Being the support act for Nine Inch Nails (NIN) can be a poisoned chalice. Imagine getting that call, you’d be delighted but then surely (depending on the size of your ego) a sense of anxious dread would sink in. Reznor is known for his perfectionism on stage and his insistence on constant rehearsals until the band achieves a standard he’s happy with, and he’s also had decades in which to hone his craft from him. So, if you’re going on before them then you need to have your game together, like seriously.
Too bad for the drenched audience who turned out in what was close to apocalyptic weather then that it seems as though Yves Tumor and band had put in approximately four hours of pre-gig practice time. Of course, the vast majority of attendees actually stayed inside the biomes or by the bar, killing time in a dry space before venturing out towards the stage. The hard-core fans who are queuing to get into the arena two hours before it opens to land themselves a spot at the front are no doubt waiting it out for the main act. Like I say, it’s not easy being the artist that goes on before a band of cult-legendary status: no one’s there to see you so the best you can do is not sound awful and give it your all. On these two points, Yves Tumor failed.
Let’s start with the sound. Now, I don’t believe that the event professionals at the Eden Project are capable of messing this up so badly. I think that Tumor asked for the bass and guitar to be turned up so much that you could barely hear their vocals at all. why? To hide all manner of vocal incompetencies; if you can’t sing live then what better way to cover it up than by shrouding the performance in thundering bass and guitar.
The bass was so loud it shook the floor and I’m pretty sure in terms of range it was basically the same note repeated for thirty minutes. It had the effect of being at a soundcheck with some randomly-appointed DJs setting up for a free party.
The lead guitar is a barrage of never-ending, meandering solos with the feedback turned up to eleven. ‘Gospel for a New Century’ was one of the few distinguishable songs of the set (most of them blend together in endless distorted feedback) due to a backing track being employed for this. It sounds as if someone has clicked play on a cassette player at a school talent show. tumor’s Drab Majesty-like post-punk release’Secrecy is Incredibly Important to the Both of Them‘ was also sadly unrecognizable in the mix of extreme guitar feedback.
In terms of performance, Tumor barely makes eye contact with the audience and instead aimlessly struts around the stage whilst pulling faces that mimic a self-proclaimed influencer with 33.7k followers on Tik Tok and an inflated illusion of fame, pouting whilst having to wait in line “with the rest of the plebs” for a matcha I am latte from Starbucks.
There are some ironically performed stereotypical rock star antics actioned by Tumor and the guitarist (Chris Greatti), who for some bizarre reason wears a codpiece over a pair of seventies style flared jeans. Tumor and Greatti stand back-to-back for some time, during a couple of lengthy guitar solos Greatti takes center stage, and at one point Tumor does the motion of a sex act towards Greatti. It’s a bit like watching your mates go off on one at the sixth form leavers’ party.
The audience increases significantly by the time NIN are set to perform. They are scheduled to go on at 8:50pm and they stick to this time promptly, and there’s no hanging about as is sometimes expected from artists of a certain level of fame: the NIN (pretty hate) machine is a slickly oiled one. Their show comes with a warning that it’s not suitable for epilepsy sufferers due to the several additional light structures the band brings out for strobe lighting effects.
It’s an intense result. At times it can be too much but it serves the purpose of further dramatising the band’s choice of songs for the evening (those interested in the full setlist can find details on Setlist FM). If there were any doubts as to whether Eden’s sound was the issue in Yves Tumor’s set, they’re quickly put to bed by the crystal clear pick-up of Reznor’s vocals.
For a while, it seems that the band has stopped the rain, which has been a constant force since about 4pm, alongside gale-force winds. With umbrellas being banned from the arena, there are more than a couple of waterproof ponchos being sported tonight. As fans spill into the arena, the band pummels into their first song of the evening: ‘The beginning of the end‘. There’s a huge release of energy in the crowd as the band ploughed through their set for nine solid songs (including an updated version of ‘Sanctified‘‘ – less slap bass and more laid back) amidst the backdrop of a reddening sky as the sun sets over Eden’s geodomes. All of a sudden everyone looks in the opposite direction as a rainbow christens the sky during ‘less than‘. Reznor interjects to exclaim “there’s af**king rainbow!”
After a week of summer heatwave, we are punished for enjoying such fortune. The rain and the wind start to back up and result in Reznor playing the wrong piano chords in’Every Day is Exactly the Same‘ due to his hands being numbered. Later on, he proclaims the gig to be unique for two reasons. 1. There was af**king rainbow! and 2. He made the first mistake he’s ever made on stage.
Although slightly debilitating, no one can deny that the moody weather does suit the pounding industrialism NIN are known for; rain flashes between glimpses of strobe lighting, dashing across the all-black uniforms of the band and the audience whilst the ever-looming presence of event security convey a reminder that this is a group who sometimes conjure an almost dangerous level of fanaticism.
It is unusual to see artists perform so closely to sounding as they do on record in a live setting and this is no doubt a testament to both Reznor’s and Atticus Ross’s backgrounds as sound engineers. It’s a hard-working live show that runs on time, knowing that many members of the audience will have traveled from afar and have made various arrangements to get home (one person I spoke to was pleased to catch a drum skin that had been tossed into the crowd after getting two flights from Jersey). There are no diva-like tendencies that have a knock-on effect on fans. Just mutual respect and appreciation that permeates throughout Eden’s extraordinary atmosphere.
*Due to contractual issues relating to professional photographs that were taken at this event we are sadly unable to bring you any images of NIN.
But we are able to use shots of the audience, all of which were kindly provided by Lyndon Antcliff.