Credit: Yard Act Insta

Review: Yard Act at the O2 Academy

By Matt Benson

One of the best bands in the world meets one of the best crowds in the world – what could possibly be better than that?

Two years on from their Mercury Prize-nominated debut, The Overload: a record that shines through its raw instrumentals and witty lyrics that satirised post-Brexit Britain, Yard Act continue to surprise. “Post-punk’s latest poster boys” have returned with funky new dance-rock LP, Where’s My Utopia?, trading critiques of capitalism for introspective (but still unapologetically northern) sprechgesang penned by the band’s Warrington-born frontman, James Smith. Where their debut boasts satirical grandeur, tackling big issues with rough-and-ready guitars, their sophomore effort shifts 180°, interrogating personal themes such as adolescence, bullying and fatherhood, over lavish production, strings, synths and thick percussion.

I caught the Leeds quartet at Glasgow’s O2 Academy. Though I’d love to say that the support act was an unmissable experience, the gig unfortunately coincided with the final hours of the Academy’s neighbouring vintage boozer, The Laurieston, before its sale to new owners. So, regrettably, I was preoccupied buying Guinness with cash and pretending it’s the 90s. We did, however, catch the main event in time.

The band kicked off with the new album’s opener, “An Illusion,” followed by the Britain-bashing “Dead Horse,” during which Smith swung the microphone stand around like a brandished katana. The frontman, with all of the humour that you’ve come to expect, then challenged the audience, claiming that, in a list of the best crowds they’ve had, “Glasgow are second behind Hong Kong…but that’s only ‘cause they waved their arms like this, from left to right, when I asked ‘em to … D’you wanna beat Hong Kong, Glasgow?!” The crowd retorted with a chorus of “Here we-, here we-, here we-  f****** go!”, which, while momentarily cringe-inducing, served well as a statement of intention.

The energy didn’t relent (or repent, for that matter), and it became clear that the band sought to entertain through alternative methods besides the songs themselves. This included a skit, which saw Smith, holding his head, drop dead to the floor, before being flogged (like a progressive “Dead Horse”) by backup singers Daisy Smith and Lauren Fitzpatrick – who are worth a special mention. This duo were the gig’s secret sauce, providing fantastic harmonies to give Smith’s vocals extra polish, and aiding the show’s more humorous, performative moments. This was perhaps most evident in the section wherein the girls, much in the style of 80s game show models, unveiled the “Wheel of Fortune”, which randomly selects one of their early cuts to serve as the next song in the set. Smith, with his thick northern accent, was reminiscent of Bullseye host, Jim Bowen, as he invited a lad up to spin the wheel. He, like everyone else, hoped for the lockdown-era tune, “Fixer Upper,” but instead received an exceptional performance of “The Trapper’s Pelts.”

Their core set finished, before they returned from the wings to deliver an emotional rendition of “100% Endurance,” which was met with the waving of arms, from left to right; Smith grinned knowingly. Reaching the song’s poignant peak, the instrumentation fell silent and he bellowed: “Scream for life, Glasgow!”. The crowd obliged. This transformed into an anthemic chorus of “Here we f****** go!,” this time feeling sincere and genuine. Smith quipped “What tempo is that?,” and the band adopted it into the closing stages of the tune – a true moment of crowd-performer symbiosis. The encore closed with non-album single, “The Trench Coat Museum,” during which Smith began to haphazardly spam some sort of drum-synth-SFX-guitar-pedal contraption for a good four minutes, producing a cacophony that left everyone in attendance with a lasting impression (and a ruptured eardrum).

Overall, an “Ace! Top! Mint! Boss!” evening. I reckon Hong Kong’s now second in the list.


Share this story

Follow us online

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments