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review: Blood Orange & Yves Tumor brought lively, inventive pop to Central Park

Central Park SummerStage hosted the awesome double bill of Blood Orange and Yves Tumor on Wednesday night (9/26). At the last minute, the show was pushed up to start at 6 PM to beat the rain (which worked out — it started pouring shortly after the show ended), but even with the last-minute change, the place ended up packed. Dev Hynes mentioned on stage that it was a sold-out show. (That said, due to the show being moved earlier last minute, Dev posted on his Instagram story: “Sorry to the people that missed the show last night that shit was beyond my control. Finna do an NYC show for the heads as soon as I can sort it out. Bet.”)

Yves Tumor would have played in the dark and with a light show had they began at 7:30 as originally announced, and they were plagued with some technical difficulties during their set, but that didn’t stop them from putting on a truly terrific show. It was the perfect match for Blood Orange too — if you’re a Blood Orange fan that went into this show unfamiliar with Tumor, it seems likely that you would’ve been won over. And the crowd was cheering endlessly for their whole set. Tumor’s own voice is more on display than ever on this year’s fantastic Safe in the Hands of Love, and that was the case at the Central Park show too. Tumor dances and runs around the stage and has the soaring voice of a star. It’s not everyday you see a performer this commanding. And Tumor was backed by a razor sharp band (drummer, bassist, and a guitarist who also played some electronics), who really helped bring the show to the next level. It’s part rock, part funk, part avant-pop, and more, and it all comes together in such a thrilling way. Earlier on in Yves Tumor’s career, solo shows behind a table of electronics were the norm (but still with the star power and dancing), but live-band Yves Tumor is a whole different story. If you get a chance to see them with this set up, do it.

Once the sun went down, Blood Orange took the stage, and like on other recent tours, Dev Hynes was also backed by a fantastic band. For this run, he’s got two powerhouse backup (and sometimes lead) singers (Eva Tolkin and Ian Isiah), guitarist/keyboardist Mikey Freedom Hart (aka Ex Reyes), brass/woodwinds player Jason Arce, and a killer rhythm section who really held it down like pros all night (bassist DJ Ginyard and drummer Jamire Williams). (Eva, Ian, Jason, and Ex Reyes also all play on the new Blood Orange album.) The instrumentalists were all on tall risers, while Dev and the other two singers were below them on stage, and Dev spent the night switching between just singing, playing guitar, and sitting at his piano. He’s such a natural frontman, but he also looked overjoyed to share the spotlight with his bandmates, almost all of whom took solos throughout the night.

A good chunk of the set focused on this year’s Negro Swan, which is a little less immediate than Blood Orange’s previous two albums, though it hardly seemed that way in a live environment. No matter what song they were playing, the whole packed Central Park was dancing and Blood Orange sounded like a well-oiled indie funk machine. The new songs really pop live, and while older faves like “You’re Not Good Enough” and “Best To You” did stir up even more excitement from the crowd, there wasn’t a dull moment in the set. Dev ended the show the same way his new album ends, with the acoustic song “Smoke.” He played it on his acoustic guitar, with his two backup singers right beside him, and it made for a rare moment of intimacy in a night that was otherwise an endless dance party. It was a gorgeous comedown and a nice addition to the live Blood Orange experience. There was no encore and one wasn’t needed anyway. “Smoke” was the perfect ending to a very special night.

We’ll have pictures of the show very soon. UPDATE: Check out pictures from Wednesday night’s show in the gallery above, and a couple of videos below.

In related news, Eva Tolkin aka EVA (who has also sung backup for Solange and Charli XCX) is playing a headlining NYC show on November 26 at Baby’s All Right with Sir Babygirl and Grace Ives (tickets). If you’re unfamiliar with EVA’s music, you can hear her recently-released “Touch Me” below.

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photos by Angela Owens

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