Image: Chuff Media

Yard Act live review: post-punk’s latest poster boys charm Birmingham’s HMV Vault

HMV Vault Birmingham, 6th March 2024

So, England is in tatters and doom and gloom pervades. The one place you can look for a glimmer of hope? The burgeoning underground rock and punk scene. It may not cure any economic woes any time soon, but England has been consistently churning out young talent in the indie rock and ‘post-punk’ (whatever that means) scene for a long time. For those unfamiliar with this ‘post-punk’ label, Yard Act’s latest album Where’s My Utopia? will do little in the way of answers thanks to the unique, genre-blending sonic landscape created over its 44-minute run.

The success of their 2022 debut The Overload garnered them the kind of attention that led frontman James Smith to crown themselves “post-punks latest poster boys” on the newest album’s second track ‘We Make Hits’. Yet the eclectic mix of sounds on their sophomore album – orchestral strings, glossy pop-infused keys, criminally groovy bass lines, and even Macbeth soliloquies – see Yard Act shrugging off this label and placing them outside the vicinity of any boxes critics can shoehorn them into.

Nowhere is their energy and vibrancy clearer than on the stage. Donning orange prison overall coloured shirts the band, alongside the wonderful addition of backup vocalists Daisy and Lauren, kick off with a punchy rendition of ‘An Illusion’. Located in the back of an HMV which has been graced by the presence of many big names before, Yard Act’s finest fans clutch their pieces of merch eagerly anticipating what is to come after this highly promising appetiser.

The DIY feel makes it very charming

And what was to come was a fervent live show chock-a-block full of piercing guitar courtesy of the beautifully sideburned and moustachioed Sam Shipton. Jay Russell’s thumping percussion and Ryan Needham’s multi-talented efforts are also on display, with Needham leaving his bass at home and instead opting for keys and sax, sometimes switching between the two mid-song.

In the case of ‘Grifter’s Grief’ this switch only increases the dizzying pace of the performance which no amount of the audience’s voracious head-bopping could keep up with.

When the time comes to play their lead single, ‘Dream Job’, it is a surprise to see that the most entertaining part is not listening to their funkiest song live, but rather the seemingly on-the-fly choreographed dance moves from Daisy and Lauren. Whether it was pre-planned or not, the DIY feel makes it very charming. At any given moment, the two of them, who also take the role of the second voice in ‘Fizzy Fish’, look like they could be anything from witches with their fluid, enchanting dance moves to toddlers finding new toys. It goes without saying they steal the show during ‘Dream Job’ even with the rest of the crew delivering a stellar performance. It also shows why it’s a fan favourite on the new album.

The set rounds off with ‘A Vineyard for the North’

All the additional flourishes from the vocalists though were at their peak when in collaboration with the rest of the band. In a space with a limited number of fans, some kind of fan interaction is inevitable at some point. An improvised rendition of ‘Where are the scissors?’ plodded on for a minute whilst frontman Smith, in true Noel Gallagher fashion, went out the back to find a pair of scissors for a fan to play. Unable to find scissors, he triumphantly returns brandishing two spoons and handing them to a fan at the front who counted them in before starting the emphatic ‘When the Laughter Stops’. If playing spoons wasn’t impressive enough, being able to hold the metronomic beat the whole time and finishing perfectly in time seemed to impress the whole band.

The set rounds off with ‘A Vineyard for the North’ followed by the band bidding their farewells and making promises to return. One can only hope that the next time is a venue filled to the rafters with die-hard fans screaming and chanting at the top of their lungs and that next time comes very soon, because a lit-up half-full HMV in broad daylight doesn’t do this show justice.



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