Whilst we dream of electric sheep; we’ve become androids ourselves…..

What happened to game show contestants? You know what I mean, right, Norma from Wembley aged 87 trying to figure out what Michael Barrymore is talking about? Frank from Leicester, the retired Postman whose worked in the village since 1968.

Recently I’ve spent a little time watching Challenge – available on Freeview Channel 46 – which plays those classic reruns of Price is Right, Bullseye and Supermarket Sweep; when the idea of interacting with our television was so novel that you wanted to see your neighbors on the tube. You’d send off a postcard hoping to get picked, you’d nominate your grandmother or secretly hope Noel Edmonds would give you a ‘Gotcha’ when you split that milk in the supermarket.

As the years rolled on, television audiences changed, and so did television. It became slightly less interactive whilst also becoming more subversive. Big Brother, reality television, effectively replaced the need for traditional Saturday night entertainment. You didn’t need to watch Noel’s House Party or Gladiators, not when things were getting saucy and the participants were getting plastered on Channel 4. In general, we approved of this culture initially, and encouraged the likes of Jeremy Kyle, which effectively took the handbook from Soap’s and found people who behaved just like the cast of Eastenders – without actually being actors.

In true style, the audiences rebelled, and whilst game shows like ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ and ‘Deal or No Deal’ were always staples of viewing, it was the guests who began to change. Gone were the potentially senile or quiet and shy, discounted were those with interesting jobs and an afternoon off work to attend the taping. Instead, television program participants representing “the general public” now seem to be more exciting, more popular than ever before. Instead of being an accountant or a nurse, contestants are now YouTube content creators, professional gaming enthusiasts or even models.

In some cases television was sent to ridicule you. The Chase and Eggheads presented quiz contestants secretly mocked by the host due to their obscure knowledge of the most random content. Shows like ‘The X Factor’ stepped this up further, sometimes inviting people with genuinely hidden talent to try and catch a magical ticket to their fame. In the process, they needed to endure a stadium full of people watching their open audition, live weekly programs where they battled for the adoration of the millions watching at home and then a phone in where people could vote to eliminate you because they simply didn’t like the person the production team encouraged you to be.

There’s an old episode of Red Dwarf in which Lister reads Rimmer some mail from his mother. In the letter, his mother tells him that his father had died, and as a result Rimmer leads himself to question his own identity – posing the question “what is a man if not his job?”. Another character, Kryten, later challenges Rimmers repeat of this question by asking whether Albert Einstein was a patent clerk, or whether he was the greatest mind in human history?

Using the example of television, it would seem to be that society is now breaking away from the older, more traditional and established social norms. Primarily, things like what your day job is, who you are and what you do for a living are meaningless and practically irrelevant. In my own life I meet so many people who I’m confident would rather be defined by their social activities (Writer, Wrestler or Social Media Influencer) than by their traditional day job. And in some cases I’m almost ashamed to say I don’t even know what that person’s “real” job is.

Now, I say real because we currently live in two worlds, one in the physical and the other in the digital. We’ve been escaping to this world for about 30 years now – either through gaming or vlogging or even in MMORPG – and we’ve perhaps been escaping to a virtual world even longer if you include Hollywood in the picture. But modern technological advances have meant that as the years go on we’ve found ways to become even more subversive. And yes, whilst we dream of electric sheep, we’ve actually become androids ourselves – submerging with our digital lives on an almost hourly basis – texting, posting, tweeting, swiping – mostly commonly through the artificial extension in your hand.

In the case of social media accounts, many people (myself included) now have at least two. One which represents their “real life” or their more personal account, the kind you want your parents to see, want colleagues in that job you’ve just taken to notice; and the other representing an identity, an idea, a fragment of what they want to be – or just representing the more ideal vision of themselves. If wrestlers play a character, that second profile is exactly that – kayfabe for the internet age. A heel or villain to mock fans, a face to thank fans. Just like an actor it can prove useful to be able to submerge in the identity. If that person is a writer, they might choose to be more streamlined and professional on their account, presenting links to their work and encouraging direct interaction and praise with their writing.

