Synthesizers and Spanish Revival: Gary Numan at The Madrid Theater

Welcome again, my wacky watchers of wildly written words! Tuesday evening saw me released from my cage again to bring you tales from Kansas City’s finest concerts. And I wouldn’t be able to bring you such tales if it wasn’t for our fearless leader, Josh. Rhymes with mosh, but he doesn’t do that, on account of the expensive camera gear and his secret super-human strength.

Tuesday found Josh and I heading to the heart of Kansas City to visit the historic Madrid Theater. A smaller theater than Uptown or Midland, yet no less grandiose, the Madrid is seeped in history dating back to it’s opening in 1926. Saved from the wrecking ball in 1983, and re-opened as a venue in 2001, The Madrid welcomed back throngs of eager concert goers and has been looking good ever since.  

If you knew nothing of the history of this venue, you’d still be welcomed by the theaters two easily accessible bars. Seating towards the stage is standing room only, but a grand U-shaped balcony upstairs provides a view from anywhere with cozy seating and a first-class concert experience. Whatever ticket purchased, be it general admission or maybe something a bit fancier, the raised stage ensures that nobody is left from the view of the show.

The historic and old-world feel to The Madrid Theater was in stark contrast with the dreamy, other-worldly sounds of Nightmare Air, and Gary Numan’s brooding, sci-fi dance fest.  After the doors were opened, fans from seemingly every background, age, and style preference gathered on the floor and balcony; electricity filled the air in anticipation for the night yet to come.

Leading off the show was the three-piece band, Nightmare Air. Hailing from Los Angeles, Nightmare Air debuted in 2013 and has been busy ever since. They’ve shared the stage with the likes of The Cult, Fishbone, The Dandy Warhols, and many, many more. Swaan Miller enchants the bass guitar as well as vocals, Dave Dupuis joins Swaan on vocals and constructs enormous pillars of guitar energy, and Jimmy Lucido provides big time beats.

This merry band of three puts out the sound and energy of bands with three times the members. Weaving in dark droning beats with layered vocal harmonies, enormous guitar sounds, explosive drums, and a generous helping of dance inducing synth, Nightmare Air delighted the crowd with energetic set, and closed with fresh material. Nightmare Air’s energy, tenacity, and dedication to the craft will ensure that this trio will see continued success and hopefully more stops to Kansas City. Apologies to the readers and band – I failed to get a setlist, but I assure you that it was killer.

Headlining this symphony of synth was the legendary Gary Numan. Numan gained notoriety fronting Tubeway Army and having the first synthesizer-based number-one hit with “Are Friends Electric”. After going solo, Numan found continued success with the ever-popular song “Cars” and has continued to write, compose, and produce music with a dedicated following to back him up.

Numan exploded to the stage with “Everything Comes Down to This”. Backed by his touring band, Numan and crew took to the stage wearing what appeared to torn and tattered garments from post-apocalyptic future. Adding to the energy was a dazzling show of fog and coordinated strobe lights, pulsing upon the stage, making Numan and his crew writhe about the stage like synth infused demons. “Metal” from Numan’s debut solo record “The Pleasure Principle” continued the energy. Midway through the set, the lights switched to a nostalgic shade of pink and turquoise, and Numan blasted through synth worlds eminent hit “Cars”, and later switched back to a more dark and futuristic sound, and wrapped up the set with Tubeway Army’s hit “Are Friends Electric” Not to vanish just yet, Numan emerged for an encore performance and finished the night with “The Fall” and “A Prayer for the Unborn”

Numan’s sound is reminiscent of the soundtrack of a cyber dystopia. He’s popularized the entire commercial electronica genre and has influenced countless famous artists such as David Grohl, Trent Reznor, and Marilyn Manson. With seemingly endless energy and dedication to his well honed craft, Numan will continue to shape electronica, and furthermore, anything with heavy synth.

Gary Numan’s Setlist:

  1. Everything Comes Down to This
  2. Metal
  3. Halo
  4. Films
  5. Bed of Thorns
  6. Down in the Park
  7. Pray for the Pain You Serve
  8. My Name Is Ruin
  9. Here in the Black
  10. Cars
  11. Mercy
  12. Love Hurt Bleed
  13. Me! I Disconnect From You
  14. When the World Comes Apart
  15. Are ‘Friends’ Electric?


  1. The Fall
  2. A Prayer for the Unborn

Words by Dallas Hessel
Photos by Josh Chaikin

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