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Yves Tumor At The Fonda Theatre, Monday November 8th 2021

Yves Tumor
Yves Tumor

 

I couldn’t say I was familiar with Yves Tumor’s material but I knew he could be an interesting character just looking at photos of his live shows: he looks like a rock-pop star in the making with an obvious eccentricity and more fashion and style metamorphosis than David Bowie himself – and as crazy as it sounds, Wikipedia says that Tumor’s real name is Sean Bowie, but who knows? I have also read that it is only one of his numerous names.

On Monday night, Tumor was playing a second show at the Fonda Theatre –  and I believe sold-out looking at the very long line stretching around the block. After a long line up of performers – DJ Kerwin Frost, the fierce Evanora Unlimited, a female rapper named Hook, and the dreamy and elusive Ecco2k – Yves Tumor took the stage around 10:30 pm, wearing a shirt inspired by the Rolling Stones’ famous logo, a black leather mini skirt, leather gloves, some knee-high leather boots and a white face makeup that was giving him a sort of Zombie meets Marilyn Manson look. With a classic rock shirt, punk studded bracelets, and goth makeup, he was a kaleidoscopic vision, a genre-bending sight at the image of his music. He was creepy and sexy, the incarnation of a mélange of glam and horror, and as he was confidently moving on stage,  the confusion between genres and genders became even more prominent. The intense red and pink lighting setup was alternating with plain darkness, and combined with the fog machines, the stage atmosphere was just reinforcing the mystery behind his enigmatic figure, something that Tumor seems to enjoy.

Since he was surrounded by a live band, musicians playing real instruments, the show had all the features of a flashy rock performance. In particular, his guitarist played a remarkable amount of guitar solos while doing more windmills than Pete Townshend, and he even went to an off-stage balcony during the encore to boost the (already high) energy level of the show. They launched the show with songs from Tumor’s critically acclaimed album “Heaven to a Tortured Mind” – “Gospel For a New Century,” “Romanticist,” “Dream Palette” – and continued with tracks from his 2021 EP, “The Asymptotical World,” but also performed some unreleased songs with the most intriguing titles (maybe acronyms?): “Cntr,” “L & F,” Mtra”… The music was muddy, often abrasive, often distorted or dissonant, filled with noisy and buoyant textures with these ear-splitting guitar solos pushing the limits many times to plain vertical and caricatural excessiveness, and competing with Tumor’s vocals that were disappearing in the mix or morphing into howls. As it progressed, the performance definitively checked all the boxes of a flamboyant rock show: a charismatic and enigmatic frontman blurring all the lines, some over-the-top squealing guitar, a bassist with a green afro, a drumset above the stage smashed with violence and style, without forgetting some enthusiastic crowd participation: I mean plenty of the songs were pure sing-alongs when the music was not covered up by loud screaming.

While my uneducated ears could not recognize any hook or obvious melodic lines, but this was apparently not what people were looking for. They were rather an emotional experience continually reanimated by waves of violent and explosive sound making the performance electrifying and feral. For an hour and a half, Tumor slayed the stage at the sound of pummeling drums and fighting guitars, but he also jumped down into the photo pit a few times and continued singing, looking like a threatening and towering figure above the audience, where everybody wanted a piece of him. There were calmer moments between these harsh and cacophonic soundscapes, but the music was overall so busy, so stuffy, so collage-like that the entire performance sounded like an almost impenetrable world, a goth-rock mutant universe led by an ambiguous leader too vulnerable to look like a real threat, too daring to be undefended. In the end, Yves Tumor was spectacular, mainly because he managed to create a mystical character, and a real mystery around his multi-faceted persona: this is how rock stars are born.

Setlist
Gospel For a New Century
Romanticist
Dream Palette
Jackie
Crushed Velvet
Operator
Cntra
Kerosene!
Licking an Orchid
Lifetime
…And Loyalty is a Nuisance Child
L & F
Mtora
The Feeling When You Walk Away
Encore
Noid
Secrecy is incredibly Important to the Both of Them

 

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