Live Lowdown: Yard Act @ Exchange, Bristol

Words: Eline Joling

"We owe it all to you, and you owe it mostly to us," says Yard Act frontman James Smith when leaving the stage at Bristol's Exchange.

One of the most-talked about guitar bands of the moment, despite only forming just over a pandemic ago, the Leeds outfit – completed by bassist Ryan Needham, guitarist Sam Shjipstone and drummer Jay Russell - are known for Smith’s quick-witted spoken word painted across a modern revivalist post-punk canvas.

Debut album ‘The Overload’ - which narrowly missed out on the No1 spot in the Official UK Album Chart – is made for being blasted out of a sound system at your local indie club night, but the elevated live renditions of the songs are begging to be played on big festival stages with thousands of fans singing back every word.

Entering the stage to Robbie William's ‘Let Me Entertain You’, the audience instantly warm to the band's undeniable likability and charm. Small talk out of the way, the four-piece get cracking with the unforgettably-hooky ‘Dead Horse’ and ‘Payday’.

It's the dark, comedic social commentary of Smith that fans have come along to scream along to at full pelt. The narratives tie together observations from all walks of life, including that of what feels like everyone's mate, Graham, who the Bristol crowd is loud to defend with everyone yelling "no one pulls a fast one on Graham!" during fan-favourite ‘Fixer Upper’.

The different walks of life are also represented in Bristol’s crowd tonight, with all ages coming together to dance away the blues.

The tongue-in-cheek nature of the band’s lyrics are perfectly translated into their live performance, with many humorous back-and-forths between the bandmates and the band and their crowd.

During 'Land of the Blind', for example, Smith sings about doing a magic trick that involves someone giving him a fifty pence piece and closing their eyes, while he is making himself and the fifty pence piece disappear. Smith then asks the crowd if someone can give him some money for the magic trick, which resulted in the crowd tricking him back by collectively providing 25p, a "50p off" voucher for a cafe, a condom, and a ticket for the evening's show, resulting in a quick-witted comment back from Smith: "I was hoping for more than 25p and a ticket to my own show I'm already at, but you've not got any money because you've spent it all on rent."

Showing just how humbled they are by their new-found fame, Yard Act quipped that it worked better before we were known, after asking which song they should play in the encore and having multiple titles yelled back at them.

The song they chose, you ask? ‘Peanuts’, of course. Mosh pits erupt before a member of the audience is pulled up on stage to perform the poem section of the song, leading to an almost-tragic but perfectly fitting reading from in a fake Yorkshire accent.

Smith - who commands the crowd at ease - gives every ounce of energy he has left before lying down on stage, as the set closes out with the peppy sounds of ‘The Trapper’s Pelts’.

From stand-up and magic tricks to the camaraderie between the band and their fans, a Yard Act gig really is like no other.

Rating: 8/10