Those Pleasure Principle tickets had been sitting on my for months. When I get a whiff of a concert, I damn well get my oar in as soon as possible (and in the case of Ultravox’s Return to Eden tour, I placed my order under a minute after they went on sale). Of course this leaves a lot of time for tension to build.
So Gary Numan played The Pleasure Principle at the ABC last night (which has been remodelled, and no longer has a cloakroom?!).
I was expecting him to launch straight into Airlane; being the first track on the album and all, it’s a natural song that’s designed to be an opener. Instead, he began with the instrumental Random, a B-side (or was it even just a demo?), and then launched into the album proper. Which was played with its track-list intact.
Airlane was amazing. I love that melody and that Polymoog sound. Then came Metal, which everybody spurts all over and I don’t quite understand why (like Down in the Park, it seems to be a lol-emo favourite despite being, I’d say, one of the weaker songs on the album); the crowd came buckets (or was that just beer?). Complex, one of my all-time favourites, was dedicated to Numan’s old bassist pal who killed himself. The thing about Complex is that it’s got a bit of the violin in it — since The Pleasure Principle actually includes a lot of violin usage (Ultravox’s Billy Currie even played on a couple of them), I was hoping that he might actually draft a real violinist in. Alas, no, the violin parts were keyboarded.
M.E. and Engineers were highlights for me, though the crowd (naturally) only really responded to Cars (aye, but no when you’re only two minutes from the shops… Andrew Kelly agrees that the Go Greener Earth is really fucking creepy). I was stuck behind a man who stood like a lemon for the entire gig, annoyingly just the right height and position to block my view unless I danced sideways. Though I was standing next to somebody that also seemed to know all the words.
After the album proper, he wound down with another instrumental B-side, Asylum, and then… Packed up the keyboards and flushed everything down the pan.
Numan seems to have two modes. He’s got the awesome mode, where you can hear the synths and the vocals (except when the crowd join in) and follow what’s going on. Then he’s got industrial mode, where you can’t hear anything except crunchUNCHUNCHUNCH of too-heavy guitars. Straining, you could just about hear the tinkle of a possible synth in the background (let alone the vocals). I can’t really blame the ABC’s acoustics this time, because there really was a stark contrast between The Pleasure Principle and the “mix of old and new”.
“Old and new” was all new lol-emo except for Down in the Park and Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, which have been updated and absorbed by industrial mode. I know that Down in the Park is a little bit weak on the album, so by all means punch it up a notch or two — but I know that song has an actual melody, so I’d like to be able to hear it above your favourite guitar noise. The more piano-induced Are ‘Friends’ Electric? was played, the same version that was the finale to Telekon 2006, and that was very nice. The last highlight was a pleasantly surprising We Are So Fragile (one of the bonus tracks from Replicas)to open the encore. Sadly nothing at all from Telekon.
The “light show” was pretty basic, two LED-boards and a projector — not a patch on the big blocks from Telekon 2006. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that Telekon 2006 was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to, and Numan has been consistently not able to match that performance ever since.
The Telekon tour was totally different, though. It was three dates, a little bonus supplement to the real touring that I wouldn’t have cared about. Then Replicas was a full-blown, as was this one. Aside from Telekon being the best of the three by quite a margin, it was rocked up and down in precisely the right amounts; songs like I’m An Agent and Sleep By Windows being gently contemporised with some heavy beates — but nowhere near as much as the industromatic of these days.
I reckon this will be the last retro-album tour (though I seem to remember him saying that after Replicas), so when he comes around again with the purely “new” stuff… I don’t think I’ll be there.