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LIVE REVIEW: Yard Act @ The Invisible Wind Factory, Liverpool

Having already seen Yard Act take to The Jacaranda for an intimate in-store performance earlier this month, we were intrigued to see how the show, and in particular the new album tracks from their sophomore record ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ would differ on the bigger stage at Livepool's The Invisible Wind Factory. The main difference between the two shows was the amount of people actually on stage. The intimate show saw the band stripped back to their original bare bones roots of the four that started Yard Act. However, as frontman James Smith commented while on stage at The Jacaranda, their live set up has continuously evolved now with seven people in total making up Yard Act’s live collective.

Photo Credit: Dylan Cox / @dylancoxmedia

This bigger setup is wholly appropriate given the sound of the new record. Every element of  ‘Where’s My Utopia?’ is bigger, more layered and more dramatic than their debut so we couldn’t wait to see how the addition of synths, brass and backing singers would elevate the live sound and capture the absurd cinematic grandeur of their new album…. And it did not disappoint! 

The added saxophone accompaniment really brought tracks alive when they entered the trademark Yard Act finale. As the vocals cut out, the band often entered into a high intensity freak out with soaring brass lines, frantic guitar playing and dance-worthy grooves, typical of the new record. These moments would not have been as vibrant and rich in flavour without these new additions and you could feel how the privilege of having these extra layers allowed the original band members to get even more stuck into their own grooves and explore the tone of their instruments, pushing everything they played right to the edge. These instrumental finales on numerous tracks were some of our favourite during the night. 

Photo Credit: Dylan Cox / @dylancoxmedia

However, the new live band members didn’t just come in handy on their new music. They also elevated some of their first album tracks such as 'Dead Horse' where the two backing vocalists, Lauren Fitzpatrick and Daisy J.T Smith, came to the front of the stage to join James Smith, offering whoops and shouts that injected the funk rhythm with an extra piercing vibrancy. Additionally, they also acted out some dramatic scenes with James, pulling at his hair, pretending to beat him to the ground and even jumping on his back for a piggy-back at one stage, adding a visual, theatrical component to the show. 

Aside from the numerous instrumental finales, highlights of the night came in the form of ‘We Make Hits’ and ‘A Vineyard For The North’. The former showed the appeal of the new album vibe; huge anthemic beats, joyous instrumental arrangements, a dance worthy energy and vocals that are lyrically engaging whilst having an infectious phonetic flow that you can’t help but mimic.

‘A Vineyard For The North’ however, really showcased how the band have developed their skill sets in the interviewing years since ‘The Overload’. Beginning with a slick low key beat and spoken vocals that, together, ring of Baxter Dury, the track slowly builds a hypnotic flow with an ear-worming chorus. James’ vocals really shine as he delivered one of the best vocal performances we’ve heard from him, bouncing off the bright, gospel-like backing lines of Lauren Fitzpatrick and Daisy J.T Smith. The progression of the track is one that is hard enough to master on record, let alone in the live setting but they pulled it off tremendously, moving from the sunken groove to a euphoric, expressive finale that has a truly long-lasting poignancy to it. The double-barrel fan-favourite selection of ‘Payday’ and 'The Overload’ that proceed this track was of course electrifying, getting the crowd bouncing and chanting along, yet, the fact that these did not close the pre-encour show is a testament to the strength of  ‘A Vineyard For The North’ as a song. 

Although the size and setting of the venue lends itself to a larger than life drama, which was befitting for the new album, James Smith still found time to converse with the audience and offer some of his trademark northern humour. Fan interactions were taken to the next level however, when they invited a fan up on stage to ‘spin the wheel’ which would decide which of their debut EP tracks was to be performed. This fan engagement added a lovely personal touch the evening. 

Photo Credit: Dylan Cox / @dylancoxmedia

After the band had left the stage, the inevitable ‘Fuck The Tories’ chant kicked in and the band soon re-entered the stage to provide an instrumental backing, encouraging the chant to continue. However, James Smith used this moment perfectly to voice his shared anger towards conservative rule but ask for everyone to save their hate for later and feel nothing but love as they played the heartfelt singalong ‘100% Endurance’, a sentimental highlight.

The night then appropriately ended with ‘The Trenchcoat Museum’, a song that, although not on the record, encapsulates its sound and themes. The added band members came into full effect as synths whirred and swirled around the room and the backing singers, plus a few added extras who arrived from backstage, initiated a dramatic choreographed dance on stage. The 4-minute instrumental ending saw every band member become absorbed in their performance. James even picked up a sample pad to play a range of electronic textures that brought the ending alive. As he dedicated the final blowout to those suffering in Ukraine, Palestine, Sudan and across the world, the crowd roared with a poignant combination of appreciation for where they were and a shared acknowledgement of how lucky we are to be able to enjoy shared creative experiences in a safe space and not fear for our livelihoods. 

Photo Credit: Dylan Cox / @dylancoxmedia

Overall, the night perfectly captured the feeling of ‘Where’s My Utopia?’. It was big, bold, euphoric and contemplative. It had people dancing, it had people teary eyed with their arms around their loved ones and most of all, it had people being in love with live music. If you get the chance to see Yard Act this year, do not miss the opportunity!


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