Sunday, September 23, 2018

Nightmare Air and Gary Numan

Earlier in the year, when all things still seemed possible, Denise asked me if I had any interest in seeing Gary Numan with her in the city. Truthfully, I didn't. The only song I even knew by Gary Numan was "Cars", and even that is a song I've always thought was just OK. (I had to check right now to see if I even had it on my iPod, and I currently have almost 32,000 songs on my iPod.) And I've certainly kvetched enough on these pages about how much of a hassle it feels like to drag myself into the city.

But I could tell that Denise really wanted to go, so just for the hell of it, I did a little research into the opening act to see if they would sweeten the pot a little bit. They sounded right up my alley -- an alternative pop band with a good female lead singer, definitely worth exploring further. So based on that, I told her to go for it, with the stipulation that we had to get in there in time to see the opening act (I'm still haunted by the Erasure debacle), and also had to make sure that this was at a club that at least had handicap seating (which we did).

It was kind of a dicey proposition -- right up until the last minute, I wasn't sure if things in the house were such that we'd be able to risk both of us going out together for a night (especially to a location we couldn't get back home quickly from if we needed to), or if I was going to have to ask her to give my ticket to a friend (like I did when she went on the Depeche Mode-themed night cruise). But it was a reasonably quiet week, and my daughter was going to be home to provide some kind of supervision (even though I knew she was going to torture me by joking about cocaine and strippers), so we went for it.

I listened to the latest album by the opening band all week leading up to the show. It's a 2018 album, so it will be in contention for my end-of-the-year best-of lists. And I even grabbed the opportunity to listen to Gary Numan's latest album once on Thursday or Friday. Much to my surprise, I found that I liked it. I'll describe his sound more when I talk about the concert, but suffice it to say that I've always just seen him as a less interesting version of Howard Jones or Thomas Dolby. I'm happy to say that there's more to him than that.

We got into the city pretty easily for once, with just the barest trace of traffic. Then we found our way downtown to Irving Plaza, a club I've never been to before. Denise had reserved parking beforehand, so that was also pretty easy -- we were parked right around the corner from the club.

The tickets said 7PM, so were on line before six. We hit a minor snag when Denise discovered that the tickets, which she thought were of the show-your-phone variety, were actually supposed to have been printed out at home. But a quick talk with the box office resolved that, as they printed them out for us. We asked about handicapped seating, and they told us to be there a half an hour before the doors were supposed to open, and they'd seat us early. Unfortunately, they also told us that 7PM was when the doors opened, not when the show started, so we had time to kill.

We walked up to the corner, and found a Chinese restaurant that wasn't at all crowded. It had a big sign in the window that said "GRADE PENDING", which made Denise a little nervous. But I figured what the heck, Manhattan has some of the best hospitals in the world, so we went for it. I'd eaten a sandwich on the way in to keep my blood sugar level up, so I wasn't that hungry. I just ordered some dumplings, and (at Denise's invitation), picked a little the chicken on her dish. It wasn't bad. I hope they get a good grade.

We went back out to the club at 6:40, twenty minutes before the door was supposed to open. At this point, they told us they'd have to get someone from security to come out and seat us. By the time they got us up and sitting (we were passed back and forth through about four different people, and there was a snafu with an elevator that I won't even get into), we'd been standing for about 30 minutes, which is about as much as I can handle, and way more than I'd have liked to have handled -- my legs were numb. We were seated in a (very) small handicapped area in the left corner of the balcony, where there was room for maybe five chairs tops. (Maybe if more people had requested handicapped seating, they'd have set another row behind us, I don't know.) The bottom line is I think the club wants to be able to tell the city they're handicap-accessible, so they don't get hassled, but they really kind of hope people who need handicapped seating don't show up. The staff was polite enough, and we had an excellent view. But because of how long I wound up standing, and how the seats, while better than nothing, had no back support and left me sore all night and the next day, I don't think I'd go back there. (I'd be more likely to try Terminal 5 again, where we saw OMD back during the winter.)

