Live Review: Yard Act + The Sunday Estate – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (02.02.23)

Yard Act

On a warm summer night in February, a small English band lit up a small Sydney stage in a display of class, wit and banter. This could be the start of a joke, but Yard Act are no joke; they’re the real deal. In the country for Laneway Festival, Yard Act put their debut album The Overload to work and came out looking as great as ever.

Opening up were Sydney locals The Sunday Estate. The five-piece play a shiny brand of emo guitar indie (did I just invent a genre name?), sort of in the same style of a band like Ceres. Promising to play a tracklist of old and new songs, the half hour set did just that, with recent single “Lost & Disappointed” getting a run, while the band also flicked in their next single “Make It Right” in for good measure. Closing on their most well known song “Pray for Rain”, The Sunday Estate were tight and wonderful, and should be pretty happy with what they put down.

Having made a name for themselves over the past couple of years with iconic, ironic, observant and dry politically driven lyrics, Yard Act delivered a 70 minute set that lived up to the hype and more than justified their booking on a national festival tour. Welcoming the crowd and knowing how to win them over by announcing Sydney as the real capital of Australia, they opened with the album titular “The Overload”, a song that pretty much sums up the band in little more than three minutes. Following up with “Dark Days” (a song that feels a little like very early Arctic Monkeys) and “Witness (Can I Get A?”), the first third of the main set was over before you knew it and vibes were way too high for a work night.

An early highlight for the set (and what probably turned out to be best of the night) was “Dead Horse”, a song about spreading peace and love, and then chastising anyone who doesn’t agree with you. Front man James Smith was more than happy to have a joke with¬† the crowd and blossomed on stage with quality banter and observations about Australia and their home of Leeds. Asking the crowd to let him into the Oxford Art Factory’s communal house, Smith moved into “Fixer Upper”, or what anyone real estate would call ‘an investors dream’.

The middle stages of the night went by in a blur, as “Land of the Blind” (featuring a satirical magic trick of sorts, which is more a commentary on government taxes), “Rich” (the band gave the crowd the chance to choose between this and throwaway pop hit “Pour Another” before noting the irony of probably losing money on the tour) and “Payday”, which turned out to be a close second for quality behind “Dead Horse”.

Winning the crowd over with a cover of Eddy Current Suppression Ring‘s “Which Way to Go”, the set headed towards its closing third with the downbeat “100% Endurance” before main set closer “The Trapper’s Pelts” made a triumphant appearance. Returning to play a two song encore in the form of “Tall Poppies” (again asking the crowd what they’d like to hear), and the riotously fun “Pour Another”, the night was over before you knew it.

Playing a set filled with 13 songs of fun and cheek, Yard Act is a band who seemingly won’t buck to industry trends and are more than comfortable treading their own path if it means they can continue releasing music they want to make. The set was a fun return to live rooms for many people after a few years of bleakness. If you get a chance to see Yard Act over the coming fortnight, do your best to do so. They’re great fun and worth your hard earned.

FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Yard Act play nationally on Laneway Festival. For more information, click here.

You can view more photos of the night HERE