Gary Numan

Living Ornaments '81

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When Beggars Banquet rolled out its reissue program for Numan in the late '90s, the limited edition Living Ornaments '79 album got a thorough clean-up and expansion for CD, but the tapes for Living Ornaments '80 couldn't be located for a similar job. The upshot was the appearance of this previously unavailable recording -- which turned out to be a good thing, since Living Ornaments '81 easily ranks as Numan's best live album, as well as arguably being one of the best live rock albums ever. High praise, perhaps, but the two-hour document of what at the time was billed as Numan's final show (like what happened with his hero David Bowie, it was a bit of a premature claim) in front of a packed, obsessive London crowd at Wembley Arena starts off great and doesn't stop. Numan's core band of the time had both the ability and the power to readily translate and often cleverly reinterpret the music, whether exquisitely delicate to brutally thrashing, to stadium-scale heights, while Numan himself, in his own uniquely quiveringly-voiced way, matched them just right. His occasional between-song comments show he still had his sense of humor and courtesy intact -- the brief chuckle of "Woops!" before "Cars" in particular is priceless. The song selection, meanwhile, is faultless, a perfect summation of Replicas, The Pleasure Principle, and Telekon, not to mention a striking rearrangement of "Everyday I Die" and two tracks from the then unreleased Dance, "She's Got Claws" and a fine, shorter version of "Cry the Clock Said" featuring Nash the Slash on violin. The audience's endless charge helps takes things even higher -- hearing them break out into the lead lyrics on the relatively obscure album cuts "Tracks" and "Please Push No More" without prompting is a clear sign that full-on obsession was at work. Clean, powerful sound throughout (a mono mix of "Conversation" aside) perfectly tops off this worthy effort.

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