And who doesn’t enjoy friend requests? It’s a much wider question to ask what digital friend requests actually mean, but suffice to say we do like the idea that people have taken the time to reach out and extend a digital handshake. Those friend requests you receive may be from a singular account or a person with two accounts. Many times have I been offered a friend request from someone I’ve actually met in the real world, only to find it is not actually their active account, but a puppet account set up to promote their brand. An extension of a personalized marketing tool perhaps. We abhor racial segregation but we welcome digital segregation.

You have to be careful, granted, when your sexuality could be perceived as a potential issue – or when you feel the lifestyle choices or personal opinions you can control are not in kin with everyone (or even someone) else. We enter new jobs in a particular mode, playing a role, acting in a very specific way when absorbing new situations. And we all, no matter who we are, wear masks.

“Plato’s Stepchildren” episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, first broadcast November 22, 1968

It seems like light years now since Star Trek attracted controversy in the 1960’s by featuring the first ever interracial kiss on US Television screens. Of course, that in itself is a popular misconception, as another kiss predates even this infamous moment. But if we ignore the misconception for the moment, we could perhaps see social media as a form of digital segregation. If your Facebook profile is like a nightclub, your friends list is a safe space, where you can invite people to share in your personal expressions. We’ve all seen the Facebook adverts – everybody’s got their own level of privacy, right?

So what if that second profile was your real profile. And within your nightclub, you’ve got a VIP Lounge, a special place where you’ll further filter those who know you. Yes, you’ve heard of me, met me and even spoken to me. But what makes you think I even want you knowing me?

Whether I earn the majority of money in any given year from Journalism is irrelevant. I can call myself a Journalist simply because I write an article like this and post it online. That is 2020. My first ever Journalism tutor told me that to be a Journalist was a calling, something you became once you believed you were just that, a writer, a recorder, an archivist, an observer. Maybe he was trying to sell me the class on the first day and my colleagues were too baked to remember it, but that mantra has stuck with me ever since.

In the years I’ve been writing I’ve probably been taken advantage of – in one way or another – because of my good nature at least once a year. Sometimes its an article that I’ve been promised payment for which isn’t given, other times it’s quitting my job to start a new opportunity and ending up in a whole heap of trouble. I can sincerely understand why people create a safe place, because the world can be cruel. And there’s no assurance of success. People would rather live their character than be themselves, it’s far less painful, and you’ve got far more control in that.

I can’t help thinking that we’ve lost our way. That Instagram likes and boastful posts will only get us so far. But at the same time, the world is encouraging us to use bad grammar, hashtags and slogans – asking you to avoid thinking about the bigger picture and instead simply commit yourself to the fact that you can do anything you want. You can live the role and not the reality, lie to everyone on a daily basis by presenting this false image of yourself and letting the mask take over your life. Without questioning whether you should?

So much of our lives are now influenced by our online personas. We model our lives around this digital world; choosing our jobs, our path in life and even our friends across a digital landscape. Realism? There’s a time and a place, no doubt, but it’s not anywhere after you login.

Time to see what else is on.

That Would Be An Ecumenical Matter

The other day I went to Mass for the first time in years. Standing in the room I noticed the familiar signs; the stages of the cross, the dim lighting, the – almost brutalist – architecture of a stone chapel and the dim flicker of the candles lit in prayer. I suppose you could say that I’m somewhat of a lapsed Catholic, I was baptised, communed and confirmed in the faith but whether it was an individual choice or simply one of routine and ritual is another question.

On the day of my Conformation, for example, I took a sponsor. I was 13 and I approached the altar and was asked by the Priest, as I was now coming of age, whether I was prepared to keep up my promise to my Faith. My parents had been doing that for me, in essence, since I was baptised and at conformation I was expected too adopt the task from them, continuing to grow and have faith in line with my religious beliefs. It wasn’t a legally binding contract, granted, but for some it was absolutely just as important and certainly unbreakable.

