Photo by Jason Persse
“You ever been on an escalator inside a venue before?” I asked the guy behind me on the way down into the bowels of Times Square’s Best Buy Theater. “Nope,” he answered, before adding (perhaps noticing my age), “You ever been to see Gary Numan before?” I hadn’t. Aside from having heard his one-hit wonder “Cars” as often as anyone, I had very little idea what to expect.
I got into the auditorium shortly after the Japanese industrial opener Boom Boom Satellites started their set. These guys have the biggest, pointiest guitars I have ever seen. Well anywhere outside of Guitar Hero, maybe. Their set was an amphetamine-laced paroxysm of industrial future-Gwar. I wasn’t sure most of the time whether or not the lyrics were in English, Japanese, or just wails, but it sure was fast and loud; I repeatedly thought that this might be what a robot dance party in a dystopian future might sound like. Despite being an all-out assault on the audio-visual faculties, BBS is a very correct product of its influences. If the whole world consisted of long leather coats, the Prodigy, and Matrix trilogy wet dreams, these three would rule it. I can’t get onto talking about Numan, however, without noting that BBS’s drummer is one of the more on point I’ve seen recently. Most of her rhythms were straightforward and formulaic, as demanded by the genre, but she had precision like she was channeling the mechanically immaculate beat straight out of the ether.
The first part of Gary Numan’s set afforded some respite from the all-out maximalism of BBS. Playing through his album, The Pleasure Principle, the 30th birthday of which is the occasion for this tour, the audience was treated to his signature, although dated-sounding synth-pop. The seeds of Spencer Krug’s vulnerable yowl were evident in Numan’s still-youthful vocals (he professed to having lost his voice and cancelled shows earlier in the week, but that was far from evident). It felt a bit incongruous, though, to see a whole band up there doing relatively little while Numan played one-finger sustains. This impression was offset after the Pleasure Principle set though, as the group launched into Numan’s more industrial, electronica-tinged recent work. On my way out, things came full circle as I noticed a fan wearing a t-shirt with Numan in place of Neo as “The One” at the center of a Matrix design. Long live sunglasses at night and black leather.