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YONAKA: Live In Nottingham – March 2022 review

YONAKA, a band that some will argue are one of the most exciting bands in the rock music scene

Yonaka – Live In Nottingham review EJ Scanlan

YONAKA, a band that some will argue are one of the most exciting bands in the rock music scene, but it’s a statement which I’m incredibly mixed on. Personally, I really enjoy the band, but critically, they’re a band with multiple flaws, but when they go for it, they really do smash it out of the park. 

This is the second time I’ve written about YONAKA, my first time (one of the first reviews I’ve done with TotalNtertainment) was when I reviewed their mixtape, “Seize The Power” (you can read the full review here), and you can read the article if you want to know my opinions on the release. But I’ve seen the band three times, once in 2019 at the Rescue Rooms in Nottingham, in which they were very disappointing, the second at Download Pilot last year, where technical issues very much hindered their set which had a major impact on their performance. But the last time I saw them was when they supported Nothing But Thieves at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena (Review here), in which I said: “The second and final support act was YONAKA, where you will know my opinions on them if you’ve read my review of their latest EP, Seize The Power. This is the third time I’ve seen them live, and despite their previous live performances being underwhelming, this was completely the opposite. YONAKA were in their element, showing off exactly why they are the most under appreciated acts out there, even giving new meaning to the tracks that I hated on that EP, making me have a whole new appreciation for them live, and that they have WAY more to give. They made that support slot their own, starting mosh pits, Theresa Jarvis’ vocals being some of the best I’ve ever heard at this venue. For thirty minutes, this wasn’t a Nothing But Thieves show, this was a YONAKA show, making this one of the best support slots I’ve ever seen, and giving our headline act a lot to live up to. Give YONAKA an arena tour and they will absolutely smash it.” (The full review of Nothing But Thieves’ remarkable set is here), but regardless, they were sensational.

Tonight, they return to Nottingham’s Rescue Rooms where I first saw them perform two years prior. I’m expecting a full-scale show, on the same level as their arena set, but something a little stronger too, though I know the possibility of disappointment is present.

After two brilliant opening sets from King No-One and July Jones (fun fact, she came 5th in EMA 2022, the Slovenian national selection process for the Eurovision Song Contest), the lights go down as the auto-tuned part of “Ordinary” plays, giving us an incredibly atmospheric opening. The band came on minus lead vocalist Theresa Jarvis and gave us one hell of an introduction, with the band chemistry being some of the strongest I’ve seen live in quite some time, followed by Jarvis, who came on to perform the track. I have a soft spot for “Ordinary”, as it’s my ninth favourite song of 2021, but the atmosphere was electric, and the performance was mostly brilliant. The one critique from it was that Jarvis forgot the lyrics in the bridge of the song, but very easily redeemed herself with her energy and phenomenal vocals. After roaring applause from the incredibly energetic crowd, Jarvis’ glow in the dark hair became an accidental focus as the lights go down before performing, “Greedy”, what I believe is the single worst song of 2021. The performance of the song, despite it not being as strong as their performance at Motorpoint Arena five months prior, was a hundred times better than the recorded abomination we got. The crowd were into it too, with lots of head bopping and hands in the air, it was a great performance!

As the band greeted the crowd for the first time, they go straight into “Punch Bag”, which was met with massive applause as the first of their older songs to be performed, and it was absolute chaos in the best possible way. The mosh pits were massive and the band’s impeccable chemistry continued. Theresa’s vocals, however, were occasionally off but recovered remarkably through an insane amount of energy. Jarvis’ off vocals carried on during “Call Me A Saint”, which was performed flat throughout, causing the whole performance to suffer, despite her liveability and the band’s chemistry being second to none. Those same issues are ever-present through “Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow”, but this time, those issues are completely overshadowed by some of the best live chemistry I’ve seen from a lot of bands over the last few years, with guitarist George Edwards being the highlight here, with some sensational playing and a great stage presence. I loved it!

After an inspiring speech, YONAKA go into “Raise Your Glass”, in which Jarvis’ live presence continued to dominate the stage, but her off vocals were a real issue here, unfortunately, her going off-key multiple times where it was quite painful to listen to sometimes, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind, as their hands were waving around in the air like they would for some cheesy X Factor reject, living their best lives, but on a personal note, I was incredibly disappointed with the crowd, as I was the only one who raised my drink to the sky, despite the song being called “Raise Your Glass”. Come on, Nottingham?! Missed opportunity there or what? Moving on, after the song, Theresa asks “do we have any creatures in here?” as the crowd scream with excitement, knowing they’re about to be serenaded with one of their oldest songs, “Creature”. Everyone in the room was clapping and it was amazing to see. Theresa’s vocal troubles seem to have faded away here too, as the song was performed amazingly by everyone, it was a real highlight. 