As the years continued I began to become disillusioned with Mass, rather than religion in particular, as the act of going to Church (and possibly saying my prayers before bedtime) was about all that my membership to the religion seemed to require in my life. So when I’d get up on a Sunday morning and need to organise my day around attending a specifically timed mass at my local church, it tended to react violently with me given I naturally associated it with something else I was required to do – something I had no choice in doing.

My Dad once told me that he had left the church as a believer for a few years, and then rejoined in later life, deciding that once he’d been away it was easier to come back of his own free will – instead of feeling he was forced to be there by his parents or routine every week. I’d tried this, and it never really gelled in the way I felt it would, and on reflection I think that my father recaptured his faith because of his subsequent relationship with and marriage to my Mum. I believe it to be her faith and his love for her that brought him back to that cycle; and he continues to do so today.

When I spent time in the home of ex-fiancee, she and her family attended mass on a weekly basis, always at the same time in the same church on a Saturday night.

The church was in a tiny rural village in Southern Ireland, just across the border from the family home in Northern Ireland. I always found it strange that they seemed to me more religious in this community than we were in Dublin. But of course, on reflection, I realise for them it was much more than simple religious adoration. Their very lives affected by the politics of Northern Ireland, their identities were shaped and labelled by their religion. And since the abolishment of the border, it made sense for them to be making this gesture by attending mass in such numbers – an affirmation of their culture and themselves rather than necessarily their beliefs.

And here I am, standing in a cold, badly lit room thinking about all this. Because there’s no trappings of modern life, there’s no tablets or mobile phones, and even talking is discouraged. If anything the silence is deafening as you wait for something to happen. The whole nature, and acoustics, of being in a church means it gives you are thinking about things because nothing is distracting you. Kind of like going to the cinema, switching off your mobile phone and immersing in cinema. You’re purposefully turning off the outside world.

There’s so much stimulation in life these days. So much opportunity to engage, to label, to interact and to speak. You’re often stimulated to the point that if you’re not a voice, if you’re not expressing yourself in some outlandish way, then you’re nothing. Look at relationships; man meets woman, man meets man, woman meets woman; but we’re constantly told that we don’t have to settle for anything – there is so much choice and possibility that it’s becoming harder to commit to a longer term relationship. Finding someone truly special, someone you can really commit too, can make you very lucky indeed.

I often feel that in 30 years time, this simply won’t exist.

As I glance across at the darting candles, the flicker of the flame, they greet me unlike anything else. I mean we light candles in our own living rooms on a daily basis, but the candles in church, they’re something else, right? You truly believe that each flame represents a prayer; a wish, a hope, a desire or even a life. You feel something when the candles are expunged.

In 2018 I got the chance to visit Lourdes in France for the first time. Asides from the heat, the other overwhelming factor was the nature of the event. Everywhere we go we’re being told that religion and faith (ecumenical or otherwise) is being taken from our lives. But here I saw people of all ages, of multiple nationalities and personalities and all engaged in devotion. I saw the candles and the water and the blessings and it was – simply – divine. A chance to step away from the trappings of the world, to stop and look around.

The organ sounds – my concentration is broke – and several people delight in singing out of key. The priest emerges, his vestments overflow and a golden staff overwhelming; you’d think this was a particularly special event, but it’s just a quiet Tuesday morning mass…there’s no more than 20 people in this room. He walks to the front of the altar, gives his own thanks and praise, and welcomes us to the ritual.

The familiar has returned.

Queen – Innuendo

The last of Queen’s studio albums to be released within Freddie Mercury’s lifetime, Innuendo is somewhat of a hidden gem in the bands catalog, remaining – as it does – vastly unappreciated to this date. Of course, even casual fans will no doubt be aware of the albums title track and selections like ‘The Show Must Go On’, not least because these songs featured as high profile singles – with memorable accompanying videos – around the time of release.

