My Friends Are Electric
By Dave Iozzia
Photo by Steve Honoshowsky.
I had another rock and roll road trip on December 5, 2017. It was only 30 miles up the New Jersey Turnpike, in the rain, to White Eagle Hall in Jersey City. An old favorite, Gary Numan, was in town, and he brought a whole lotta synthesizers and an elaborate light show with him. The show was electric! And of course, he played my favorite Numan song, “Are Friends Electric?”
Gary and his four partners in crime took us back in time, just a bit, with their outstanding 90-minute set. “Down in the Park” and “Are Friend Electric?” were played from 1979’s “Replicas,” the second and final Tubeway Army record. “Metal,” “Films,” “M.E.,” and “Cars” were played from 1979’s “The Pleasure Principle.” That record was the first for Gary Numan as a solo performer. Yet this concert was not a “greatest hits” package. Numan’s 2017 North American tour is supporting his latest record, “Savage (Songs from a Broken World).”
Gary Numan pioneered commercial electronic music in the late 70s, but today he is so much more than a new wave or synth-pop musician. His music is so fresh, meshing gothic rock and industrial rock with his signature style from decades past. I attend many concerts monthly. I tip my hat to Gary Numan, or any rock musician, who continues to not only record new music, but feature new material in their setlist. Six of Numan’s seventeen song setlist were from 2017’s “Savage (Songs from a Broken World).” Three more were from his previous record, “Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind).”
Gary’s band includes two old “friends.” Drummer Richard Beasley and guitarist Steve Harris have accompanied Gary on all of the post-2000 tours that I’ve attended. Two newcomers, at least to me, were bass guitarist Tim Muddiman and keyboardist David Brooks. All four are outstanding musicians. I stood at the front of the stage, and Steve’s energy and guitar playing amazed me. Gary Numan spent most of the show with just a microphone in hand. He added a bit of keyboards and guitar playing to only a couple of the songs. Strobe lights, smoke, and color changes gave each song a different feel, and Numan’s wall of sound was mixed perfectly.
Numan’s latest record, “Savage (Songs from a Broken World),” is a concept album. Our world, due to global warming, has turned into a vast desert. Eastern and Western cultures blending and struggling to adapt in a post-apocalyptic world. Two songs from that record, “Pray for the Pain You Serve” and “My Name is Ruin,” were the highlights for me from Numan’s incredible performance.
White Eagle Hall was the perfect host for this tour stop from where I stood. The stage was roomy enough to accommodate all the band’s equipment and lighting, and every band member had plenty of space. The hall’s sightlines and acoustics are top notch. I don’t drink alcohol and I’ve yet to sample their food, so I can’t offer an opinion on those. But the venue is super clean. It’s an old building totally refurbished, close to public transportation if you choose, but I’ve found plenty of on-street parking on my visits there. The vibrant section of downtown Jersey City is a short walk away. White Eagle Hall is quickly becoming one of my favorite New Jersey venues to attend a rock concert.
I rocked and swayed with the Numanoids throughout the show. Numan’s cult following continues to pack in the clubs at the Northeast shows I’ve attended post-2000. I just wish more concertgoers would look beyond the iconic synth pop song “Cars” to check out what Gary is recording and playing these days. Nine Inch Nails have covered “Metal.” Foo Fighters have covered “Down in the Park” as has Marilyn Manson. These performers know the real deal. Get out there and see this legendary performer. It’s a “can’t miss” type of concert. And check out Gary Numan’s latest record. It’s electric!