Milton Keynes

We arrive in Milton Keynes about an hour ahead of schedule (to our delight), which gives us plenty of time to look around. I'm quickly enveloped in a feeling of homesickness, because Milton Keynes looks and feels just like any modern Canadian (or American) city, and bears some striking similarities to my home town of Calgary (after you overlook the fact that they still drive on the wrong side of the road here). It's open and airy, and designed from the ground up with the motor car in mind (unlike the large majority of the rest of the UK). There are parks and grass everywhere, and the shopping mall (or "arcade") we walk through is absolutely huge, over 1 kilometre in length. Others on the tour found Milton Keynes to be less pleasant than I did - it was described as stark, cold, and bleak (lots of glass and concrete), and even being described as the Twilight Zone ("You are now in Milton Keynes. You will never leave."), but I can't really blame 'em for this - it's like being in another country and that can be very off-putting.

What was off-putting, though, was the venue: the Milton Keynes Woughton Centre. Sounds like a nifty place: in fact, it's a recreational complex, and Gary playing in a gymnasium smaller than the one at my high school in Calgary. Indeed, we wound up with a very, very stripped down stage show. The only thing that survived almost-intact was the light-show... the stage, the stairs, the pillars, and some of the lights had to be left behind because there just wasn't room.

The opening band was called Inertia and I've been warned that they'll likely exceed Cubanate for badness. I stick around for the first song or so... and while I don't find it quite as bad, it certainly isn't good. I'm still kinda sick, so I retire to the bar (in the gymnasium next door) and wait for Gary's show to begin.

To be honest, I'm expecting a bit of a let-down because of the reduced set. But Gary, ever the trouper, isn't about to let it bother him, and it's quickly apparent that I've nothing to worry about. He comes out strong as ever, and the reduced lighting show (to my surprise) actually works BETTER with this reduced set... the result is a surprisingly good and INTIMATE show. I begin the show watching from the rear but gradually move forward, getting a feel of the crowd at each stop along the way. No matter where I was, it was like I could reach out and touch the stage.

The crowd, however, was disappointing at the beginning. It seemed less of a Numan crowd than a bunch of people who couldn't afford to go on holiday this Easter weekend and decided to kill a Saturday night at whatever concert happened to be in town. Indeed, until "Are 'Friends' Electric", the response is quite disappointing... not much dancing, and only scattered hand-claps. But from this point on (kicked off by a well-known and well-loved song of course), the crowd begins to become much more energetic. Indeed, during the first encore, Gary pays them a nice compliment, saying that the previous night's show had been the one filmed but he wished they'd filmed this one instead.

Back at the hotel, we run into a bit of a problem... namely, not enough seating for everybody. There are fewer people than the night before but there's a lot of folks standing because there's barely any seating. Indeed, Gary puts in only a very brief appearance, and leaves after again getting mobbed (a la the XL Club back in Birmingham). This is a bit of a disappointment, not only for me, but for another Canadian fan that I've bumped into, a fellow from London, Ontario named Andy McKenzie. He satisfies himself with meeting Rob Harris and Richard Beasley, and even gets his photo taken with them... these men are extremely gracious. Andy satisfies himself with the fact that he has already met Gary briefly back in Southampton, at the signing session in a local HMV record store.