Recorded in the period between the end of sessions for the bands 1989 ‘The Miracle’ and early 1991, ‘Innuendo’ was also used as a platform to relaunch the band in the United States. A multi million dollar deal with Hollywood Records in that year – and a subsequent media promotional tour on the back of the bands “20th Anniversary” generated a re-release of their (to date) entire back catalogue in the US including bonus remix tracks. Innuendo, did not, unfortunately receive such tracks.

The remix tracks themselves aren’t much to talk about, but have never been released elsewhere, and provide an interesting insight into the interpretation of Queen’s music. It’s hard to think many members of the band, especially Freddie, would have had much of a feedback in the development of those remixes. One of the more interesting things about the US promotion of Innuendo is general is whether Queen disclosed Freddie’s condition too their label, and therefore whether the label could have taken legal action for undisclosed information affecting future business. As it would turn out, Freddie’s death brought Hollywood Records more profit than it might have otherwise; an unexpected benefit for both parties perhaps.

Innuendo itself is an album of great experimentation. Realising it was highly likely the band would ever perform these tracks live, then it was a chance not to be limited by that atmosphere; one could also argue that while Freddie himself might have felt compelled to leave a legacy for his work, it was also unlikely he would live long enough to see the cultural impact of the albums strengths or weaknesses and so it was – as he once put it himself – a chance to do anything and everything and not give a damn, my dear.

The albums title track is a great place to start as its an almost 7 minute mix of classical rock, progressive and even a little Spanish thrown in. There is a chance for Freddie to excel, vocally, and for the entire song to be a fitting rock opera of its own; much like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ all those years beforehand. So single track could otherwise be the albums title track or the albums opener, and it’s first single. It’s therefore fortunate that this song was indeed – or is indeed – all three. Another track like ‘Headlong’ (used by Brian May on his later solo live tours in 1993) is also featured as part of the ‘We Will Rock You’ musical and, like ‘I Want It All’ before it, is a full stadium rocker which suffered only in that it wasn’t released some years earlier for inclusion on tour.

‘Delilah’ has always been a favourite track of mine. A song written by Freddie about his cat, lyrically its a playful and nonsensical song which – although funny – is plagued with sadness when one imagines that Freddie was so isolated at home due to his illness he needed to find inspiration crawling the four walls. Or the couch. In the same vein is ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’, another single for the album with an amazing video, rumoured to be written by Freddie about the effects of his pain medication. If the songs are a window to the artist then ‘Innuendo’ is arguably Mercury’s swansong and tells us more about the singer than any interview he wouldn’t have likely given.

Other tracks such as the Roger Taylor vocal ‘Ride the Wild Wind’ is somewhat forgettable, and doesn’t really ring true in the same vein as ‘I Can’t Live with You’ or even the instrumental ‘Bijou’. Some works on the album such as ‘The Hitman’ and ‘All God’s People’ are not of the standard you might expect, but do provide some filler. The song which many remember most fondly is ‘These Are The Days of Our Lives’ which talks about looking back, memories and nostalgic feeling. It’s video was the last project to be worked on by Freddie Mercury on camera and his illness apparent – it provides a startling new meaning in this light.

Looking back I think ‘Innuendo’ has aged incredibly well and still sounds very fresh and modern compared to the bands catalogue. The bands music itself does feel fresh, of course, but the over abundance of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Somebody to Love’ mean you’re less likely to hear cuts from later studio releases; and thus they feel younger (because, strictly speaking, they are) and more progressive (in the case of Innuendo, particularly) than the Punk/DIY attitude of ‘Spread Your Wings’ or the disassociation of ‘The Works’.

In their final few years together, music brought Queen together again, as it had brought them together in the first instance. And for this I’m very pleased to hear Innuendo blast out.

