'Flag Promotions Proudly Presents Numania 2008 with The Godfather of Industrial Noize: Nash The Slash' - so went the pre-tour billing. And with some justification as this seven date trip around this United Kingdom taking in Glasgow, Bristol, Guildford (!), York, London (tonight), Birmingham and Manchester was the cult Canadian's first UK shows for over 20 years. The theme was what flyers referred to as 'Numan friendly' local bands coming together to support Nash and YTDS on their UK tour. (Nash The Slash supported Gary Numan on his 1980 Telekon tour in the UK.) Nash's simultaneously hilarious and fascinating blog of the tour on his official website (nashtheslash.com) makes it clear that the quality of both some support acts and the venues themselves (and their sound engineers) 'varied' somewhat. To say nothing of the unpredictable audiences (unbelievably only about 20 people turned up in York). Thankfully, I was only in attendance for the London gig at the excellent Purple Turtle pub/club in Camden - which was a sell-out. Only problem was I could only catch around 20 minutes of Nash's set...
First band Cryogenica produced an okay digi-goth sound whose game, flame-haired, svelt female vocalist gave it her all. Live accompaniment was limited to bass and guitar with the backing track handling everything else. Nothing remarkable but not unpleasant either.
Second billers on the other hand, Global Citizen (left), had some very interesting stuff going for them. Never seen this outfit before (despite them having been doing their thing for more than a decade apparently!) and, much to their credit, it was the first time I'd watched a band and actually thought of Attrition. What's significant here is that Attrition have always been a genuinely unique-sounding act. No one has ever come close to resembling them in my experience. Let's be clear though, Global Citizen still don't come close to Attrition, but the very fact that they fleetingly reminded me of them is impressive enough. At their best on the mainly instrumental tracks, with striking front man Rich waving his arms and faintly wailing like some tripped-out Cenobite, this was sometimes arresting stuff.
The singer was flanked either side by two female keyboard players - one a striking Japanese woman covered in blood-stained bandages, wearing stripey tights and some gloriously chunky black patent leather shoes; the other a tall Amazonian warrior that could have been an extra in Mad Max 2. Even if their music had been shoddy Global Citizen would have deserved a special mention for the memorable image they created on stage. That they backed up this theatrical presence with some genuinely intriguing songwriting proved that to this threesome it is the music that matters. Only Rich swigging from a bottle of Lucozade between songs spoilt the effect! Global Citizen's recorded output should certainly be explored.
I Am Immune I'd first suffered not long ago. My overriding memory being many of their songs had fantastic 30 second intros - only to plummet into dirgey rock bollocks. That's precisely what they delivered again tonight. IAI are trying way too hard to be essential and until they can resolve between them what it is they actually want to be and achieve, they'll struggle to stand out. I hereby take a personal vow not to review them again unless things improve markedly.
Young Things Don't Scream (aka YTDS - right) are, apparently, the longest-running Gary Numan tribute band in the world. As a general rule, tribute bands are not something I'd give the time of day for but, if done well, they do have a place and a rewarding role to play in keeping alive great songs that their creators have long since turned their backs on or are no longer around to perform. (Amazingly) celebrating their 21st year of playing cover versions, YTDS (Young Things Don't Scream - lyrics from Numan's Remind Me To Smile) are in every respect the perfect tribute act. Limiting themselves to Tubeway Army and early Gary Numan material (i.e. the good stuff) they are a full (six-piece) band who deliver rollicking live versions of some brilliant songs.
They don't slavishly attempt to clone either Numan or the songs but their approach manages to be at once authentic and exhilarating. I quickly found myself smiling from ear to ear and enjoyed every moment of their 45 minute set. A key factor in their success is that although they clearly love what they do (their enthusiasm was noticeably infectious) they don't take themselves too seriously. When guitarist Marc Pearson first walked on stage he paused at the mike to declare: "We're fat, we're 40, and we're back!". Before they took to the stage, I was completely indifferent to YTDS. Afterwards, I was a total convert and would easily check them out in their own right.
By now both I and the rest of the packed out Purple Turtle were well warmed up and ready for the main act. For me however there was a major issue. With so many bands on the bill, a slightly late start and revised timings, The Slash known as Nash now wasn't due on stage until 11.15. Which, when you live in Kent and your last train home departs on the other side of London at 12:14, is a problem. Realising and reluctantly accepting that I wasn't going to get to see much, let alone all, of Nash's set, I kept checking my watch as the stage was set for the Canadian's long-overdue return to London. It's worth pointing out that I'm no Nash fanatic. I have one album (1982s And You Though You Were Normal) that was lent to me by a work colleague in the 1990s that I never got around to returning to its rightful owner. But theatrical entertainers like Nash are few and far between these days and a potential rare treat for anyone willing to take a punt.
Our mystery man finally took to the stage at 11:30 and from the moment he stepped out (to the fading strains of Richard Strauss's Thus Spake Zarathustra - nicely raising the anticipation bar another few notches) he had the audience eating out the palm of his hand. Although there were clearly a fair few Nash enthusiasts in the crowd, this was by no means a purely partisan crowd. Yet as soon as they saw his trademark invisible man bandaged face, goggles, top hat and white tuxedo, they (me included) went berzerk.
Nash's unique brand of post-punk electronic industrial noise is famously largely achieved using electric violins and the occasional electric mandolin. Nash is the solitary figure on stage, everything else is on backing track. But what a backing track! The thunderous sound combined with Nash's superb live musicianship produced one of the most impressive and exciting noises all year. The stage show too was impressive. The white sheets draped over the equipment of YTDS became the undulating backdrop for a psychedelic light show that saw Nash, clad literally head to foot in white, blend chameleon-like into the set. The eclectic video projections saw everything from Nosferatu, and Tetsuo at the gothic horror end of the spectrum, to Tiger Woods teeing off and TV commercials representing the banality of TV output at the other. Whilst obviously having been chosen to reflect the subject of each song, the rush of edits and racing colours made for a surreal yet heart-pumping experience.
Just a bloody shame then that I had to dive out the door after sampling little more than 20 minutes of the set. A (London-dwelling) friend reported by text later that night that the remaining hour (aagghh!) of the evening sustained the same quality vein; finishing with an encore, with YTDS joining the bandaged one on stage, that included three Numan covers including The Joy Circuit and finishing on We Are Glass - to nicely round off the theme of the tour. The saving grace for me though (having experienced tantalisingly not very much of the night) is that apparently having hit it off so well, both Nash and promoters Flag say there are seriously looking at another UK tour next year. Thank that God-fella for small mercies! It may have only been less than half an hour of Nash The Slash sampled, yet still this is in the running for gig of the year. I can think of no higher praise. Brilliant. 8/10