There’s the twangy spaghetti western of WOR, the trippy harmony heavy Waveforms, the Egyptian prog (yes, really) of Skies Over Cairo and the Beta Band meets 60’s beat bands of Default. They’ve yet to perfect the throat singing but hey, it’s early days eh?

There was a decent crowd in tonight for the band’s first Birmingham gig and they got a better than average reception too, possibly bolstered by the hip factor currently buzzing around ‘em. Speaking of buzzing...well chirruping in this case...the gig kicked off with the sound of crickets. This somewhat unusual beginning heralds (yes, heralds, I’ve been listening to Radio 4 again) the start of the mainly instrumental track Introduction. I’m assuming the crickets are all pre recorded and not part of the band. How cool would that be though eh? You could give them all little microphones and miniature bottles of water and a tiny little towel. On second thoughts they’d probably overdo it on the free booze and end up copping off with a cockroach, crickets are notorious for it. I saw one glass a ladybird once...terrible business. Anyway, Introduction is a curious track. It sounds like someone’s dropped the Human League Mk1 in a jungle and if that sounds like an oddly appealing proposition to you then the rest of the set would be right up your street. There’s a bit of everything in there and, whilst the biggest cheers of the night were reserved for the big singles, Storm and Default, pretty much every track had something for everyone. Given the mercurial nature of the music the band’s performance was spot on too with everyone bar the drummer sweatily swapping instruments. There are one or two quirky ones in there as well, including the world’s biggest tambourine (well, almost), some coconut shells and a twangy idea what it’s really called but ‘twangy thing’ (you bash it and it makes a twangy sound) seems an accurate enough description. If you’re looking for reference points the Beta Band have to be a major influence on the Djangs (I believe that one of the band’s big bros was actually in the Betas) but, to be honest you could pick out anyone from Link Wray to Kraftwerk and no one could disagree. Proof perhaps that pop has finally well and truly eaten itself?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Andy Hamilton R.I.P

Sad news during the weekend about the death of legendary jazz saxophonist Andy Hamilton who played in my home patch of Bearwood every week for a gazillion years. On top of acting as Errol Flynn's musical arranger, promoting gigs in Birmingham (including giving Steel Pulse an early break), setting up a community music group and recovering from a diabetic coma in 1986 he went on to record his first album at the tender young age of 76, making it the biggest selling jazz release of the year. He continued to play and inspire other musicians right up to the end and is no doubt carrying on in that great gig in the sky. RIP.

Friday, June 01, 2012

God Save The Bombergs

Okily dokily, time for one more post before the looooooooooooooooooong weekend (bless you Lizzie). Brums finest The Bombergs unleash this beauty, Soft, at a single launch in The Bulls Head on Sunday 3rd (support from Tom Peel amongst others). It's a cracking tune, harking back to early XTC by way of LCD Soundsystem's Losing My Edge. Play it loud, play it often. Enjoy!

PS: The single's out on Speech Fewapy Records. Long may they reign over us...

Gary Numan / Officers @ HMV Institute, Thursday 31st May 2012

Numan’s career’s seen as many ups and downs as one of his flying displays (he was, by all accounts, one of the best aerobatic pilots around), from slightly scary synthpop pioneer through to, well, slightly scary industrial rock god. Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s he fell seriously out of favour and by his own admission made some dodgy albums. Then, as so often happens if you stick around long enough, he started to get the credit he deserved with everyone from Dave Grohl and Jarvis Cocker to (somewhat bizarrely) Kanye West outing themselves as full on Numanoids. Judging by the look of many of the hardcore fans here tonight (an impressive number of whom were sporting t-shirts from the ghosts of tours past) it’s still Numan v1.0 that’s the big draw and given the fact that he’s not hugely fond of looking back this tour’s an all too rare chance to hear all of the classic hits plus some rarely played gems all in one go.

First up though Leeds 4 piece Officers provide the perfect Numan warm up. In fact it would be pretty hard to come up with a better band to get you in the Numan mood. Whilst their musical touchstones include a bit of NIN, Ministry and maybe even a little Einst├╝rzende Neubauten they’re clearly Numan’s children and pick of the set, Co-education, with its “machine, machine” refrain is one of the best blends of synth and rock around right now. The band’s currently raising the profile of a charity called CALM, designed to tackle the rising tide of suicides amongst men under 35, and they were giving away limited edition CDs in exchange for donations. A worthy cause from a band well worth checking out.    

As the NOOOMANNOOOMANNOOOMAN chants built in volume the lights dimmed and, like a visiting deity he appeared dressed all in regulation black. He seems in great shape, a lean, mean rock machine, only the extraordinary hair (some kind of nylon weave?) giving the game away that he’s now in his mid 50’s. Curiously many of tonight’s songs still sound pretty fresh too. Of course he sounded well ahead of his time back in the day, like some kind of bizarre robot beamed back from the future to scare the bejesus out of young children watching Top Of The Pops. Those early hits paved the way for the whole synthpop scene (Soft Cell, Human League, Heaven 17, Depeche Mode and co) before he moved in a rockier direction, again opening things up for the likes of Nine Inch Nails. As you’d expect given it formed most of his career tonight was overwhelmingly rocky from the broodingly brilliant Berserker through to the more industrial sounding stuff like RIP (albeit with a surprisingly funky sounding bassline this evening).

Frequently anointing himself with water throughout the gig there’s something slightly messianic about the performance, with Numan himself even pulling the odd arms outstretched crucifixion pose. Given the adoration of his fans it wouldn’t take a huge leap to imagine some kind of Numanic religion springing up a la L Ron Hubbard, despite Gary’s avowed atheism.

Showing that the tin man has a heart Numan was joined by Russell Bell and Chris Payne part way through the set (members of his old backing band Dramatis) to play a moving version of Love Needs No Disguise in tribute to fellow band member Cedric Sharpley who died back in March. It was great to hear some violin in the mix, adding a more human touch to what was clearly an emotional track for them to play.
The distinctly Japan sounding Warriors (from 83’s album of the same name) hinted at the era we were heading back to for the latter part of the set and, for the more casual Numan fan, this was where the nuggets lay. I Die You Die saw Numan wreathed in stark monochromatic lighting with an old school TDK 90 Tape unravelling behind him. Tape, that’s one thing from the ‘80s that can well and truly stay there. Ugh! The hours we spent trying to respool several hundred feet of tape using a pencil. The swirling synths of We Are Glass still sound like they’ve been beamed back from the 22nd century, a feeling aided as ever by Numan’s distinctive half man, half machine vocals.

Teasing the crowd with a pounding run through 2007’s Healing (showing the industrialists that Numan can still cut it) the encore and gig ended with the big crowd pleasers and whether you’re a Numanoid or not it’s impossible to deny the power of a souped up Cars (sounding much rockier than in its original in-car-nation). Despite throwing himself around for the best part of two hours Numan’s still had some mileage left in the tank and it’s a lively performance, distinctly at odds from the days when he just stood and glared at you from behind a keyboard.

In 2012 the idea behind Are Friends Electric? (tonight benefitting from a pleasingly different piano driven reboot) is arguably so much more relevant than it was 30 odd years ago. With millions of people finding it easier to connect with the world through a screen and an increasing number of us zombified by our mobiles (hell, some people seemed to watch the whole gig through the screen of their shitty phones) this hymn to alienation could’ve been written last week. “You see this means everything to me” sang Numan, his arms sweeping out in front of him to the audience and a gentle smile playing across his face. For the hundreds of fans still chanting NOOOMAN as he left this stage the feeling’s clearly mutual.