When I was young, I was told that being copied was a sign of flattery. There’s two points to this;
Firstly, I’m not convinced that many people copied me.
And secondly, I’m certain that when I was, I did not take it as flattery.
Flattery or not, copying seems pretty prevalent in the electronic era of the 70’s and 80’s; Kraftwek pretty much giving birth to a litter of mimics (Gary Numan, Human Leauge, Ultravox, etc.) who picked up the dystopian soundtrack and tried to take it to the masses.
Pop music; the dumbing down of intellectual thought.
To his credit, Numan added his own unique twist to the music, producing new visuals, sounds and rock star shapes which later would themselves be copied and brought even closer to the mainstream, notably by Songs of faith and devotion era Depeche Mode, Head like a hole era Nine Inch Nails and pretty much every era Marilyn Manson.
Numan set the look, feel and choreography for most heavy/dark/intense computer-driven-goth-rock-bands as well as the themes (alienation, distrust) and the literary references (Vonnegut, Burroughs and, of course, Philip Dick). Numan’s music was punk, but for the middle classes. A youth spent in punk rock bands contextualizes Numan’s themes; this is about taking direct action, rebelling against the masses and demanding a voice (‘Cars’ surely hides one of the biggest statements in pop music, and the ultimate punk theme, that we should do things for ourselves).
Numan himself was influential, but his flatterers were even more so; not only did they sell more units, but they’ve pretty much provided the soundtrack, and the visuals, to every graphic-novel styled nightmare since 1996.
Live, Numan brings his classic albums (Replicas, Pleasure Principle and Telekon) and singles (We are glass, Cars, Our friends electric, Metal, You Are My Vision and I Die:You Die) to the forefront in a well produced, and moving, show.
As expected, the band are all in black, the lights strobe and the smoke show starts before he enters the stage.
His band sound the part and produce a great, great, show.
Saying that, the show lacks some of the elements which his copiers bring to their show. Particularly, it lacks the intensity of Reznor, or the theatrics of Manson; elements which make their shows not just very good, but great.
This is the equivalent of coming third in the Olympics; an exceptional performance, only shaded slightly by the fact that others do it better.
Perhaps flattery isn’t always so good after all.