Author’s note: Yves Tumor is frequently referred to as “it” in official statements, but during my time at the show, the pronouns used most frequently were “they/them.” So, just in case there is a distinction between stage persona and person, I’ll be using they/them throughout this post.
Yves Tumor is a fascinating character. After beginning their career with incredibly rich sample-based soundscapes and experimental electronic wunderkind tunes, they took a left turn.
Heaven to a Tortured Mind, their fourth album, was released last year and had a much more traditional music sound with parts of 70s glam rock, punk, R&B, soul, psychedelia, and a bit of the sample-based plunderphonic electronica that Yves was renowned for.
Its sound was like that of early David Bowie or Prince, yet it still had a distinct and new sound that only Yves could achieve. This record is a work of beauty, and one of the best releases of the last year, so I was ecstatic to be given a pass to cover their second night at New York’s iconic Webster Hall.
This is how I imagined seeing David Bowie perform Ziggy Stardust in an intimate room in 1973 felt: catching an artist right after they’d built up a substantial cult following, but before they went mainstream.
But, before we get into Yves Tumor’s performance, we need to talk about the opening acts, as there were four of them. Yes, the night featured not just a Yves Tumor performance, but also a showcase of the musicians that they have been listening to. The amount of obscurity of these acts varied, to where one of the front desk staff asked if I was a member of the band when I arrived (and boy do I, Super Jack, wish I was).
This duo, Club Eat, sort of hosted the night; I say “sort of” since there wasn’t much on-stage chat between songs at this event. Every act did their set while saying nothing to the audience. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was intriguing to see how these musicians let the music speak for itself.
The first act of the night was No Bra, who entered the stage fully clothed and then stripped down to just their underwear within seconds of arriving. Vulnerable and naked, they performed some of their pieces accompanied only by a laptop playing backing tracks.
Their pieces were mainly spoken word numbers that reminded me a lot of early 20th century post-punk/proto-punk acts such as Suicide, The Modern Lovers and some of John Cale’s tone poems with The Velvet Underground; the backing tracks ranged from very electronic to very live-sounding.
The second act of the night was Deli Girls, which were a punk duo of sorts. One of the two sat by an ancient PC (had a power box and everything) playing beats off what looked like either FL or Ableton, and the other chirped and yelled their anguish for everyone to hear.
In the best possible ways, the songs were emotional and dramatic. The performer, who was also quite distinctive for their spiked-up hair and their ability to take part in humor, was clearly feeling the harsh yet melancholy truth their vocals represented.
I believe they were the only act of the night to speak between songs, and they had the audience begging them to do one more song when they finished, yelling and cheering as the other half of the duo booted up the ancient computer to do so.
Club Eat performed their latest double singles, “Counting” and “Sticky,” after Deli Girls’ successful conclusion. Club Eat’s sound was heavily influenced by M.I.A., but with a more manic pixie dream girl vibe (for lack of better descriptors). They were enjoyable to listen to.
Following that came Ecco2k, a moment that many seemed to anticipate.
Ecco2k, a member of the Swedish cloud rap collective Drain Gang, wowed the crowd with his unique auto-crooner R&B style space pop. Ecco2k appears to be generating a lot of excitement right now; according to what I heard in line for the show, some people were even more excited to see Ecco than Yves Tumor!
The audience expressed their delight by moshing to extremely soft autotuned music. The crowd swelled to where many people in the sea of people were pushed to the left or right or just trampled. The crowd was clearly too hyped for this, and some of them needed a lesson in mosh pit etiquette, but Ecco’s set was cool. His music isn’t my cup of tea, but I admire what he does.
All that remained was for Yves Tumor and their band to arrive and take the stage. Their name was written in large white letters across the stage, and they mounted their keyboards and drums on large white squares on both sides.
The extravaganza evoked 1970s glam (as one might imagine) and acted as a constant reminder throughout the concert that this was the main event, and everything else was just a build-up to what was about to happen.
The lights flickered, the band played, and the crowd was just as enthusiastic for Yves Tumor as they were for Ecco2k when they ascended the stage to their song “Gospel For A New Century.” You’d think that with all the pandemonia in the audience and people being squished, moved, or crushed, the band would match the energy, and the band themselves did.
The guitarist who took on the roles of Johnny Thunders and Mick Ronson for the evening was dancing around the stage and chattering in between songs. During a guitar solo on the amped-up ballad “Kerosene!” he even went up onto the balcony.
On the other hand, Yves Tumor appeared to be off. Sure, they had the audience spellbound with their every gesture and action, but they sounded just like the studio recordings… and I mean exactly like the studio recordings.
The band was clearly performing live because several of the more sample-based cuts, such as “Noid” and “The Feeling When You Walk Away…”, as well as the previously mentioned “Gospel,” were absolutely filling the room with strong guitar riffs and drum strikes. Yves Tumor sounded just like the studio.
Of course, none of this mattered because the ferociously enraged mob was cheering and chanting every word. This includes songs such as Safe in the Hands of Love stand out “Lifetime,” and “Jackie,” one of the more recent tunes from their EP released earlier this year. Another track from the same EP looked a little out of place for the occasion. As Yves and his band yelled “be aggressive” over and over, more people were trampled or nearly trampled amid the chaos. (At this show, security needed to be more vigilant.)
Overall, the show was entertaining, and I enjoyed the openers more than Ecco2k or Yves Tumor. Yves Tumor’s set mostly comprised what appears to be new unreleased material and a couple of older and recent favorites. However, the level of intensity around those songs made it difficult for me to enjoy or absorb the new stuff I was hearing. I ended up leaving the gig feeling very odd and conflicted about what I just saw.
What I took away was that Yves Tumor is a master tastemaker, and an excellent songwriter and musical artist, but I may have caught them on the wrong night to see them perform like the showman I know they are.