Gary Numan

Gary Numan

with Switchblade Symphony

The Baja Club. Charlotte, North Carolina • 5.31.98

Gary Numan’s career in music is a remarkable one, and not necessarily because of his longevity in the world of “alternative” music, although that is a component of it. One of Numan’s main strengths is in his distinct musical solidity both in content and the expression of that content. Mr. Numan (Webb) has consistently maintained his own rock and roll machine despite all detractors; rarely, if ever, being part and parcel to the nonsense inherit to the Music Industry in general. Numan has created his own music industry, of sorts, and that couldn’t be more apparent than with the existence of his very loyal fans.

Arriving at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Baja Club on the Sunday that was to be the final performance of Numan’s 1998 tour in promotion of his latest CD, Exile, we (me and Jon Lester, another encyclopedic and astute Numan fan) found the front patio of the club inundated with these folks, quoting from his recent autobiography, talking about previous tour venues (some of these people came from as far away as England), previous tours, etc. We waited a bit for the doors to open, and were treated to the amusing spectacle of Numan himself and his entourage making way across the scraggly Southern lawn in front of the club towards the fast-food zone across the street. They were followed by a frantic photographer who was allowed to photograph Numan. On the whole, very humorous, and topped-off by the fact that Numan and company left the “Mac” for something less rough on the digestive system and the taste-buds.

Opening the performance was a raffle, wherein I won a Switchblade Symphony poster, which I gave to one of their very loyal fans. O.K., I sold it to the guy, but he did offer me the money! Anyway, shortly thereafter, Switchblade Symphony commenced to perform. Very solid stuff: it reminded me of Siouxsie and the Banshees, but only because of some of the vocals and the physical presence of one of the lead-ladies, Tina Root. Switchblade rode various currents of sound, at times being aggressive in nature, then falling into a strange psychedelic form of the dark strains of goth music. Shortly after the debris settled post Switchblade Symphony, Gary Numan and his band stormed the stage to the howls and applause of the audience.

For those of you fairly unfamiliar with Numan, as I was, expecting a sort of reprise of Gary Numan’s Saturday Night Live performance of “Cars,” would have gotten a big surprise from the first note of the performance onwards. The show started-out with a tune from Numan’s first and very punk rock leaning Tubeway Army record, setting the mood for the bracing assaults of rock and roll that the show featured. Numan’s band was on fire and Numan himself is a head-long and transfixing performer! There was a decent amount of material from Exile present, all of it characterized by a very tight guitar aggression in the nature of Nine Inch Nails, or more appropriately, Gravity Kills (a band that Numan apparently likes). Mighty stuff, but throughout the set Numan and his band also whipped-out whipcord tight versions of some of his earlier stuff, including a magnificent “Are Friends Electric?”! On the whole, this was an incredibly satisfying concert for Numan fans and Numan neophytes alike.

Afterwards, Numan spent some time autographing stuff for folks and shooting the breeze with them. I got a menu from a local pizza place and had it autographed because I didn’t have the cash in my budget to buy the usual merchandise. Numan got a good laugh out of it, and proved to be a very approachable and down-to-earth fellow on the whole.

Oh, you can see my menu at…

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