reviews

Live: Liquid Engineers, The - Darlington 2021

Written by Kevin Stevens

Published: 06 July 2021

The Forum, Darlington, UK
19th June 2021
The Liquid Engineers

THE LIQUID ENGINEERS are an evolution of the GARY NUMAN tribute that Pat Martin has successfully toured around the country for some time. Over the years he has finely tuned the presentation with some fantastic Numan inspired stage sets and mimicking the many classic Numan postures and performing characteristics from the differing eras. Pat has always proudly provided something a little more than the average tribute band, for example he doesn’t just stick to the staple diet classics and hits. Quite the opposite, he has always covered a huge array of songs from throughout the decades including some very obscure tracks that Numan has long forgotten about. A natural progression for him in his quest of perfection was to create a full band. I’m pleased to say that this gig was the first with a full live band.


The progression has been steady starting with Faye Williams (BERLYN TRILOGY and KAZOO) and David Hathaway (KAZOO and music producer). This relationship developed when KAZOO toured with Pat, Faye is a fine bass and keyboard player, and David a talented keyboard, synth player and electronics wizard. The three-piece toured for a while, and a chance meeting with a drummer at one of their gigs (shall I say a very persistent drummer) who managed to convince Pat he was going to be a big addition to the band. His name was David Sticks Brownridge who is a huge Numan fan and has a fantastic knowledge of all of Numan’s various drummers throughout the years, and an envious ability to imitate their styles. The final piece of the jigsaw that completed the band was the introduction of Jamie Thomas Godfrey, a rather impressive guitar player. A self-confessed Numan virgin, he is highly regarded within the band and completes the line-up.



Music & Performance
This was a socially distanced event, seated only. The UK public seems to be very cautious upon the return to more freedom and gigging, and only a small crowd turned out. The venue was strict with the Covid guidelines, was this to make for a poor first gig as the full live band line-up? I’m pleased to say that it didn’t - this was a truly outstanding gig. Read on for more details about this special evening… The night started by no initial access to the hall where the gig was being held, the growing attendance was kept in the bar area. There were strict one-way systems in place, so when we were allowed in the hall, everybody duly kept to the rules. I’d heard that The Forum had been successful in obtaining a Covid Culture Grant from the UK Government, and my first impressions were that they had spent the money wisely investing in new stage equipment and lighting.



For a small live music venue, The Forum is becoming seriously impressive. As the night progressed this was further proved with a very good in-house lighting and sound to compliment the lighting and sound equipment this very professional band had brought along. Chatting with Pat after the gig some of the visuals had not been used that night, I could only imagine how impressive the set would have visually been if the large intended backdrop had fitted the raised stage. As any GARY NUMAN fan will tell you, visuals are as important as the music at an authentic Numan gig.



The intro to the gig seriously surprised me, a long intro powering into ‘Ghost Nation’. The lights, the quality of the sound and that initial kick-arse beats provided by the new live drums – I was instantly taken back to Numans recent massively impressive gig at The Royal Albert Hall in London. I kid you not, this small venue in Darlington, with a tribute band and I was taken aback, genuinely surprised and impressed. With the full band now on stage, with the full band sound, powerful sound system, a stage set bringing back memories of Numan’s Touring Principle 1979, some amazing smoke effects and lights - this was going to be a very special performance indeed.



Faye spends the gig alternating between keys and bass guitar, depending on the needs of the track. The bands attention to detail is fantastic, there is a marvellous balance of keeping the overall sound of Numan but with their own natural flair and qualities shining through. So, if the track needed more keyboard sounds, Faye was there to provide it. David Hatheway provides the main keys and electronic sounds; his skill is obvious and seamlessly has his rig firing on all cylinders and is on top form tonight. Jamie is capable of providing the necessary guitars sounds, and has a very enthusiastic playing style - very entertaining to watch and of course to listen to. A huge improvement on The Liquid Engineers sound in comparison to the last gig of theirs I attended - Jamie is a massive step forward in completing the sound. However, for me, the biggest overall kick in the posterior is the addition of David Sticks Brownridge various drumming styles, skill and of course his remarkable drum kit - putting many a large band to shame.



When I say various drumming styles, he has an uncanny knack of emulating the various characteristics of Numan’s drummers over the years. Then of course there are Pat’s vocals - he has a style of his own, not a perfect impression of Numan, but just enough of a similarity that makes it instantly recognisable. I personally prefer this to the possibility of being a carbon copy. He is a natural showman much like Numan and his studied his subjects’ movements, gestures and performing characteristics (the various ones from differing performing era’s) and adds them to the mix in his performance. This combination works well, watching him suddenly I found myself transported to a Numan gig, you have to sound check your ears every now and then to remind yourself it isn’t Numan himself. A feat of conjuring surely manages this illusion. This band is a force to be reckoned with, I hope this doesn’t sound patronising but I sincerely suggest this tribute band line-up has the potential to musically out-perform many a big well-known band.



The evening surprised, it impressed and was ultimately very entertaining. The choice of tracks took this away from the realms of the average tribute band - no concentration on the hits to give a nostalgia trip. When we are talking about Numan and his dislike of nostalgia, this seems fitting. Instead, I was given a trip through Numan’s career, from the glory years of ‘Replicas’, ‘The Pleasure Principle’ and ‘Telekon’ through the middle years and the recent release of ‘Intruder’. For me I’ve wanted to hear GARY NUMAN play ‘My Dying Machine’ again for many years - I was very happy to hear it tonight. The night was split into two performances with a twenty-minute interval - costume changes added to the overall sense of occasion. Pat again didn’t try to copy Numan and his stage costumes, he just added enough of a flavour.



I wasn’t the only one enjoying the gig, the crowd seemed to be similarly impressed - from chatting to them after the show (comments as “simply the closest you’ll get to a Numan gig”) to the dancing that was banned due to Covid guidelines. The venue was very strict over the guidelines, and did however curtail this from the crowd. But it didn’t spoil anybody’s evening and I suspect that everyone went home as suitably impressed as I was. Highly recommended that you catch this band, they are very, very good indeed.

Setlist
01. Ghost Nation
02. Metal
03. Films
04. Me, I Disconnect From You
05. My Name is Ruin
06. Intruder
07. Down In The park
08. Pure
09. Remind Me to Smile
10. This Wreckage
---Interval---
11. My Dying Machine
12. Creatures
13. Noise, Noise
14. I Die: You Die
15. RIP
16. Prayer for the Unborn
17. Cars
18. Are ‘Friends’ Electric
19. We Are Glass

Rating
Music: 9
Performance: 9
Light: 9
Sound: 9
Total: 9 / 10

REVIEW TWO  FOR ELECTROVOX MAGAZINE

  • Mr Smith

     

    • 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!