From Birmingham, we travel by coach to Manchester. I've been rather impressed by everything I've seen up to now, but after we arrive I find I agree with everyone on the coach - Manchester is the absolute armpit of the UK. Kinda like downtown Edmonton. :-) Sasha's Hotel looked like a real seedy dump from the outside, but turned out to be extremely pleasant on the inside... until we began running into niggly little problems. For example, Matthew had to leave a £20 deposit with the front desk before he could place a phone call from our room (a modem call to update his Nu-Zone web site). They also tried to charge us for our free breakfast the following morning (which, incidentally, was abysmal), and didn't provide the bar services that we had contracted for until Peter Gilbert (the tour organizer) started barking loud and long.

We took a taxi to the show (pun intended) because we wanted to get there early, in order to get a spot on the front row. Tonight's show is being filmed, and we all want to be in Gary's next video release. As we entered the Labatt's Apollo, the film crews were outside capturing the moment. One cameraman came right up to me and followed me at close range for about 6 or 7 yards.

Once inside, Matthew, Jason, and Kirsten quickly located choice positions against the front railing. I follow, but quickly realize that I'm just not gonna be able to hold out for the whole concert way up there, being crushed from behind. I'm a little claustrophic to begin with and I'm also being battered internally by what we're affectionately calling "Gary's Cold", which has gone through quite a few of us on the coach. I retire back to the balcony seat as allocated on my ticket.

I was told not to expect much of the opening band, Let Loose. They're known as a teeny-bopper type of dance band and we're expecting lots of 12-year-old girls in the audience screaming for their heroes. This may all have been true, but the band that stepped onto the stage delivered a great performance that was at once forward-looking yet also honored time-tested rock and roll traditions, including a well-done cover of Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love". The singer appointed himself Master Of Ceremonies and showed that he could really win over a hostile crowd: initially, the Numanoid fans were not responding to the performance but they eventually got into it, with the singer exhorting them to clap hands a la Numan. Turns out that the drummer is a major Numanoid himself, who between songs sent the crowd into a tizzy by playing the opening drum bit from "Films" (and the whole band started into two other Numan songs later on before stopping and confessing they were just pulling our legs).

This was a great performance of good old fashioned rock and roll, and NOT the teeny-bopper dance crap that we expected. We definitely got our money's worth, and this band really deserves some extra credit when you consider that this was not their normal sort of audience. They themselves headlined their own show one night later and packed ten thousand fans into the venue.

And then Numan & Co. hit the stage. As I said, I'm up on the balcony this time, a bit further back and quite a bit further up than I've been so far. Any doubts I had about the quality of the seats evaporated after just one song. The full stage set has returned (including pillars) and the light show is absolutely incredible... rather than being in an inferior position, it seems that I've got the best possible vantage point. Gary also has the use of a large amount of stage area to move around in (unlike some past performances), and he's a performer that makes good use of every inch of it. After all, we're here for a show, not just the music - and the show is the best one I've seen to date. Gary seems particularly fired up - I'm regretting leaving my camera back in the hotel room for this show because I would have gotten some incredible shots. Then again, I'm going to be able to buy a video of this later this year (as will you) - I'll settle for that, happily. Crowd response was mostly excellent, although there were a few pockets of Let Loose fans who tended to respond only to Gary's more well known songs, which this time around meant "Are 'Friends' Electric?" and "Cars". However, by the time we reached the encores, just about everyone was in the party mood and doing their best to imitate the Numanoid arms-in-the-air and assorted handclaps. Gary and the band bowed together to the crowd before leaving the stage after the two encores, having received three standing ovations.

I also discovered that the "black-lights" that Gary uses extensively tended to make the large flaming-C logo on the front of my shirt stand out like a searchlight in the crowd: nearly every member of the band mentioned to me after the show that they had spotted me in the crowd quite clearly. Maybe I'll be on the video... :-)

We Look For Things...
Things That Make Us Go
Here's Some Excellent Advice:
Don't Smoke While Shooting Photos!

We take the coach back to the hotel (with me stopping briefly to buy some bootleg posters from out front of the Apollo) and head downstairs to the pub... which is closed. We don't care, we buy drinks from the pub next door and bring 'em back. And as usual, about an hour and a half later Gary makes his appearance. This time I sit back and relax - Gary's in a large crowd of people and I'm still feeling unwell, no point giving Gary his cold back. (Grin!) In fact, I bail out early and go to bed, although not before meeting Paul Denman (author of The Numan Complex web site) and friend and having some interesting conversations with them. TJ Davis also put in an appearance - she's still one of the finest looking ladies I've ever seen, not to mention a GREAT singer!