Live Review: Post-punks Yard Act impress at sold-out Esquires show

Smith - “This is on the verge of collapsing into the Q&A of an idiot.”

By David Jackson
Thursday, 30th September 2021, 10:38 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th September 2021, 10:40 pm
Yard Act. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act. Photo by David Jackson.

Take a look at the gig listings of any venue on any Facebook event page and there will be countless promoters promising you that ‘this is the one’.

The thing is, the team behind gigs at Esquires in Bedford don’t get it wrong and when you start seeing chatter about a mid-week show which already has tickets flying off the metaphorical shelves, you know you need to pay attention.

Enter, Leeds quartet Yard Act. With a bunch of singles and EP under their belt and an album on the horizon, the band has been picking up plaudits across airwaves and in the music press with their pulsing, post punk grooves and the satirical, surreal, deadpan vocals of frontman James Smith.

Yard Act. Photo by David Jackson.

So, on Wednesday night in Bedford a couple of hundred people (including BBC 6 Music presenter Steve Lamacq) packed inside Esquires to see what could be one of the venue’s gigs of the year – at least for a couple of days (more on that later).

A resurgence in post-punk has been playing out for a few years now – long enough for it to have become increasingly difficult for bands to stand out among an ever-growing scene.

Thankfully, Yard Act have hit upon a sound and live reputation which is demanding attention.

After an solid opening set by trio Deep Tan (who were presented with a tin of custard mid set – no, honestly), Yard Act walked on stage one by one, beginning a bass and drum groove which was quickly added to by guitarist Sam Shjipstone until Smith joined.

Yard Act. Photo by David Jackson.

They opened with their best-known track, Fixer Upper – a satirical swipe at second home ownership and renovation with Smith’s spoken word vocals weaving their way around a repeating guitar riff and infectious bass groove.

Smith’s dry wit, take on life and lyrical style is one of Yard Acts major strengths. Comparisons to The Fall are inevitable, but Smith’s delivery and South Yorkshire twang make him a captivating front man.

Between songs, he frequently spoke to the Esquires audience, engaging in conversation, jokingly questioning Bedford’s motorway access and predicting lottery numbers (one through seven in case you’re wondering) before stating “This is on the verge of collapsing into the Q&A of an idiot.”

Other highlights of Yard Act’s set included debut single The Trapper’s Pelts and The Overload, the latter which features on EA’s forthcoming annual instalment of its FIFA computer game series.

Yard Act. Photo by David Jackson.

Again, willing to jokingly mock its inclusion, ahead of the track Smith asked the Esquires audience if anyone had attended because they had heard The Overload on the game.

Following a short silence, he added: “No, thanks **** for that. In six months it’s going to be full of teenagers in bucket hats wearing them strange bum-bags”.

The ever-present satirical tones of Smith are one of Yard Act’s best traits, however it’d be amiss to not acknowledge the band’s ability to craft hook laden post-punk riffs over a solid groove.

Gig of the year at Esquires? Quite possibly. There’s just the small matter of The Murder Capital’s return on Friday which has the potential to change things.

Yard Act. Photo by David Jackson.

Yard Act’s EP Dark Days is out now and their debut album The Overload is available to pre-order.

Deep Tan. Photo by David Jackson.