He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands

“I hate to say this because it’s been said a lot, but he’s a once in a generation type of character, that can transcend over. I mean, he’s been a top guy since he’s become Bray Wyatt, whether it’s just promos, and again, he’s a third-generation wrestler, it’s built and ingrained in him.”

Tommy Dreamer on Bray Wyatt, the Fiend

Lately Bray Wyatt has had a resurgence in WWE on par with David Bowie. Just like Bowie launched Ziggy Stardust upon an unsuspecting public in 1972, Wyatt has tapped into the very subconscious of the most frustrated and critical fan of his medium, discovering something which makes them pay attention. After a rather mediocre mid card run alongside Matt Hardy as part of the ‘Deleters of Worlds’ it had become apparent that Wyatt had somewhat stalled in his luster. A self-imposed exile followed, partially caused by injury but also to give Wyatt time to finalize his real life divorce and also prepare for the birth of his child with WWE announcer JoJo Offerman.

A brief interlude in this exodus occurred at Starrcade in November. Itself a rather strange event, this was largely left in silence and the fact Wyatt fought two matches that night – including one in a no DQ against Baron Corbin – looked to be footage WWE wasn’t interested in promoting. It’s certainly not something which found itself mentioned in the abridged version of that show shared on WWE Network some time later.

By all accounts, Wyatt had been off screen officially for almost 7 months when strange promotional videos started to air on WWE programming, a “puppet” of a Buzzard which made reference to some demented future. That programming would turn out to be the now beloved ‘Firefly Funhouse’ which began airing in April 2019 on both Raw and Smackdown. But Bray would be different, with shorter hair and beard, leaner physique and also dressed as a children’s entertainer – the similarities to Pee Wee’s Fun House or Mister Rodgers Neighborhood was immediately evident – as he promised fun, laughter and forgiveness against those who wronged him.

Immediately, these segments set fans hearts racing, both with excitement as to their possible ‘conclusion’ but also because Wyatt was not seen in house. The broadcasts were completely contained to prerecorded segments and there was no mention of an in ring return – with the Internet already alight with rumors over suspected hidden messages and Easter Eggs contained with the promos. Rarely, if ever, had such segments latched into public consciousness. The juxtaposition of 80’s TV culture mixed with nostalgic era wrestling seemed to be exactly what a large proportion of the fan base had been waiting for.

Wyatt later began to reference ‘The Fiend’, a gimmick used to describe his darkest and most troubled thoughts, yet he would refer to it as another entity altogether, giving clear indications of multiple personality disorder and suffering trauma from previous events at the hands of Randy Orton and Finn Balor. The character’s contained within these promos include a rabbit, a pig, a buzzard, a witch and a rather demonized version of WWE’s own CEO Vince McMahon, all of whom are theorized to represent different facets of Bray’s own mind and his continued delusion; bringing forth the question of whether Bray or ‘The Fiend’ is the “real” personality. And also further fueling online discussion on the topic.

Back in the early 90’s, the WWF used its biggest stars sparingly, the main attractions weren’t fighting every week and certainly showed up less than expected. And it worked. The anticipation of what Wyatt would do was what WWE needed to keep fans hooked – using him sparingly, his ‘Fiend’ gimmick even more so – was exactly what was needed. Just because he was “back” didn’t mean he would be in the building or even appearing on TV every week. With Wyatt being a third generation wrestler, this is something his own family would know more than most, his father Mike Rotunda remains one of the most well respected wrestlers from the late 80’s to mid-90’s for his runs in NWA, WWF and later in Japan.

With ‘The Fiend’ however, pandemonium quickly took over, and WWE must have blessed the day they decided to market those Rambling Rabbit puppets and Fiend Plastic Masks. In pure defiance of his “former life” and in a move that would keep everyone talking, The Fiend’s first match led to a battle against Wyatt’s former nemesis Finn Balor at Summerslam – showing there was some residual memory from former times – as ‘The Fiend’ entered the arena with a familiar family lantern; made of Bray Wyatt’s own face.

