This was probably a pretty bad idea: In 1981, at the absolute height of his U.K. superstardom, Gary Numan announced his retirement from live performance. His intended last hurrah, at Wembley Arena, sold out so quickly that two more shows had to be added to accommodate the fans who wished to see him one last time.
Despite/because of his success, Numan had been the subject of massive derision by the U.K. music press, and retiring from live shows at the ripe old age of 23 only fueled further accusations of pretension. While the British music press have historically been legendarily dickish, they kind of had a point this time. Numan would in fact return to live performance in less than two years. The whole big fake retirement to-do ultimately did the man no favors. But all that context aside, the shows were reportedly incredible. Numan sang the hits, of course—he drew material from Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon, stone classics, all—but his choice of deep cuts was superb as well (see the setlist here), and the result was a marvelous two hours of elaborately staged, visionary synth-pop, with live support from violinist Nash the Slash (RIP May 2014) and the mime/dance troupe Shock. Fortunately one (or more?) of the performances was filmed. The scale of the productions was impressive: rotating pyramids, huge banks of lighting panels, the famous “Down in the Park” car you’ll remember if you saw Urgh! A Music War, it seems like no expense was spared.