Gig Review: Yard Act at Rock City

Words: Sophie Gargett
Photos: Stephanie Webb
Wednesday 20 March 2024
reading time: min, words

They’re ace, top, mint, boss - they’re Yard Act! We had the pleasure of attending their recent Rock City gig - the second night of their current Dream Job tour promoting their new album Where’s My Utopia?

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The first thing to mention is that Yard Act needs to be experienced twice, once live and once to really listen. The shrewd observations, recognisable characters and witticisms in their first album The Overload is what first got me hooked; the droll classic-British-neighbour-from-hell yarn Fixer Upper and the cleverly absurd Trench Coat Museum are staunch regulars on my playlist even two years on.

Where album one announced Yard Act as a natural part of the timeline that gave great musical storytellers such as Ian Dury, Jarvis Cocker or The Fall’s Mark E. Smith, Where’s My Utopia?, which arrived at the start of March, seems slightly less gritty and more sonically adventurous. The same lashings of satire and familiarity are present, but there’s been a musical expansion, it feels like the weird has got a little weirder, and there's more to dance to.

But then on to the gig. Support came from New York’s indie punk five piece Gustaf, who I had never come across before but enjoyed both their sound and look. (Sometimes you want a band to look like a band, and blokes in sequins are always a hit.) It can be tempting to give the support a miss, but having been treated to acts such as RVG, Panic Shack and Dog Show at recent Rock City gigs I’ve been making an effort. When someone has been picked up by the main act you’re going to see, it’s a recommendation usually worth following up. I’ll definitely be looking out for Gustaf again.

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Yard Act then took to the stage with An Illusion from the new album, followed up by Dead Horse, which contains more smashing lyrics (“England, my heart bleeds, why'd you abandon me? / Yes, I abandoned you too, but we both know / I wasn't the one lied to and I'm not scared of people / Who don't look like me, unlike you”.)

Of course it’s harder to muse over lyrics when they’re played live, but it's easy to melt into the Yard Act sound, and the jocularity between songs from singer James was just as satisfying. Bassist Ryan Needham revealed in our recent interview with him that he originally hails from Derby and would regularly attend Rock City gigs, so there was naturally lots of the old Derby-Nottingham raillery, which caused equal cheers and boos from the crowd.

One of the unexpected highlights of the evening was a surprise appearance by Napalm Death bassist Shane Embury who delivered a mighty rendition of Motorhead’s Ace of Spades. A fun fluke considering it had just been announced that Lemmy's ashes would be soon visiting Rock City.

After playing last year’s singles Dream Job, Petroleum, and the indomitable We Make Hits, the night closed with 100% Endurance, a song which feels uncomfortably relevant but also reassuring considering the state of things right now. Finally, we were treated to Trench Coat Museum, which culminates in around seven minutes of careering psychedelic guitar which sent the room almost delightfully unhinged.

I had caught Yard Act last year on the main stage at Boomtown Festival, but seeing a band on the most iconic stage in your home city hits a little different. A lovely whirlwind of a gig that was both intimate and immense, I’m looking forward to seeing whatever Yard Act decides to do next.

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