Yard Act return to Esquires for triumphant DIY tour headline show

Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
“We played here last September and we loved it. I don't know what it is, but this is a special venue.”

“They say you play Bedford twice in your career. Once on the way up…”, joked Yard Act frontman James Smith as the band arrived on stage, 12 months since last playing Esquires.

From the singer’s opening remarks, to championing the venue at the end of their set, it was a triumphant return by the Leeds quartet.

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When Yard act played Esquires last year, it was before their acclaimed debut album The Overload had been released.

Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.

The record reached number two in the UK Albums Chart and since then the band have been busy playing headline shows and in front of thousands of fans at festivals.

Some time in between, or before (it feels so long ago no one can really remember), DIY Magazine announced Yard Act would headline its Class Of 22 tour, with Lime Garden and Malady – only for the original date to be rescheduled because of coronavirus restrictions.

Finally, on Saturday Yard Act headed to Esquires on the second date of their jaunt around the country for DIY and after solid sets by Lime Garden and Malady, they took to the stage to rapturous cheers.

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With no setlist, Smith informed the sold-out venue they would just be taking requests.

Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.

And, with that, almost immediately a fan ‘front and centre’ shouted for Human Sacrifice – a song which doesn’t appear on any Yard Act record, only in a live capacity on the band’s YouTube channel.

After opening with relative obscurity, Yard Act followed with Fixer Upper, one of their breakthrough hits from their 2021 Dark Days EP – a song lamenting second home ownership and renovation told through the fictional character, Graeme.

Peanuts saw Bedford Yard Act fan Jess join the quartet on stage to deliver a word-perfect rendition of the songs middle monologue, before Smith led a brief discussion about custard and Ambrosia – something which is only going to really make sense if you were at Esquires 12 months ago.

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Yard Act’s music excellently melds post-punk alternative with Smith’s satirical, often deadpan, delivery.

Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.

And, while Smith clearly enjoys the role of frontman pausing to speak to fans between songs, it’d be remiss not to mention bassist Ryan Needham, guitarist Sam Shjipstone and drummer Jay Russell, all who put in a solid shift, despite remaining somewhat in the shadows.

The summer festival circuit has seen Yard Act play to huge crowds, but ultimately crowds which are significantly further away - behind layers of security and barriers.

It’s something not lost on Smith who admits, “We’ve been playing festivals all summer and not able to talk to anyone.”

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A rant about billionaire Mike Ashley followed Rich, with Smith proclaiming, “We could all get rid of money if we got rid of the construct of capitalism,” before jokingly adding, “but if you could throw all your money on the stage”.

Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.

Fans were treated to a brief cover of Wet Leg’s Chaise Longue before an incredible rendition of Tall Poppies, one of the standout tracks from their debut.

Yard Act transformed the track’s ending, with Smith adding a monologue about the environment.

“I love you Bedford and we love each other, we’re conscious creatures and we’re sorry for all the atrocities we've committed to this planet.”

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As Yard Act’s set drew to a close, Smith addressed the Esquires crowd, explaining his love for the Bedford venue.

After joking about the merits of some of the UK’s other independent venues, he said: “We played here last September and we f****** loved it. I don't know what it is, but this is a special venue.”

Yard Act ended their set with debut single The Trapper’s Pelts and Land Of The Blind - the latter intersected with a debate about the mating habits of Bedford’s swans. (“they defy the laws of all other animals”).

Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.
Yard Act, Esquires, Bedford, September 17, 2022. Photo by David Jackson.

And as a handful of fans started singing the track’s hook, Smith joked, “I think we’ve annoyed some people at the back, I don’t care.”

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It’s clear Yard Act relish playing up-close and personal on small stages.

Sadly, it’s likely fans will have to wait longer than 12 months to see them again in Bedford.

However, given their affinity for the venue, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the Esquires stage again, long before ‘the way down’.

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