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Gary Numan Live at The Mystic

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Gary Anthony James Webb, known professionally as Gary Numan, is an English musician born in West London in 1958. Diagnosed with Aspergers syndrome at 14, and again as an adult he says, it made perfect sense to him because he's always had trouble interacting with others. He was considered to be arrogant, and cold but it may have well been the Aspergers, not arrogance. But it helped create his image onstage in music.

When Numan was 15, his father bought him a Gibson Les Paul, which became his most treasured possession. He briefly played in various bands and looked through ads in Melody Maker for bands to join. He unsuccessfully auditioned as guitarist for the then-unknown band the Jam before joining Mean Street and the Lasers, where he met Paul Gardiner. The latter band would soon become Tubeway Army, with his uncle Jess Lidyard on drums and Gardiner on bass. And he picked his last name from a random plumber in the phone book!

He entered the music industry as frontman of the new wave band Tubeway Army. After releasing two albums with the band, he released his debut solo album The Pleasure Principle in 1979, topping the UK Albums Chart.

© Cheryl Alterman Photography 2023

In the mid to late seventies, Sheffield had an electronic music scene with Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League as well as others. And so did Manchester with Joy Division leading the way. But nothing like that was happening in London. One day out of the blue Gary Numan decided to record an album with only synths. A huge departure after the more guitar-driven sound of Tubeway Army, (Gary Numan's first band). And just like that, Gary Numan became a "Synth pop pioneer."

Making punk rock with guitars is visceral and chaotic. Synths require precision. Especially in the 70's...synths were not easy to program and play. Basically 180 degrees away from punk rock. So he rode into the music industry on the genre of the "new wave'.

As an electronic music pioneer, his creation has eaten the world. Now, AI is emerging as a new frontier for music creation and production. There are fears that computers could replace composers. I wanted to ask Numan about how he feels about computers making the music in future with AI, but unfortunately couldn't get an interview. After all he was kind of a pioneer for computer generated music at the beginning of it all and he didn't even know it.

Gary Numan has had a tremendous career and has sold over 10 million records. He has collaborated with numerous artists. He has won the Ivor Novello award and is considered a pioneer in electronic music. He also at one time owned his own airline. He either wanted to be a pilot or a pop star. When he broke in the music industry and made good money, he bought his first airplane, a Cessna 182 in 1980, for £12,000. In 1981, Numan founded Numanair, a small charter flight company. He even successfully flew around the world!

In 1979 Numans' single "Cars" reached No 1 in the UK, and also found great success in the North American charts and spent two weeks at Number 1 in Canada and Number 9 in the U.S. in 1980. The album, The Pleasure Principle was a rock album without guitars. Instead he used all synthesizers. He got two singles from that album. "Complex" made it to number 6 in the UK on top of the success that "Cars" had on both sides of the pond.

© Cheryl Alterman Photography 2023

This show at The Mystic in Petaluma was not what I was expecting at all. I was expecting a little droning of synthesizers and monotony. Like the concerts I've seen of his, back in the early eighties. I was so very wrong. This gig was anything but boring. It was not metal, nor was it punk, nor was it synth. The closest I can get to a description may be a melodic metal without the death metal vibe. It was both captivating and had a great beat thanks to drummer, Jimmy Lucido. To be honest, when I went to a Gary Numan show in the early eighties I went to see the opening band which most of the time was a great rock band (rock/soul/R&B/funk) called The Bus Boys. Synth was ok but a little boring with no beat, (for me). Drums have always been my thing so if it didn't have a great rock or punk drum beat it did not interest me much. So back in Numans' hey day, I was always less interested in him as I was the band that I really went to see, The Bus Boys. However, I'm happy to report that in 2023 in Petaluma at The Mystic Theater gig that all changed. The show was exciting and the music was great. I actually really liked it a lot, even, "Cars" had a newer exciting rhythm to it. Maybe it was the drums? I don't know. Numans' movements onstage and his facial expressions, along with his cool attire was fantastic to capture through my lens and I'm happy to say that I'd go to another Gary Numan show again any day! It was great!

After sharing a few of the photos of the Numan gig, a friend of mine from Michigan told me that the drummer from his band, Electric 6 and Numan share the same drummer, Jimmy Lucido from Detroit. And Jimmy was great at this show at the Mystic. A good solid drummer always makes the show better for me, and Jimmy did just that!

© Cheryl Alterman Photography 2023

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