Music Editor Alice Browne reviews the gig which took place last week...
There’s a sense of poorly concealed impatience buzzing across the packed out room as an empty stage begins to fill with smoke, animated conversations are now drowned out by a rumbling bass. We remain here, paralysed, for longer than many of us care for, the distorted intro going on uncomfortably long as the crowd get begin to shuffle restlessly in anticipation. This prolonged agitation should be infuriating, and it is for a moment, but it all begins to make sense as Yves Tumor strides onto the stage, tearing into opener and lead single Jackie, fresh off the back of their latest EP.
The band are dressed like some kind of otherworldly beings, an eclectic mix of drag, cowboy, glam rock and punk, tied together through an abundance of leather and diamantes. This style, somehow both futuristic and reminiscent of the rock stars of years gone by, is reflective of their sound. Genre-bending tracks like Medicine Burn, fueled by warped guitars and droning vocals, send the crowd into some kind of hypnotic ecstasy. As the band stumble and gyrate across the stage, comparisons to icons like Prince and Bowie feel almost too obvious, while we’re fully immersed into their strange, shape-shifting world.
As they move seamlessly across their back catalogue, including tracks from both critically acclaimed albums Safe In The Hands Of Love and Heaven To A Tortured Mind, we’re reminded of just how different of a talent Yves Tumor really is. Though slippery and undefinable in terms of genre, fan favourites Kerosene! and Gospel For A New Century are nothing short on energy, spurring room into an unyielding frenzy. The set is punctuated by piercing solos from his band, with the guitarist shamelessly swaggering into his frontman's spotlight, pulling this newly obtained, temporary role off with ease. There’s something significantly messier about the translation of these tracks into their live performances, but that’s what works. As they dive headfirst out of more powerful tracks into the more mellow notes of Licking An Orchard, they manage to strike a delicate balance between raw disarray and tenderness.
Both Tumor, real name Sean Bowie, and their band’s presence feels too large to the confines of the room, their energy spilling out over the stage as they do their best to parade across its admittedly small perimeter. Though it could be easy to write off this forced containment as limiting, it feels like a blessing to get to catch them in a venue this size. As dedicated members of the crowd mouth along to every word, there’s a distinct affinity between them and Tumor as he baits them like animals from his rightful podium of the speakers. As he reaches out for their hands like some kind of enigmatic prophet with little more than a coy smile, it’s clear he’s got us all exactly where he wants us.
Words: Alice Browne