This kind of self-depreciation and reinvention was not completely alien to Bray. Born Windham Lawrence Rotunda in May 1987, the third generation wrestler briefly wrestled for WWE in 2010/11 under the name Husky Harris – most notably as a member of Nexus. Arguably, any underlying talent he possessed was outshined by the focuses of Wade Barrett and Daniel Bryan, with the stable shifting members consistently over their 14 month existence. Whilst he was allowed to become a member of The New Nexus alongside CM Punk, he was quickly written off television after a kayfabe altercation with Randy Orton. To this day, many forget Wyatt’s original run, largely due to the huge visual difference and lack of prominent storyline afforded to the character.

Returning to FCW to retool, Wyatt began his first foray into gimmickry as the hockey mask Casey Jones esque Axel Mulligan – but this didn’t even make it to FCW TV. After a brief time teaming with his real life brother Bo Dallas he eventually debuted a new character in April 2012; ideally capitalizing on the unofficial clean slate that happens in fans minds post Wrestlemania. The Wyatt Family, led by Bray, were unquestionably a cult of Charles Manson properties – and it’s tales of success in FCW this would lead to another main roster debut for Bray. Feuding with old enemies Randy Orton and John Cena, some of the creepiest promos and weirdest matches ever took place, but perhaps it was all too real?

The Wyatt Family is generally regarded as a stable to be a huge success, with a fantastic storyline arc that kept them in the minds of WWE fans longer than most. But even though their lesser members, such as Luke Harper, even managed to hold the Intercontinental Championship (albeit for 25 days) it was also theorized that they bore too much of a resemblance to the cult like figures and personalities they were attempting to imitate. The group disbanded, as Wyatt focused on his “new face of fear” and then regrouped sometime later. Orton and Wyatt would even team further to form the New Wyatt Family

With politics in the US shifting however, a different focus was needed, and one could argue that the WWE made a decision to exit Wyatt and his family quietly altogether – particularly as the 50th anniversary of Manson’s most infamous activities drew near. And maybe too much of a good thing leaves one wanting…

Undertaker, take note.

His brief teaming with Matt Hardy aside, the Deleters of Worlds were not going to set the business alight, and Wyatt began a shift which would have derailed a lesser man’s career. His backstage antics remain largely shrouded in mystery, but of the details that have since surfaced, it would appear to indicate this was an emotive time for the wrestler and some time off and regrouping is what was needed. Wrestlers time and again have said that life on the road is hard, and having a partner and children at home can be extremely tough, especially given the demands of a busy WWE schedule.
So in another moment of transition, Wyatt became Bray, the smiling happy go lucky entertainer within the Firefly Funhouse. His alter ego ‘The Fiend’ serving to remind us that he’d not forgotten how to fight. Bray and ‘The Fiend’ can be seen like two separate characters, with Bray working so well because he is never in the arena or in the ring, and ‘The Fiend’ working so well specifically because he has been used in such limited format. At the time of printing, dark matches aside, ‘The Fiend’ wrestled his “debut” at Summerslam 2019 and faced Seth Rollins in a controversial match (both on and off kayfabe) for the Universal Championship at Hell in a Cell. That’s just two televised matches in 7 months, one of which was less than 4 minutes long.

Arguments were made that WWE booking ‘The Fiend’ in a Championship match, with the title on the line, devalues the title immensely. Others argue this title was immediately devalued as soon as Goldberg became its holder in 2017. With ‘The Fiend’ built up as such a powerhouse, a title win would make him a largely absent champion – like Brock Lesnar – as his continued appearance and defense would devalue him. At the same time, Seth Rollins Championship loss would devalue the Universal title and Seth Rollins efforts to face Brock Lesnar repeatedly to recapture it.

