Yonaka are delighted to be back on their own tour and it’s a joy to witness.
Juddering bass and mechanical white noise set the scene with sirens sounding through the static – then the lights are on and melodic swooshes bleed into the wailing, distorted intro of Punch Bag. Guitarist George Edwards and frontwoman Theresa Jarvis thrash through choruses – “don’t let anyone be your punchbag, ok?” she yells in between head banging. Soaring melodies cut through the grit.
Now silhouetted in blue, they take on the grunged-up grooves of Awake and then the swaggering Lose Our Heads, Theresa beaming out at the audience chanting back the hook. Final words are sung out with her fist held aloft as smoke swirls.
Wake Up is textbook Yonaka – it’s brooding, with an airy arrangement and silvery guitar lines, and all about bad dreams. The absurd lyrics “running from gorillas in the moonlight, kissing lots of people that I don’t like” are honest and knowing, Theresa’s voice is light-footed in pre choruses and yearning in the choruses. She dances camply across the stage, her facial expressions at Lady Gaga-levels of dramatic as she sings about those nightmare episodes that leave you doubting both your sanity and moral compass.
Twenty minutes in and George is topless, the mosh pits are brewing as Theresa’s frenetic energy infects us all. The crowd is peppered with people wearing merch emblazoned with Yonaka’s highly distinctive logo, a genius design that looms behind drummer Robert Mason onstage and decorates Theresa’s shorts. With such self-assured branding, the band demands to be taken seriously.
Guilty receives an acoustic-ish makeover and its gentle beauty given room to breathe in the quiet. In love songs Theresa’s timbre takes on a honeyed richness reminiscent of Adele’s most tender vocals – “I had monsters in my bedroom ’til you came along/You scared them off and kissed my head/Told me that they’ve all gone,” she sings. Power chords and a raspiness in her voice mean lines like “You’re just like the movies” are worlds away from becoming saccharine. This is a moment of hush in a dynamite set and the audience love it, breaking into wild applause as it peters out.
Rockstar’s opening chords ring out as Theresa stands in front of sunrise-coloured stage lights and dedicates the song “to the dreamers!”. Ironic and point well made as the lyrics cry out “wanna be a rockstar, seemingly they’re already there – the band has an arena-worthy show well before their time and she absolutely holds the fort that is Yonaka and its loyal following. She gets as close to us as she can without actually crowd-surfing, prancing and dancing unrelentingly, hyping the audience like a grimestar.
It’s really not a stretch to imagine the show working on Muse proportions – the songs are classics from first listen and Theresa’s indefatigable stage presence deserves far more floorspace. An hour at SWX is not nearly enough to do Yonaka’s magnetism justice.