One of the downsides of the new romantic movement is that its groups tended to be more exciting in a video or in the studio than they were in the live arena. One of the rare exceptions to this rule was Gary Numan, a performer whose canny blend of synthesizer textures and conventional rock band instrumentation allowed his music to translate itself to a live format with ease. As a result, he was a popular concert attraction in his native England and listeners can get a good idea of his live skills with Living Ornaments '79. This album, the full set from a September 1979 performance at the Hammersmith Odeon, finds Numan taking a generous selection of tunes from all his albums up to that point and delivering them with a carefully controlled mixture of style and power. Many of the songs are much more energetic than their studio counterparts: the muscular rhythm guitar riffs that propel "Something's in the House" take on a new power in the live arena, and "Me I Disconnect From You" runs twice as fast as its studio incarnation. Other songs on Living Ornaments '79 benefit from new arrangements; the most notable transformation in this area is "Bombers," which is transformed from the fast, guitar-based punk-pop of its studio version into an atmospheric, ballad-paced track where spacy synthesizers replace the guitar riffs. Numan also turns in a surprisingly effective cover of "On Broadway" that culminates in an unexpected, electic violin solo. The remainder of the tracks continue in the same vein as these highlights, effectively mixing live energy with the icy electronic affectations that make Numan's studio classics so interesting. In short, Living Ornaments '79 is a solid live document of Gary Numan in his hitmaking prime and a worthwhile supplement to his studio work for fans.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2