It’s interesting to note that ahead of doors opening, tonight’s show by Yonaka seems to have attracted a diverse looking crowd befitting of the their dark pop/hard rock crossover sound, and they’re all queuing up in the pouring rain alongside the messy stretch of roadworks outside the venue.
As such, support act July Jones acknowledges right from the start that she’s going to have a difficult task impressing a soggy and divided audience with her harsh electro-pop set as she bounces along to the almost industrial opener ‘God Complex’ and encourages the crowd to do the same in vain. Luckily Jones isn’t one to give up so quickly and attempts to win people over steadily, talking about her back story having relocated from Eastern Europe and attempting to fit in making “very queer, very weird art-pop music” in her own words.
Tracks like ‘Affirmation’ have the kind of edge you’d expect from someone like Charli XCX alongside more radio-friendly songs such as the attempted Eurovision entry ‘Girls Can Do Anything’, and although ahead of closer ‘Aladdin’ she muses that anyone over the age of 25 is likely to be confused as she bids for TikTok infamy, she’s at least managed to get people to take notice, regardless of what they make of her.
Yorkshire’s King No-One are at least at first glance a more conventional pop-flavoured indie band and bouncy opener ‘Not Willing To Sacrifice My Life’ sets the pace with a colourful and catchy sound reminiscent of The 1975. Frontman Zach commands the stage well, picking up his mic stand and hauling it around even if it does mean spilling his wine in the process, whilst the rest of the band play with a high energy that matches the danceable pop of tracks like ‘Alcatraz’ and the slightly heavier ‘Out Of My Mind’, especially live-wire drummer James who puts a lot of power into his performance and perhaps elevates the band’s sound into something a little meatier. Closing with ‘Antichrist’, Zach comes down onto the front barrier and the audience seem to have been successfully warmed up.
Of course Yonaka themselves have amassed a fiercely loyal crowd thanks to their experimental approach to pop music – heavy enough to cater for the alt-rock/metal crowd but commercial enough to crack into the mainstream pop market. Opener ‘Ordinary’ is perhaps the perfect example, with George Edwards’ sharp processed guitars and a soaring vocal from frontwoman Theresa Jarvis providing an uplifting and powerful beginning to build on. Yet they’re quick to show just how easily they can adapt, with the trap-influenced ‘Greedy’ tapping into the “dark pop” style of Billie Eilish’s debut and followed up by the heavy riffing of ‘Punch Bag’ to encourage a moshpit early on.
Theresa’s vocals are the undoubted major strength of the band and on ‘Call Me A Saint’ and the slower ‘Don’t Wait Til Tomorrow’ she shines with a note-perfect performance as well as making herself the focal point on stage with her neon yellow hair contrasting against the darkness of the stage.
During the first half of the set there’s not much to say and the band let the music do the talking, but ahead of the anthemic ‘Raise Your Glass’ Theresa takes a minute to talk about life’s journeys and addresses the audience to thank them for sticking by the band and encouraging them to sing along to older favourites like ‘Creature’ and ‘Fired Up’. From there, the band seem to relax further and a surprise cover of Pat Benatar’s ‘Love Is A Battlefield’ leads into an acoustic interlude that sees George sat on a flight case alongside Theresa for an earnest version of ‘Guilty’. “It brings joy to my heart when you sing along” she expresses after the audience start to become more involved, and the set ends on a rockier note with EP track ‘Teach Me To Fight’ and the nu-metal riffage of ‘Clique’ seeing crowd surfers spilling over the barriers before ‘F.W.T.B.’ ends with George climbing up onto the speaker stacks at the side of the stage and the dark electronic ‘Seize The Power’ amps up the defiant stance Yonaka take in their song-writing.
Finally, the band return for an encore with the piano ballad ‘Anthem’ and the venue is lit up with the phones of an audience that by now is fully on board with whatever the band throw at them, and an electrifying ‘Rockstar’ explodes when Theresa gets them to lower themselves to the floor before jumping up for one last dance at the end of the night. With appearances at rock festivals such as Download on the cards for summer and the band’s evident willingness to branch out sonically, this could be the point where Yonaka make the jump from cult favourites into the mainstream. If that’s the case, they fully deserve it.
Photographs: Ian Dunn
Review: Ian Paget