The John Shinnick Web Site

Shin the Musician (Prior)

Last update: March 7, 2022

Shinn Becomes a Hippie


You may remember a singer Gary Numan. He was a one-hit wonder with the song “Cars” back in 1979. In the U.S., it reached #9 on the Billboard chart, but Gary was never heard from again. He remained popular in Great Britain, though, and maintained a significant following Stateside through the years. My wonderful niece Linda is one of those fans.


Cars was in the genre of what I would call “Techno-Pop”: all electronic, a heavy, catchy, recognizable bass line and a healthy synthesizer part running throughout. Actually, I liked the song when it came out, though not enough to become a loyal fan. But Numan was coming to the famous Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, and Linda wanted to see him perform, and asked if I’d like to go. The last name act I’d seen was Marty Stuart at the Berkeley Freight and Salvage, and after 40+ years of living less than 10 miles away, I’d NEVER been to the Fillmore. I was ready.


The original date for the concert was back last November, but when the Omicron variant reared its ugly head, the show was pushed back to February 24. It was definitely a trip for Linda, who lives about five hours north of me. She stayed three nights, and was a great houseguest, not criticizing my cooking or my housekeeping once!


Despite finding a good parking space, we managed to take a wrong turn on the two-block walk to the Fillmore, which turned out to be not on Fillmore Street, but Geary. Further, we had to wait in a surprisingly long line, as vaccination cards were checked. But never mind, there was a rather nondescript opening act; we would see all of Numan’s performance.


By the time we got in, the floor was packed. There was no seating, and we were near the back. But the opening act not only allowed us to see the show we came to see, it also provided an intermission, during which Linda and I moved to a really good spot on the floor, dead center and maybe 50 feet or so from the front of the stage.


The lights went down and Numan stormed the stage with his 4-piece band (drums, bass, guitar, keyboards) backing him. To his credit, Gary Numan performs! He was very animated throughout the show, which lasted about an hour and a half. But as the show started, bass was overpowering everything else. I tried to follow what the bass guitarist was doing with his hands to see if it was he or the keyboardist who was so overpowering. I couldn’t tell, since it wasn’t a distinct bass, but more of a rumble. I couldn’t distinguish the lyrics (even when they played Cars, near the end of the show, for which I knew many of the words) and quite literally couldn’t hear the guitar at all,

Do you think he might have been influenced by Alice Cooper at some point? This is Gary Numan decked out for his "Intruder Tour" which is what Linda and I saw.

a true rarity at a rock and roll show. The drummer was quite good and cut through properly.


Yeah, the mix was constant all night long. Linda had noticed it too, and was very disappointed. I couldn’t tell if this was what Numan actually wanted for his live show, figuring that most of the audience would be more familiar with his music than I was, or whether the sound guy just wasn’t any good. As we were leaving, we passed a workstation at the back of the room where the operator was frantically explaining to another audience member that he was the lighting guy, not the sound guy! For what it’s worth, I thought the lighting was very well done and appropriate to the music. 


And of course, there was the prevalent smell of marijuana. Neither Linda nor I are smokers, but we felt that a trip to the Fillmore wouldn’t be complete without it! In short, I think we’d both made up our minds ahead of time to enjoy the experience, and we did. I’ve since listened to some of Gary Numan, live and recorded. I couldn’t find anything remotely resembling the sound we heard at the famous venue we attended. I’ll be checking out some more of his work. Though more synth-driven than I care for, lyrically his work is fascinating. It was a shame I couldn’t hear them!


At any rate, I can now call myself a true child of the sixties. I’ve experienced the Fillmore, warts and all.