Yard Act live in London: mayhem rules at biggest show yet

Far from resting on the laurels of debut album success, the Leeds band are focused on their next chapter

“Well done on everything you’ve achieved” yells a particularly supportive Yard Act fan from the front row. “Err…cheers?” replies vocalist James Smith, slightly bemused.

Tonight the Leeds-based four-piece are currently playing their biggest ever headline show at London’s Village Underground –  a few weeks back, their “wonderfully wacky” debut album ‘The Overload’ stormed to Number 2 in the UK Album Charts, narrowly losing out to Years and Years’ ‘Night Call’ after a tight charts battle. Despite the backdrop, however, tonight is far from a self-congratulatory victory lap.

Instead, it’s a gig that sees the band getting ready to take on the world. Each of the tracks aired is an elevated, evolved version of its recorded counterpart. Bassist Ryan Needham, guitarist Sam Shjipstone and drummer Jay Russell let loose, while Smith is on fiery form; he’s part stand-up comic, part swaggering rock star.

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During the big rock’n’roll opening of ‘Dark Days’, the crowd hangs off Smith’s every word, waiting for their chance to join in. The anticipation doesn’t linger long: by the time bass-driven breakout track ‘Fixer Upper’ drops four songs in, Village Underground is transformed into a boisterous playground. From here on out, it’s nothing but giddy chaos.

There are urgent tracks like the dance-punk groove of ‘Pour Another’ and the beefy Strokes-inspired ‘Witness’,  while ‘Tall Poppies’ starts like Foo Fighters writing a song about middle England and ends in an emotional, existential crescendo. Moments later, the band charge into yappy post-punk number ‘Rich’.

Credit: Burak Cingi/Redferns

Throughout the set, the band tackle politics (“Live in the moment but don’t forget we have a bunch of cunts running the country, yeah?”) and their own success (“it’s going to be a fun year for Yard Act, it’s going to be a fun year for life in general”) in their stage patter, but still refuse to take things too seriously.

That same carnage truly reigns in the encore. Following a run through of unreleased track ‘Human Sacrifice’ (a fidgety, restless cut powered by a stomping undercurrent of dance-punk) the band let the audience choose the last two songs. Smith rules out ‘100% Endurance’ (“I don’t want to do the sad one”) and a fan performs a brief acapella snippet of The Runaways’ ‘Cherry Bomb’. “This is what a socialist rock show looks like,” grins Smith before a triumphant ‘The Trapper’s Pelts’ ends the night.

Yard Act should rightly be congratulated on all their successes, and tonight is another one to add to the list. However the brilliantly barmy show is also proof they’ve still got a lot more to offer. “We choose to start the tour in London so we can warm up for more important places like Nottingham and Southampton,” Smith explains, tongue firmly-in-cheek, to a chorus of boos. “Boo you! We’re going to be so much better tomorrow night,” he adds. It’s clear that Yard Act clearly have no intention of slowing down now.

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Yard Act played:

‘Dark Days’

‘Dead Horse’

‘The Incident’

‘Fixer Upper’

‘Pour Another’

‘Witness (Can I Get A?)’

‘Tall Poppies’

‘Rich’

‘The Overload’

‘Land Of The Blind’

‘Human Sacrifice’

‘Peanuts’

‘The Trapper’s Pelts’

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