Yard Act @ O2 Academy, Glasgow, 15 Mar

As part of their current tour celebrating the disco-fuelled Where’s My Utopia?, tonight we’re welcomed to step into Yard Act’s ace office and it’s mostly class

Live Review by Tallah Brash | 21 Mar 2024
  • Yard Act, O2 Academy, Glasgow, 15 March

There’s a decent early turnout for New York art punks Gustaf tonight, who get the crowd in a frenzy thanks to uber-animated frontwoman Lydia Gammill who has an infectiously unhinged energy as she contorts, seemingly living every song. Following an early issue with the sound, where Gammill’s vocal is somewhat lost in the mix, by the time they play their second track – the Marc Riley favourite Design – everything sounds much sharper. Throughout their set every percussive adornment from Gustaf MVP Tarra Thiessen is clear: tiny bells, vibraslap, an empty can of corn, shakers, triangle, guiro, woodblock and even a rubber chicken at one point. 

Later in the quintet’s set, Mine incites the first beer launch of the night as liquid flies sideways over the heads of many in front of us, and by the time they get to the penultimate Close, a mini pit breaks out. It’s not long before more drinks slop onto heads as well as the floor of the O2 Academy.

Normally at this point, we’d move straight onto telling you about the headliner. However, minutes before the Leeds lot are due on stage, I return from the toilet with my friend, to where the rest of our friends are, and we find ourselves being rather aggressively challenged about our right to be there by a pair of very intimidating older gentlemen who outright refuse to believe we’ve been there since the start of the show. They are frustratingly argumentative and refuse to back down, claiming they’d been there for two hours and hadn’t seen us, so we must be lying.

We stand our ground, and our friends try to diffuse the situation, but this pair just won’t stop. It’s a truly horrible, wholly unnecessary and scary situation to find ourselves in in the middle of a loud and packed standing area, and I still can’t wrap my head around why it happened. To those two men, if you happen to be reading this, the pair of you are pathetic to verbally and aggressively shout at two women at a gig, and you should be ashamed of yourselves. Gigs are supposed to be fun, welcoming spaces for all – maybe think about that the next time you consider buying tickets to a show.

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, this altercation somewhat sours Yard Act’s show for us, especially as we find ourselves on the edge of a pit for most of it; constantly getting pushed back, worrying the whole time that we’re going to be backed into the aggressive duo. Fortunately we don’t hear from the pair again, but it certainly takes our focus at times away from what’s happening on stage. 

James Smith of Yard Act on stage at the O2 Academy Glasgow.
Image: Yard Act @ O2 Academy Glasgow, 15 March by Dale Harvey

Back to the task at hand, Yard Act arrive on stage much to the delight of the otherwise friendly and very-up-for-it Friday night crowd, and frontman James Smith blows kisses to his adoring fans as he readies the mic, screaming ‘Glasgow’ before the band launch into Where’s My Utopia? opener An Ilusion. There’s a playfulness to their set tonight which sees the usual four-piece bulked up with the addition of backing singers and dancers Lauren Fitzpatrick and Daisy J.T Smith – the latter is the protagonist in the throughline of Yard Act music videos which started with standalone epic The Trench Coat Museum last year. During When the Laughter Stops, the pair give James a fake kick-in; it’s lighthearted, silly and a lot of fun.

During the first proper chat break, James makes a tongue-in-cheek comment about being “dismayed” they’re not back playing the Barras tonight, but nobody in the crowd seems to mind. We Make Hits encourages a frantic rush to the front for many and the first full-on pogoing mosh of their set, which stops only briefly for a Magic Nostalgic-style wheel of musical fortune to find its way onstage. James tells us that the wheel has the four songs on it from their first EP, but they’re only going to play one – after a hopeful spin from one lucky punter who’s desperate to hear Fixer Upper, The Trapper’s Pelts reigns supreme and the crowd becomes a mega swirl of sweaty bodies and sticky booze which doesn’t let up. During Witness (Can I Get A?) someone loses their glasses as another gig goer arrives in the jumping vortex with a two pinter, which he quickly also loses to the pit. 

There’s choreo during Dream Job’s elastic bassline and LCD Soundsystem-esque discordant electric guitars, with more lost property held aloft during Payday as a set of house keys are found in the chaos. The pit continues to grow during The Overload before the main set ends on the more sombre and thoughtful A Vineyard For the North, which also closes out the new record.

After a brief disappearance from the stage, Yard Act return with the sway-worthy 100% Endurance… and as the song drops out, James giddily encourages a huge 'here we fucking go' chant (not the first of the night, we might add), before asking “What tempo is that?” as the rest of the band is prompted to join back in. The set ends on an electrifying rendition of The Trench Coat Museum, James ramping things up with a handheld sampler as the rest of the band helps to create an almighty wall of sound that our backing vocalists and dancers lap up, recreating some of the moves from the James Slater-directed video. Unfortunately some of the finer details of the song are lost, but it's one hell of an end to an explosive gig. Mid-gig altercation aside, Yard Act's dream job certainly suits them – that was class.