It’s the first night of Yard Act‘s five night homecoming at Leeds’ Brudenell Club and things have taken an almighty turn for the surreal, all before the Mercury Prize nominated band have even dared to play a single song.
“Don’t be nicking them balls or you won’t get a set,” comes a warning from frontman James Smith to a fan called Michelle, who is tasked with determining the first three songs of tonight’s set by way of the most chaotic tombola known to man.
Moments later, a model of guitarist Sam Shjipstone’s house is wheeled on stage with two plastic crows positioned atop. He gives the birds a cathartic thrashing in what he describes as an apparent two fingers to the animals who actually wake him up at 6AM every morning.
A conventional and effortlessly oiled machine this ain’t, but when were Yard Act ever about that? On the first night of their residency, they instead go far in showing off the rough charm that went some way in RS UK’s decision to deem them our band of the year for 2022.
While the surreal start and Michelle’s tombola choices mean that the group’s first song is actually an unreleased B-side about human sacrifice, things take a more conventional turn when they run through the highs of their debut album – with the wonky charm of ‘Money’ and ‘Rich’ igniting the first mosh pits of the evening. Elsewhere, a full outing for ‘Tall Poppies’ sees Smith embracing the full theatrics of the 10-minute track – a powerful rumination on why it’s all too easy to become trapped by small town circumstance.
In fact, the frontman’s dry wit and endearing spikiness is on full display tonight too, often goading the crowd into uncomfortable propositions. “Can you please raise your glasses,” he asks at one point, sparking a sea of pints in the air.
“To our new King, Charles the Third!” he immediately follows with a knowing grin. He even manages to pull off the gag a second time, while the whole group doubles down on the theme later on when Shjipstone offers a performance of the national anthem on guitar, a knowing pastiche of Brian May’s notorious 2002 performance on the roof of Buckingham Palace.
But for all the unconventional blasts of pomp and pageantry, the night offers exciting hints at the future too. A new track called ‘The Trench Coat Museum’ sees the group adding prog-led breakdowns to their sound, while Smith confirms that their second record is finished and “fucking mint”.
And as things conclude, the carnival of surreal brilliance winds up with the group joined by TV legend Phill Jupitus – who earlier supported them with what he described as his last ever gig – for an unlikely rendition of Chumbawumba’s ‘Tubthumping’.
Unpredictable yes, but a predictably brilliant end to the night. Bring on album two.