Of the millions that are watching, few would’ve recognised that this moment foreshadows the shape of music to come, from synth-pop to industrial and alt-pop. That, however, can’t stop it igniting the imagination of an audience that would swell into a devoted following.
Fast-forward to January, 2021. Numan’s latest single ‘Intruder’ pulsates ominously as if it’s soundtracking an imminent threat. As austere synths loom like shadows and industrial beats are detonated, the beguiling hook towers like a beacon in the darkness. It’s visionary and venomous, with a narrative that imagines the Earth growing angry at mankind's actions, and more than willing to fight back. In the accompanying video, Numan looks even more out of time than he did back in 1979, like an intergalactic refugee fighting for his own existence.
Those two songs show how Numan has consistently fought against the grain to stick resolutely to his creative vision. In a career that spans over forty years, the music evolves and the themes change. But fans remain fascinated by Numan for the very fact that he’s so uncompromising.
Any story charting four decades will be a mixed blessing of momentous highs and meagre lows. The achievements are remarkable for someone who never made any concessions to mainstream success. Seven Top 10 singles, including ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ and the debut solo hit ‘Cars’; seven Top 10 albums, three of which topped the charts; and huge critical acclaim, most notably with the Inspiration Award at the prestigious Ivor Novellos.
Naturally, there were times when Numan was very much not in vogue. Sure, there would be ripples of rediscovery but there were years when his increasingly conceptual albums were primarily embraced by hardcore fans. He wasn’t troubling the charts, but audiences were still flocking to see him perform - almost every UK tour would include a sold-out show at the 5000 capacity Hammersmith Apollo.
Gradually, though, praise from Nine Inch Nails, Prince and David Bowie led to a reappraisal of his work. And that has been magnified in recent years with Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Dave Grohil citing him as an influence.
And so, a new narrative emerged. An unlikely icon returned to the top while making music that was darker, fiercer and more inventive than ever.
‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ set the ball rolling by peaking at #20 in 2013, its precise, post-industrial sound delving into Numan’s experiences with depression. He started a new deal with BMG in 2017 and released ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’, an album which depicted earth as a barren wasteland in which humanity and culture had been largely crushed by the effects of global warming.
His forthcoming album ‘Intruder’ presents a fresh but complementary narrative. It’s a philosophical examination of a potential future apocalypse: the planet can only survive by purging its inhabitants.
Numan explains: “‘Intruder’ looks at climate change from the planet’s point of view. If Earth could speak, and feel things the way we do, what would it say? How would it feel? The songs, for the most part, attempt to be that voice, or at least try to express what I believe the earth must feel at the moment.
The planet sees us as its children now grown into callous selfishness, with a total disregard for it’s well being. It feels betrayed, hurt and ravaged. Disillusioned and heartbroken it is now fighting back. Essentially, it considers human kind to be a virus attacking the planet. Climate change is the undeniable sign of the Earth saying enough is enough, and finally doing what it needs to do to get rid of us, and explaining why it feels it has to do it.”
Partially written and recorded during lockdown, it’s no surprise that current circumstances have been assimilated into its themes. It’s especially evident in ‘The Gift’, which evolves from a sparse introduction into a resonant Middle-Eastern sonic motif. It imagines Covid-19 as the first weapon that the planet deploys in order to eradicate mankind and once again flourish.
While anger and vengeance rage in its opening chapters, ‘Intruder’ charts a wider spectrum of emotions. ‘Is This World Not Enough’ and ‘A Black Sun’ exude regret and then despair that this fate could’ve been avoided. The finale presents a black-hearted double-bill to bring the curtain down on the tale. First ‘Now And Forever’ offers a hope of eternity in the end days during its theatrical intensity, before the sparse, sorrowful ‘The End Of Dragons’ ends on the chilling reminder that what’s broken can’t always be fixed.
Collectively the album proves that Numan’s creative spark shows no sign of being extinguished.
That’s just a snapshot of the tale behind one of music’s most singular talents. The full story can be found in Numan’s critically acclaimed autobiography ‘(R)evolution’, which The Observer described as an, “exhaustive, entertaining and often poignant life story.” What comes next will surely be just as intriguing.
Vaccine Policy and Mask Mandate for Park West
With our return to live concerts and our commitment to producing safe events, all patrons will need to show proof of vaccination (must be 2 weeks past final dose) or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours from the time of entry along with a government issued photo ID. Proof of vaccination can only include a CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card, a clear photocopy or digital photo of the CDC card. Fans who have either (1) a medical condition, or (2) a closely-held religious belief that prevents vaccination, can still attend the concert by showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test performed within the previous 72 hours that matches the government issued photo ID. Taking this step helps to ensure the safety of our guests, staff, and the artists, and implementing this simple measure minimizes risk and the spread of the virus. We encourage you to get vaccinated if you have not already!
Following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and based on Chicago’s current local COVID-19 data, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is requiring that everyone age two or older, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public indoor settings, effective Friday, August 20, 2021. A non-vented N95 mask or other well-fitted mask is strongly recommended to provide maximum protection. We will not allow a scarf, ski mask, balaclava, bandana, turtleneck, collar, single layer of fabric, or any mask that has an unfiltered one-way exhaust valve.
An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any place where people gather. COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. You assume all risks, hazards, and dangers arising from or relating in any way to the risk of contracting COVID-19 or any other communicable disease or illness, or a bacteria, virus or other pathogen capable of causing a communicable disease or illness, whether occurring before, during, or after the event, however caused or contracted, and voluntarily waive all claims and potential claims against Jam Productions, Ltd. and the Park West (including Park West Inc., 322 W. Armitage Associates L.P., Standing Room Only, Inc. and Attitude Adjustment) relating to such risks.