To many, Gary Numan is known as a pioneer of new wave music, a quintessential 80s artist despite the fact that his biggest hits and best-known songs (“Cars” and “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?”) were actually released in 1979. But Numan has never been one for nostalgia or resting on his laurels, and despite the ebb and flow of popularity over his now nearly four-decade-long career, he has continued to release new music on a consistent basis. This year, a Pledge Music campaign that began two years ago yielded his twenty-first studio album, Savage (Songs from a Broken World), a concept album set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been turned into a desert by global warming. The album quickly shot up to number two on the UK album chart (the highest one of his albums has gone since 1980’s Telekon took the number one slot), and would have taken the top spot on the Billboard dance/electronic music chart had it not gotten disqualified by Billboard for not sounding enough like dance music (instead, it took the number 22 position on the rock/alternative chart). Regardless of what the charts say, though, it only took one look around the crowded 9:30 Club on Saturday evening (despite the day bringing the first snow of the year to DC) to see that a lot of love for Numan still exists.
Numan opened the show with “Ghost Nation,” the opening track to Savage. Dressed in earth-colored tunics and white face paint that looked like something straight out of Mad Max, Numan along with guitarist Steve Harris and bassist Tim Muddiman prowled and jumped around the stage in seemingly constant motion. Deep fog and a near-continuous barrage of strobe lights helped to intensify the scene. The version of “Metal” which followed was given an industrial treatment which made it distinctly different from its original form on 1979’s The Pleasure Principle, more in line with Numan’s modern sound. Other older tracks which made it into the setlist, including “Down in the Park,” “Films,” and of course the ubiquitous “Cars,” received similar rearrangements, bringing them in line with the newer songs which surrounded them in the setlist. Six of the ten tracks from Savage made an appearance, including “Bed of Thorns,” “Pray For the Pain You Serve,” and “My Name Is Ruin.” Numan also looked back to his other recent albums, performing “Everything Comes Down to This,” “Here In the Black,” and “Love Hurt Bleed” from 2013’s Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind), “The Fall” from 2011’s Dead Son Rising, and “A Prayer for the Unborn” from 2000’s Pure.
For the encore, Numan looked backward to two of his early songs, performing “M.E.” from The Pleasure Principle and “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” from Replicas. For most of the shows on his tour, that would have been the end of the evening, but DC ended up being one of a handful of cities to get a second encore, with Numan and his band returning to play his 1980 single “I Die: You Die.”
Brooklyn alternative rock duo (and former members of Little Daylight) Me Not You opened the show, performing live as a four-piece with the addition of a keyboardist and a drummer. After generating some buzz last year with their debut single “Bulletproof” and their follow-up “Relief” earlier this year, the band released their debut EP, Reckoning 1, in September.