BEING THERE: Gary Numan @ The Trocadero


Gary Numan will always be best known for his 1979 hit “Cars,” but his blazing, 19-song set of electro-rock heaviosity at the Trocadero on Sunday night made it abundantly clear that he is not living in the past. Last year, Numan released Splinter, his 20th album and one of his best-received to date, and he is currently touring support of it following a buzz-generating performance at the SXSW 2014. The irony of a man best-known for pioneering electronic music strapping on a Les Paul — in a hail of blinding strobes and industrial bleeps and blips — as his first order of business upon taking the stage Sunday night was not lost him or the audience. Backed by a four-piece band, the 56-year-old Numan, who looks 20 years his junior, spent most of the set slithering up and down his mic stand like an iguana negotiating a greased stripper pole, hanging on for dear life as if it were the only thing keeping him from being sucked into the emotional black hole of his music. Fully half the set was given over to brand new material, which more than held its own against his back catalog. Mournful blue lights strafed the crowd during “Lost,” a fragile but beautiful paen to a love-gone-bad from the new album. As the song ended the iconic synth riff of “Cars” sounded, bringing the crowd back from the depths as the classic he song took on a new life with the guitar and bass dominating the pneumatic quaver of the keyboards and Numan dropping the detached icy vocals of the record for a much more emotive and immediate singing style. The man who was once happy to ride out a life time in the driver’s seat now sings like a man who wants to let the ghost out of the machine. — PETE TROSHAK