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Live Review – Again and again and again and again – Yak @ Yes, Manchester.

Yak – A simple word with so many meanings; a large, shaggy haired domesticated ox, a verb to vomit, or slang for brandy… it even warns you not to talk back (Yakerty Yak). But tonight in the Pink Room at Yes in Manchester Yak meant music, unity and an evening to remember.

Starting the night’s entertainment was the propelling sounds of Deja Vega. This year in Manchester alone they have sold out Castle Hotel, headlined St. Clements Church in Chorlton, and were main support at Jimmy’s for the very successful ‘You Are Not Alone’ festival in aid of the charity Manchester Mind, so it was quite the shock to see them on so early at the still quite adolescent Yes. This obviously did not perturb either the band or the crowd, which was nicely filling up, creating an inviting atmosphere. 

Deja Vega came on like a whirlwind, throwing everything into their set. The tight drums mixed with the thumping bass means the guitar can come in and out as it pleases to build each songs intricate sound. Jacks vocals were on top form, passionate, angry, and visibly emotional as he paced around the stage. With just half an hour, the five song set included ‘Mr Powder’, ‘Eyes of Steel’ and finished with the ever popular ‘The Test’, this trio sure know how to kick a night off with a bang.

Next up were Mush, a four piece from Leeds. The Pink Room was packed by this point, audience members intermittently getting lost in the twanging guitar riffs and sporadic drum beats the band had to offer. Their sound is like a swinging sixties version of the opening credits to Channel 4’s Black Books. 

This was the second time I had seen this band and their melodic, structured, but seemingly quite random style was really starting to grow on me, I like its abstract form. But considering the upbeat nature of their songs it was a surprise how solemn and disengaged the band seemed which sometimes made it feel a little repetitive. As the set progressed however, from one song to the next, the room was getting more and more into the groove, and when they finished the audience showed their appreciation with a rapturous round of applause.

As Yak’s intro music started a surreal hush governed the occasion, now with barely enough room to shuffle your shoulders. All of a sudden Oliver, Vincent and Elliot burst on stage and there’s a surged forward, giving a little breathing space, enough to get beer to mouth without having to adopt a Tyrannosaurus Rex like position. Opening with ‘Heavens Above’, a standalone single that was released between albums, they instantly made their mark, giving a glimpse as to what was in store. 

The first half of the show focused mainly on their most recent album (‘Pursuit of Momentary Happiness’) playing songs like ‘White Male Carnivore’, ‘Layin’ it on the Line’, ‘Blinded by the Lies’ and ‘Fried’. What was good was this didn’t split the room, something that happens all too often when a band starts with its new material. The passion was there, the energy was there, the excitement of the crowd growing, each person enjoying it in their own, unique way. Oli obviously wanted to see this as he grabbed a nearby spotlight and pointed it outward towards the crowd, almost pulling it off the ceiling.

‘Bellyache’, the first single from their latest album, was the half way point, at which they went all retro with tracks from their first album, ‘Alas Salvation’. The title track became a running theme from then on in, periodically being shoehorned into any song that fit its wild nature. You could tell this band has toured these songs before, effortless and powerful, they rifled through classics like ‘Use Somebody’, ‘Victorious (National Anthem)’ and ‘Harbour the Feeling’. At this stage I think Oli had crowed surfed more that he had both feet firmly planted on solid ground, recognition of how much the crowd was getting involved in the experience. 

Bellowing ‘I’m a slave to the algorithm’, this bought their well over an hour long set to a close, finishing with ‘Hungry Heart’. What I loved was it was clear the band didn’t want the night to finish almost as much as the audience, as they kept going back for more, passing the mike into the audience to gain their participation, who in turn chanted lyrics back to the band in unison. This inclusion meant we all felt as one, together, feeding off the moment.

After recently seeing Idles at Albert Hall, I was worried I was not going to see another live performance like that in a long time, but Yak managed it, in their own way, with their own style. A band I certainly will not miss next time they play Manchester… I’m just not sure I can wait that long for another remarkable night like this one.

📸 Photo Credit Matt Parry