We arrive at the Jarvis International Heathrow Hotel, and indeed we're almost directly underneath the approach to the airport (making things a tad noisy, but otherwise it's a very nice hotel). We strike out in search of some decent food near the hotel, settling for a sandwich at the local Esso station (another reminder of back home).
We jump on the coach and head on down to the Labatt's Apollo (formerly the Hammersmith Odeon) to take in Gary's final show of the tour. For me, this is bittersweet: on the one hand, I'm finally going to see Gary perform at *THE* Numan venue - the place where so many live albums and videos have been recorded. On the other hand, it's the last one. After this, it's all over.
Before we enter the venue, we have a group photograph taken in front of the coach, and I manage also to get Peter Gilbert and Francis Drake (our hosts on the Tour) to pose along with Vic the driver.
The concert kicks off, again, with Cubanate opening the show. For a change, they were merely annoying rather than intensely irritating. The band performs just as strongly as on previous outings but the lead singer tones down his anti-social antics quite a bit - and at least now I can see what he's trying to accomplish. THIS performance I can at least respect, even though it certainly isn't my kind of music. I gotta tip my hat - if a fan of this type of music were in the house, they would have enjoyed a fine show. Me, I simply endured it.
And then the big event started. And what a show! Gary and the
band pulled out all the stops - while they were merely fired up
on past outings, tonight they were on rocket fuel. I assume this
had to do with the fact that it WAS the last performance, and it
was in front of Gary's "home crowd" (kinda like when you follow
your favorite hockey team - the games they play in other cities
are great, but the ones they play in the home arena are extra
special to everyone). This crowd is very definitely Numan's -
they're spirited and they're enjoying every
second. There is a feeling of magic in the air, that we're
watching something very, very special, that will never come
again. Numan will tour again, and he'll be great again, but it
will never be THIS show again. This is an event to be
remembered, and believe me, we will.
The only flaw to the show is the fact that Gary's show is wedged in between performances of a stage show at the Apollo, and certain stage elements of that show could not be removed. As a result, a few items from Gary's show had to be dispensed with... for example, the stairs (again). Gary himself apologized for this and said "we'll try to give you a good show". We were totally non-plussed... the mood we were in, Gary and the band could have been sitting on cardboard boxes and we wouldn't have noticed. That said, however, the light and stage show was, again, absolutely brilliant, despite the fact that Gary again was limited to pretty much moving left and right on the stage (with about six feet forward and backward in which to work). Crowd favourites were the usual suspects ("Cars", "Are 'Friends' Electric?", etc.) as well as a few others that really showed the hard-core Numanoid makeup of the crowd: I noticed the crowd singing along to such classics as "Films", "Me! I Disconnect From You" and "Are You Real?", as well as newer songs like "Love And Napalm", "A Question Of Faith", and "Bleed" - which set this crowd somewhat apart from the other shows I saw on the tour.
The show's end was highly emotional... for me, for everyone in the audience, for the band, for Gary. It's all over but the great memories and the love... the love we have for Gary and the love he has for us (don't kid yourself - this is one performer who really does care about his fans a great deal). And let's not forget the band - they're as caught up in all of this as any of us are. I spoke with both David Brooks and Rob Harris and they both tell me that they were not quite expecting anything quite like this: for them, this has been an experience of a lifetime... one that this reviewer at least hopes that they can repeat. They both redeemed themselves admirably in filling some very, very large shoes (Kipper and John Webb), doing so not by trying to replace their predecessors but by trying to succeed them - there is a difference.
And of course we had Richard Beasley and Ade Orange as the experienced hands, yet experience doesn't seem to have dulled the thrill - they clearly enjoy what they're doing for a living, and to my way of thinking there's nothing more you can ask from your job. These fellas have found something special here, and you can see it in their eyes every time they play... just as you feel it in your own heart as you listen.
Back at the hotel, a tremendous spirit of camaraderie quickly settles in on all present (including Gary and the band, who arrive about an hour and a half after the end of the show). Names and addresses are exchanged, and promises are made to see each other soon. And I find that I've subconsciously reached a decision - I will be back. In the six short days that I've been touring with these people, they've become close friends, almost family. This is something that one should never let slip away, whatever the cost - yes, I will be back again. And again. And again. Whatever it takes, whatever luxuries I have to sacrifice to pay for plane, train, and coach tickets, I will definitely be back, as often as possible.
And that pretty much wraps it all up. I'd like to add, for the record, that I really owe a lot to Matthew Holbrook. As I said at the top, he handled all my organizing, he purchased the tickets, he took care of all the details, and he's been a great friend and advisor on "the world of Numan". He's put up with my incessant chattering on the differences I've noticed between the UK and Canada (and/or differences in the UK between now and my last visit in 1979), he's let me drag him into pizza restaurants and burger joints, and he's even bought me drinks and meals. Plus, and most of all, he puts up with my cigarette smoking like a real trouper (grin!). I know I would have had a good time coming over here without Matthew's help, but having that help has transformed a "good" time into an absolutely brilliant one, an experience that I most certainly will never, ever forget.
Matthew, I owe you so much that I feel I can never repay my debt...
but that won't stop me from trying.