tue 05/12/2023

Yard Act, Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow review - a transcendent victory lap | reviews, news & interviews

Yard Act, Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow review - a transcendent victory lap

Yard Act, Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow review - a transcendent victory lap

The Leeds band confirmed their status as a thrilling, vital group

Yard Act have plenty to smile aboutJames Brown

Before even a note was struck, Yard Act’s singer James Smith was setting the bar high. “Over the past two days everyone we’ve met in Glasgow has been telling us this is the best gig we’ll ever play”, he declared, as soon as the Leeds band arrived onstage.

They then proceeded over the following 70 minutes to deliver on that expectation, with an evening that’s among the best the storied old Barrowland has ever seen.

That might sound like overzealous hype, but this was a beefed up set that possessed power, passion and playfulness all at once. This current short jaunt for the group is essentially a victory lap for last year’s “The Overload” record, but there was no sense of a band tired of their debut. Instead the foursome, here bolstered by an additional musician on keyboards and saxophone, seemed energised by the size of the crowd and the venue, but without ever losing the wryness that runs through their work.

Immediately the opening call and response of “Rich” was greeted euphorically, and Smith teased the audience for getting ahead of themselves and blaring out the song’s title too early. This sense of humour was present all night, and it gives the group a matey feeling without ever descending into grinning japery. Instead Smith displayed a stand up comic’s timing to declare halfway through that this really was the best night of their career, before adding after a pause “except maybe for that one show in Edinburgh”. The response was both pantomime booing and then a seeming determination from the heaving mass of bodies at the barriers to bounce even harder.

They had plenty to leap to, or dance to, depending on your preference. Yard Act are a band that can duck and dive with subtlety, as on the dexterous funk of “Dark Days” or the sublime pop of “100% Endurance”, and then deliver a heavyweight swing, such as the thundering noise of “The Trenchcoat Museum” or the oi oi punk throwback of “Witness (Can I Get A), the latter speeding by superbly.

Smith strode about like a street preacher on the loose, and the rhythm section of drummer Jay Russell and bassist Ryan Needham created a tight, driving foundation. When it built up a head of steam the effect was compelling in its ferocity, from the hollering emotional catharsis of “Payday” to an intense, set closing “The Trapper’s Pelts”.

These were songs that sound so large now, and yet are still full of heart, whether for the eager teenagers pogoing at the front or the myriad couples and groups nearer the back, who looked old enough to recall seeing Gang of Four or the Fall in their prime and yet were soon pulling shapes with abandon here as well, forgetting the past and living for the present.

That was never truer than on the several minute long character vignette of “Tall Poppies”, which saw Smith insist the crowd keep pogoing, and indeed crowd surfing, during a spoken word section, before driving to a climax that included guitarist Sam Shipstone windmilling away and the singer drop some of the best howling since Warren Zevon cued up “Werewolves of London”. It clattered to a conclusion, greeted by a roar of cheering and a bellowed “Coooommeeee onnnnnn” from someone in the sweatpit. Quite.

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