Now, we go into a song I haven’t heard performed live before, “Get Out”, my favourite deep-cut from their latest release, “Seize The Power”, and as soon as I knew that the song was going to be performed, I got incredibly excited, as I wanted to hear it live both times I saw them last year. This performance shows me why it was cut from their sets previously, as the performance was an absolute disaster. Theresa’s vocals were the worst of the entire night, the band didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves, which impacted significantly on the crowd, as none of them was getting down to the song (despite me on the balcony, who got everyone clapping and dancing!), there was no energy here, and so it didn’t work, which I’m gutted about, as this could have been fantastic, but it wasn’t. YONAKA then take a rather interesting decision by not performing some of their great tracks (including Fired Up, which was cut from tonight’s setlist), and instead performed a cover of Pat Benatar’s 1983 hit, “Love Is A Battlefield”. For me, if you’re a successful band, if you’re going to replace doing your own songs with a cover, that cover has to be fantastic and so different to the original (I personally hate covers because not a lot of artists do this), but YONAKA really pulled it off. The song sounds so different to the original, resurrecting the 40-year-old classic into something edgy and current, that is how you do a cover! It was let down by Jarvis’ off vocals, but this is something I would want to hear as a single, and it would definitely make a good TikTok trend, and it sounded like the crowd agreed with me, as the response for this track was the best of the night, it was a pleasure to hear it, and I hope it gets released.

YONAKA then prepare for the acoustic part of the show as they perform “Guilty (For Your Love)” and people were singing along and had their phone torches out, it was a beautiful moment indeed. However, the whole point of these acoustic sections are to show off vocals, and Theresa should have really pulled it off here, but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Vocally, parts were great, but a lot of parts wasn’t. It was a shame in that respect, but it certainly was a fantastic moment nevertheless, and a moment in which the band felt quite emotional afterwards. George Edwards then fires up his electric guitar as Theresa sings “all I hear is blah blah blah”, getting the crowd to repeat it back to her multiple times. We knew what this song was, this song was “Clique”, another track from “Seize The Power” I didn’t particularly like, but let me tell you something: I know I’ve shat on this band lots tonight, but THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE A COMEBACK! The performance was incredible, the atmosphere was amazing, the mosh pits were intense, the band chemistry was fantastic, and Jarvis’ vocal troubles became a thing of the past. Even more impressively, this performance made me become a fan of this song and it’s been in my head constantly since coming out of tonight’s show. 

This energy continued with “FWTB”, aka, “Fucking With The Boss”, which overshadowed “Clique” when I didn’t think that could be possible. The energy in the room was sensational, the mosh pits were intense, probably the best one I’ve seen in a long time, and the band were on top form. Everyone was screaming the lyrics “you’re fucking with the boss now” on the top of their lungs, and that is how you know you’ve done a great performance. Going onto the title track from “Seize The Power”, I wrote only one thing on my notes, and I don’t think I can write anything else that does this performance any more justice: “WOWWWWWWWW!”. I was quite honestly blown away by the energy in the room and the sheer perfection of the performance of the band, with this performance going into five-star territory, which is incredibly hard to do.

We had two songs for our encore, and the first of those was “Anthem”, the final song from “Seize The Power” featuring Barns Courtney on the recorded version, and whereas the performance didn’t reach the heights of that original version for me, it was still absolutely beautiful, which some great vocals from Theresa Jarvis throughout, with her saying “never stop dreaming” at the end, the whole crowd cheered both at that statement and the overall performance. The final song of the night was “Rockstar”, and they really went in hard for this last one, the crowd were clapping, everyone was moshing and the band were at their full potential. It was a fantastic way to finish the show.

Tonight, YONAKA’s performance was incredibly mixed. The band chemistry was phenomenal throughout, the energy from the crowd was some of the best I’ve seen at the Rescue Rooms, and the setlist was perfectly curated. However, the one aspect of the show which failed was lead singer, Theresa Jarvis’ incredibly off vocals, which hindered the show quite a lot, but even with her live presence and probably the greatest comeback of any show I have ever seen, with how frequent those mistakes were, I have to take all that into consideration while giving my rating, but one thing is for certain, tonight, YONAKA seized the power, it was theirs and they fucking took it.

Ranking: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Setlist:

  1. Ordinary [Seize The Power]
  2. Greedy [Seize The Power]
  3. Punch Bag [Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow]
  4. Call Me A Saint [Seize The Power]
  5. Don’t Wait Til Tomorrow [Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow]
  6. Raise Your Glass [Seize The Power]
  7. Creature [CREATURE / Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow]
  8. Get Out [Seize The Power]
  9. Love Is A Battlefield [Pat Benatar cover]
  10. Guilty (For Your Love) [Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow]
  11. Clique [Seize The Power]
  12. Fucking With The Boss (FWTB)
  13. Seize The Power [Seize The Power]

 

Encore:

  1. Anthem [Seize The Power]
  2. Rockstar [Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow]