Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#263: Stormtrooper in Drag

What do I know about Gary Numan? Not a lot really. I know the following – I’ve skimmed his autobiography and it was interesting. I watched a documentary on him recently and that was also interesting, especially when Trent Reznor came out and sang his praises – good to see ole Trent is still a fan. I know that when I was at school he wasn’t taken that seriously, other than by a few borderline Neo-Nazi’s who loved the militaristic attitude that Gary exuded and the black shirts with red stripes that he popularised. I know that he always looked like a miserable bastard, on a par with Ritchie Blackmore for public displays of smiling and emotion. I know that he flies planes and is a pilot. I know that he recorded an entire album with James Freud back in the early ‘80s only to scrap it. I know that he also lined Freud up and dropped his guts in his face. I also know that I love dancing to Cars and that I have a great mash-up of Are Friends Electric combined with Walk Like An Egyptian by the Bangles, which fits a little too perfectly. That’s about it.

Armed with that knowledge we wandered down to HQ last night to see Gazza in concert. The Bear was dead keen to go and see him as she’d caught him back in late 1980 when he first toured here behind The Pleasure Principle album, and this time around we were promised The Pleasure Principle Album, although I don’t know why. Possibly an anniversary? Beats me, but purchase the tickets we did and off we went. I have to admit that I used to haunt HQ back in the days when it was Heaven and would play decent retro on Wednesday nights, as overseen by the brilliant Hoops. Sadly other than a splash of paint and a name change the club looks exactly the same. I say sadly because it’s old and tired now and there’s nothing worse than going back to the scene of many crimes over a decade and a half later and seeing the chalk outlines are still in place. One thing has changed though – the price of booze is outrageous. One can of JD and a can of Russki set me back $25. Call me old, but it wasn’t that long ago when $25 would see me happy for the evening, not to mention the small bottle of water for $5. Still, a nightclub has to gouge the crowd and recoup costs of the gigs somehow. Good thing I didn’t ask for anything off the top shelf, gone are the days of drink cards.

The crowd were the usual people of a certain vintage, and I have to wonder about all of these vampires that are coming out of the woodwork. I say vampires because clearly they don’t have a reflection to judge what little fashion sense they have – the bird that scuttled up next to us for the evening was wearing an outfit that wouldn’t have been out of place in 1986, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I hate to say it but my generation seems to consist now of two types of people – those who have moved on with fashion, dress for the occasion and generally look good. The others dress like Brynee Eccelstein on a bad day, think they look great and generally look like twenty pounds of shit bashed into a five pound bag. Both parties were represented, in number, last night, along with the few obligatory Goths, at least three Neo-Nazis that I spotted and a pile of industrial type people with chains and studs in their faces, and one dude close to the stage wearing a studded dog collar that he probably bought for $150 from a bondage shop. You can get those from Coles for under $15 by the way. It’s also refreshing to see that hairspray clearly isn’t banned in some households and that big hair isn’t restricted to Kate Pierson alone. But there’s nothing funnier than seeing a wanker in tight black jeans, a tight white shirt (neatly tucked in) which showcases the expansive gut area and a long ponytail, the weight of which has clearly stripped the front of the head of hair stalking the crowd looking for that woman with saggy titties, tight black leather pants, hair that’d make Bon Jovi blink in disbelief and a top that wouldn’t have fitted at birth. Something to bear in mind kiddies, after the age of 40 people are single for the following reasons:
A] they want kids
B] they have kids
C] they’re bunny boilers
D] they have a vast collection of Restraining Orders
E] they have issues on a grand scale
F] they’re fresh out of jail/going to jail
G] are terminally unemployed/unemployable
H] they no longer care and can’t be arsed sorting through people only to discover that the person they’ve picked has all of the above, some of the above or additional items to deal with. Baggage is a wondrous thing indeed, but, seriously, I’d hate to be stuck with the last chicken in the shop at last night’s gig. Now, on with the show.

The support band wandered out – the Severed Heads. I’ve never been a fan of the Severed Heads, even back in the day, and time hasn’t changed my mind. I know they’re a seminal Australian electronic band, but, well, to my ears they just sound a mishmash of early Depeche Mode, Soft Cell with a bit of B.E.F. and Art Of Noise thrown in for good measure. I’m sure that the two guys on stage would love that, but after a while I kind of sat there and thought, “Hmmm, yes, drum track from Bedsitter, rhythm track from Leave In Silence and samples from Optimum Chant.” That generally leaves me cold, but hey, such is life. The lyrics were good wordplay – all about oblique cockroaches and seagulling – and the videos were interesting, in a retro computer graphic kind of a way.

After the usual period of waiting Gazza walked out onto the stage and began to play. He looked good, damned good.  Youthful, at ease with himself, vibrant and full of energy.  He also looked like he was wearing a syrup, but I can't verify that, other than to say that he has more hair now than he ever did, it's thick and black as my cat Klerqy, so you do the maths.  There were two distinct sets, the first being devoted to The Pleasure Principle complete with loads of synths and that’s when I first began to enjoy myself. Once the notes came out, those long, extended synth notes with the phasing, I thought I was back in 1978. Great stuff. Gazza had an incredible light show to go with his live set and pretty much all of the album was there. I got into it more than I thought I would, and indeed was enjoying things when, after the first song I recognised, Cars, the band stopped and walked off the stage. Great. No big deal, they wandered back on to perform a second set, complete with guitars and noise. It was terrific!

Seeing Gary Numan live, like we did last night, you can easily see where bands such as Depeche Mode, Fear Factory and Nine Inch Nails, to name but three, all drew inspiration from. Numan’s unique voice is what separates him from a lot of the people who appear happy to steal his feel but not cite him as an influence, and the second set was blistering. Seeing him tear through stripped down renditions of I Die, You Die, Down In The Park and Are Friends Electric was a treat not to be missed, although some of the crowd definitely did miss the point, with some twat heckling behind us, “Play something we know!” I couldn’t care less if I didn’t know the songs he was playing, I enjoyed myself more than I should have. Numan’s band were in top form, the sound, which is usually horrendous at HQ, was note perfect – loud enough to be loud, but not loud enough to be distorted beyond enjoyment. And enjoy the show people did – the applause was warm and genuine, the enthusiasm levels were high and the interaction between Numan and the crowd, especially during the stripped down second set, was a welcome sight indeed. HQ might be a dive, but there is something about the small clubs that lend themselves to a more intimate show, and that was on full display last night.

Last night I walked into HQ with a rudimentary knowledge of Gary Numan, and a passing knowledge of his music, but I walked out with a new appreciation for him and a desire to hear both his back and current catalogue. I can easily understand why Numan is held in high regard and why many of the acts that I do listen to and enjoy a lot cite him as an influence. We may have missed out on Hugh Cornwall in Adelaide recently, but we got Gary Numan – and that was just as good.

No comments: