Cornwall’s a odd place. A lovely and unique place, but there is a certain kind of oddness to it. Trekking through fields to find movie-famous monoliths and standing stones, the bizarre commercialisation of Lands End, the apparent never-ending nature of the A30, it all contributes to a hazy type of isolation in both time and space. Perfect then for an evening with The War on Drugs.
In the heart of Cornwall, nestled within a crater of reclaimed clay pits, the Eden Project serves as the annual stage for the celebrated Eden Sessions series. Now in it’s 21st year the Eden Sessions have become an attractive prospect for performers and gig-goers alike, providing a backdrop like no other and a level acclaim to those added to the series.
Running from the start of June through July this year the sessions have already boasted performances from Lionel Richie and YUNGBLUD but it was The War On Drugs that caught our eye and tempted us to ultimately have a little holiday down south and make the 350-ish miles each way jaunt worth our while. If you’ve not started just having holidays around gigs yet, we’d recommend it!
The daydream of seeing one of our most beloved bands playing music that seems oh so fitting for these surroundings on a beautiful summers night had us sold. Having arrived to see signs that proclaimed “limited tickets available for tonight’s performance” we were forced to question how convincing that daydream may or may not have been to others.
One of the unique perks of attending the Eden Sessions is the inclusion of entry to the Eden Project as part of the gig ticket. It’s a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the wonders of this breath-taking location during the day (or the day after), before basking in the glow of live music as the sun sets around you.
To make things even better our exploration of the Eden Project was enriched by the sporadic waves of The War on Drugs sound checking. As we wandered through the domes, the melodic strains of the band rehearsing provided a surreal soundtrack, creating a sense of anticipation “oh that’s my favourite!“. It was a serendipitous juxtaposition, hearing the band’s rock soundscapes echo through the biomes teeming with plant life, creating a harmonious blend of nature and music, just what we were hoping for!
Once the arena opened it’s metaphorical doors it was apparent that we were not the only ones sold on the daydream, with an eager group of fans taking up a healthy amount of space at the front of the stage. As the keen fans held their ground standing and taking turns in fetching pints, or two pints, of cider from the bar the more casual attendees filled up the grass verges, sitting and laying down to enjoy the sun, atmosphere and shortly the wonderful sounds of distinguished British singer-songwriter Beth Orton.
This was our first trip to the Eden Project and the Eden Sessions, so we’ve no way of knowing if our observations are correct, but there does seem to be a reliance on the casual, or maybe even local, gig-goers to fill the venue. On several occasions we overheard people getting the name of the band wrong (“The Drugs On War” and “The War Against Drugs” being two of our favourites) and in chatting to a local photographer it seemed apparent that this series of gigs and summer festivals in the area are clung to by Cornwall residents when it comes to experiencing live music.
A symptom of it’s location no doubt. It’s not an easy place to get to. Doubly so if you rely on public transport. As alluded to previously, in order to attend the gig we travelled over 640 miles and ended up staying for 4 nights to justify the trip and turn it into our main summer holiday. Consider that they’d played Brighton the night before and have a date at Halifax still to come (as well as a prime Glastonbury slot not to be missed), for fans of the band there were more accessible options available to them.
We are thankful then that we do not have any negative, chatty crowd, type stories to tell from the evening. If anything it nurtured a communal, relaxed and friendly atmosphere that gave space for the music to speak for itself and have its impact so beautifully amplified by its surroundings.
At times it felt as though the band’s atmospheric rock soundscapes were destined to reverberate within such a unique venue and acoustics offered by the Eden Project’s stage, nestled between its iconic biospheres. The layered guitar work, dreamy synths, and the distinctive voice of Adam Granduciel thrived in the venue’s acoustic peculiarities. Their expansive sound resonated with the grandeur, bouncing off the Biomes and mingling with the rustling of the plants. Speaking of the Biomes, they do add a science fiction-esque element and it’s hard not to imagine yourself on the ship from Silent Running, listening to your favourite jammy tape deck. Well, if you’re a nerdy film fan anyway.
Between songs, including a discography complimenting cover of The Waterboys’ Strange Boat, main man Adam Granduciel’s quirky yet charming and authentic personality has its own time to shine. On more than one light-hearted occasion, he joked about different band and crew members daring to take on the zip line over the Eden Project, threatening to sample the audio screams and woooo-s from the footage. He claims not to have partaken in the zipwire himself, but we’ve our sources that lead us to believe he might just be playing it cool…. (we were coincidentally the next group after the crew to get our zip on, wooooooooo).
Casual or die-hards aside the valley was bolted into life throughout the gig when the big tunes fell. Red Eyes, I Don’t Wanna Wait and I Don’t Live Here Anymore get huge reactions and it’s no surprise that it’s Under Pressure that has the crowd in rapture. The few in attendance that had defiantly remained seated were up with the rest of us.
From the towering trees of the Rainforest Biome to the serene atmosphere of the Mediterranean Biome, the Eden Project offered an array of sights, smells, and sounds that made the day even more memorable. As the echoes of the Occasional Rain faded into the rustle of leaves and the babble of water features, we were reminded of the extraordinary fusion of art, nature, and science that the Eden Project represents. The pairing of this unique setting with the expansive sounds of The War on Drugs created an intoxicating harmony between nature and the art of music. And the cider weren’t half bad either.
This ability to explore the Eden Project by day, accompanied by the music of the evening’s performers, truly distinguishes the Eden Sessions from other concert experiences. Worth the journey.
Oceans of Darkness
An Ocean in Between the Waves
I Don’t Wanna Wait
Eyes to the Wind
Strange Boat (The Waterboys cover)
Thinking of a Place
Under the Pressure
I Don’t Live Here Anymore
Photo gallery by Alex Cropper. All rights reserved.
The Eden Sessions continue till the end of July. Check out who else is playing and buy tickets here.