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Live Review: The Liquid Engineers - The Forum, Darlington 19/6/21

Let’s start by saying I have been a Gary Numan fan for over forty years. Being a Numan fan has been a right of passage for me, introducing me not only to electronic synthesiser music, but also to the various alternative lifestyles that have followed me through the years. When you peer inside my inner core, you’ll find Numan. For this reason you may find what I’m about to write deeply surprising as this review is for a Gary Numan tribute band. A very, very good one. Yes, even though it maybe viewed as sacrilege to imitate my self-confessed hero, I loved the gig I recently attended.

It’s the 19th June 2021, the venue is a small local (to me) live music venue called The Forum in Darlington. I’ve been to this venue before to see the lead singer of tonight's band and his Pat Martin Gary Numan Experience solo show. I’d never been a huge tribute fan, and never took this kind of band seriously at all, but Pat’s show had swayed me a little as he had attention to detail and put on a good show. So I returned to see him now with his full band The Liquid Engineers. By full band there are two keyboard players, one of them also plays bass – alongside a guitar player and live drums. I’d seen the bass / keyboard player before, she plays for a rather good band called Berlyn Trilogy, and I had previous contact with the drummer as he is a local lad to where I live. So I thought why not, and why not attend with the camera? I’m glad I did.

The gig starts, darkness. Opening notes indicate the first track is Ghost Nation. Lights start to swirl from the top of the rig. The backdrop has two lighting panels reminding me of the 1979 Touring Principle stage set. There is a pyramid in front of one of the keyboards – again evoking the 1979 concert look. There are two smoke machines either side of the set. There’s atmosphere. This is showing great promise. Two powerful smoke machines blast two spouts of smoke directly into the air, the lights catch and it looks like fire and pyrotechnics. The band arrive one by one, suitably attired in black with Intruder style red face stripes.

The powerful initial drum beats of Ghost Nation rattle my ribs – that’s one good set of drums, and a very good sound system. They definitely have my attention now – this is good! Then they are off!

Wow! They launch into a great mix of songs from various era’s throughout Numan’s career. They don’t limit themselves to the classics, there are surprises there too – songs long forgotten by Numan and no longer played live. Pretty risky for a tribute to move away form the nostalgic needs for classics and hits? Indeed. But this band doesn’t care about deep rooted nostalgia and pleasing a casual fan. They have one task in hand when performing to a crowd – and that’s to convince you that you are at a Numan gig. When was the last time you heard Numan pandering to nostalgia? The attention to detail is phenomenal – yes Pat has the movements down to a tee, the facial expressions and the vocal range. Yes, they have that stage set to impress, just like Numan (I couldn’t stop myself questioning how they achieved this on a much lower budget) – but the quest for perfection has also encompassed the musical style. The drummer has studied the various drummers in the Numan band over the years, you can hear this when listening to The Liquid Engineers blast through the different era’s. The keys and electronics are a sheer masterpiece, and have none of the amateur edge often heard even with some of the bigger electronic bands (Midge Ure are you listening?). Guitar and bass – sublime. This band have studied. They have great musical ability. It shows. They really are that good.

Nearly twenty songs later, split into two performances with an interval and costume changes and myself and the crowd were loving this show. All I heard afterwards was “Wow” style comments – even the sound and lighting team provided by the venue were blown away. They weren’t Numan fans but they planned to check out his back catalogue – so huge was the impression The Liquid Engineers left. This long standing Numan fan says – Numan, be careful you have competition in the form of The Liquid Engineers!

Check out over 100 stunning images of the night in the slideshow gallery below!


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