The venue felt pretty small to me. Wikipedia lists the capacity as 1,200. And although the show wasn't a sellout, by the time Gary Numan took the stage, the entire dance floor below us was packed, so that the odds were if you passed out, you wouldn't fall over until the crowd disbursed at the end of the show. (At one point during the show, when an annoying old hippie kept clinging to the back of my chair and screaming "Play that guitar, Gary!", I fantasized about my dream club. There would be soft reclining chairs, spread at least six feet apart from one another, with maybe a few scattered love seats for the couples. No standing in between chairs would be allowed. Yes, we'd probably have to charge about six hundred bucks a ticket to make up for the smaller crowds, but oh, the comfort! I'd name it after myself: "Curmudgeon's - the club for people who like their personal space".)

Prior to the show, we chatted with a very pleasant New Jersey woman named Vicki who was about our age, and goes to shows at least as often as we do. (She'd actually been at Irving Plaza earlier in the week for Killing Joke.) We also met up with our friend Tim, from Denise's WLIR Facebook group. He had spent the day in the city with his daughter, before randomly running into Larry the Duck on a Manhattan subway platform.

The opening band, Nightmare Air, took the stage at precisely 8PM. They're a 3-piece from Los Angeles, who employed a keyboard track on at least one song, and had a guest keyboardist join them for another. They have a female lead singer with a very pretty, ethereal voice (named Swaan Miller) who sings most of the leads. However, their guitarist Dave Dupuis sings also, and seems to do most of the talking for the band. They released their most recent album, Fade Out, this past March. They've been opening for Numan all over Europe, and seemed stoked to be playing for a New York crowd. They played most of my favorite songs from the new album, including "Who's Your Lover" (which I'm guessing is the main single). As opposed to Reed & Caroline, who I really like, but who seem to have left most of the Erasure crowd mystified back in July, these guys really went over well with the Gary Numan crowd. Tim and Vicki both enjoyed them too, as did Denise.

Numan and his band went on right about 9PM. Again, because my only familiarity with Numan was the heavily-synthesized "Cars", I'd always thought Numan was a keyboard player, a la Howard Jones. But he played with four other musicians, including a keyboard player, while he mostly just sang or occasionally played a little guitar. In addition to Numan, two of the other musicians were mic'd for vocals.

Numan and his band, have a heavy, gothic sound, utilizing the kind of dark, distorted keyboard sounds that I usually associate with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, except that I actually like what Numan does with it a lot better. He had an excellent light show (although it became a little oppressive during the encore.) In the notes I jotted on my cell phone, I wrote, "Sweeping goth synths, with traces of Middle Eastern influences," and "daggers of light going up and down." Numan didn't talk much -- Tim commented that he's known for being a shy person, and according to Wikipedia, he's actually been diagnosed with a mild case of Asperger's Syndrome. But he let his music speak for him.

Honestly, I wish I'd been a lot more familiar with the material. It's always hard to fully get into a band when the music isn't known to you. As it was, I enjoyed the show a lot, but I think if I'd have known the songs better, it would have been one of the concerts of the year. The best song of the night was a number from the new album called "My Name Is Ruin" that Numan performs with his 11-year-old daughter. You should hear the voice on this kid. They made an official video for the song, but it doesn't really give you a full idea of how her voice fills the room in between his verses. Instead, look for the live version they have posted on YouTube. Ironically, I thought "Cars" was one of the lesser songs of the night. He did one or two other older ones too, but I liked the newer material much better.

As the crowd was disbursing, we ran into Denise and Tim's friend Veronica, from their WLIR group, and who was with Sean and Dan Crusher from the mighty Long Island punk rock band Jones Crusher. I made plans to hopefully catch up with Crusher when they play a pre-Thanksgiving show at Beery's in November. Then everyone headed home.

You can find the setlist for Gary Numan at Gary Numan's setlist, and the setlist for Nightmare Air at Nightmare Air's setlist.