With Lesnar returned to television on Smackdown, as this brand emigrated to Fox, he quickly proved assumptions right by defeating Kofi Kingston for the Heavyweight Championship on its debut episode. But either way, the Rollins and Fiend matchup at Hell in a Cell caused real problems, as despite not gaining the title it still provided for a poor ending when the referee stopped the match. Something resulting in the fans present at the arena chanting “refund” and even “AEW” time and again.

As reported by Forbes, Raw’s viewership has fallen a dramatic 14% in the past year, and during that time it was Brock Lesnar who – as Universal Champion – was largely absent from our screens.

The Universal Championship serves few purposes, but one clear purpose seems to be that it is the Heavyweight Championships equivalent on Raw. The holder of this belt controls the wind of the show. And giving it to ‘The Fiend’ could have completely devalued the character, the work Bray has done since April and could potentially oversaturate and overexpose the character far too soon. The ending of Hell in a Cell may not have been to everyone’s tastes, granted, but serve a greater purpose of protecting character identity and mystique longer term – who would The Undertaker have been if he’d won the Heavyweight Title in his second ever match. Maybe WWE are starting to take notes?

And yet, just a few days after I’d completed writing this article, The Fiend succeeded in winning the Universal Title from Seth Rollins at WWE Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia. The headlines from that show mentioned the women’s wrestling match that had taken place and the title change as major talking points from the event. What was such an interesting development about this change was that the Fiend, a Smack Down superstar, is now the universal champion on the Raw brand just weeks after WWE promised a real brand split with no crossover between shows. For the briefest of moments, we felt there’d been progress, but alas; no!

If WWE wish to succeed in this mantra they would be wise to follow the adage that less is more, and be reminded of Windham’s own family history, in which his grandfather Blackjack Mulligan took a large payday to appease Vincent McMahon Senior and complete a squash match at a sold out Madison Square Garden in 64 seconds. The crowd “got over” that night, but ultimately, his grandson’s audience need to be all a little wiser for the process.

I’d write more but I feel it would only be out of date by the time I’d finished…

Gary Numan – Newcastle, 02 Academy, September 2019

An interview written for NE Volume in late 2019 which was shortened for publication. Here’s the original, longer, version for your enjoyment.

Fear Factory, Marilyn Manson, Noel Fielding and pretty much anything Trent Reznor has ever committed to tape. These are just a handful of artists who owe their existence to Gary Numan. Numan allegedly took his name from a plumber in the Yellow Pages, and almost forty years to the week began touring as a solo artist, having parted from this band Tubeway Army only a few months prior. Achieving commercial success with ‘Cars’ and ‘Are Friends Electric?’ soon followed, making even his idol David Bowie jealous enough to write a song about him, Numan physically and mentally exhausted; citing a possible farewell from touring in 1981.

Thankfully, Numan warmed to live performance, and I’m personally extremely grateful that he did. The sound of his performance is incredible, his band are well timed and well-rehearsed, and his vocals sound amazing. As he stepped onto the stage he is the picture of health and nowhere near the reality of his sixty one years. His image, as with his voice, are timeless and the sounds made sound as relevant today as they ever have. Interspersed with sound we’re treated to a fantastic multimedia display, reminiscent of Bowie on his ‘Reality Tour’ where image and graphics shroud the band in a digital illumination.

New material is mixed with old, and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were at a Nine Inch Nails concert, the Metal sound his latest work feeling relevant and fresh. Some may criticize the choice of venue, feeling the 02 Academy was too “hip and happening” for an artist of Numan’s caliber, perhaps the Sage a more appropriate venue. But a combination of his insistence on staying relevant and keeping ticket prices affordable lend itself to believing the venue choice is a conscious decision on the artist’s behalf to make his music as accessible as possible. And it works.

It’s almost ironic that whilst his biggest musical fans have almost faded into commercial obscurity, Numan himself is starting to be even more relevant, answering the call that nothing sounds better than the original. Engaging and interactive, his performance is truly electric, and as we’re all friends I guess we’ve answered that question!