Live Review: Yonaka


Academy 2, Manchester, 20 November 2019

Words by Gary Lambert and Elena Katrina

Photos by Gary Lambert

Since I’ve been able to take photographs for myself at gigs, it has been a regular occurrence for me to go to watch my favourite bands on my own.  But when Yonaka supported by Zuzu and Rusalka appeared at Manchester Academy I was not making a solo trip to it.  Instead the excitement level saw Team Popped meeting up with our mates to travel down the M62 for potentially one of the gigs of the year.

With it seemed a million different gigs going on at Manchester Academy, it took a bit of time to find the right room, but luckily it was just as Rusalka was taking to the stage.  I’d never seen Rusalka before, but with her Facebook account listing her musical genre as “Apocalyptic Disney Fairy Princess” I was more than intrigued.  By the time her set had finished, I was still intrigued by Rusalka as the performance added more questions than answers. dsc_2260This is not a criticism, but a statement of fact as the artist is obviously at the very start of her career.  Rusalka’s primary weapon is her voice which reminded me of Bjork in tone, pitch and quirkiness.  The electro backing for wonderfully named tracks like Martyr in the Moshpit and Junkyard Dragon is not yet dramatic enough to provide a suitable backing to her vocal.  I don’t think that Rusalka will be to everybody’s taste in her current guise, but I’d recommend you check her out.

If you haven’t checked out Zuzu yet, then you’ve not been listening to Popped Music enough as we love her, and it was obvious from the reaction the Mancunian crowd had to this Queen of Scousers that more and more people are growing to love her.  Although she is backed by three very talented musicians, it is very much The Zuzu Show throughout her set as she allows her personality to take the responsibility for entertaining audiences.  From the moment Zuzu takes to the stage you can feel the connection that she has with the people cheering her on.  When she sings “if I had it, you could have it, but I don’t now” on Money Back, people connect with the struggle of juggling money from one payday to the next. dsc_2367The call to arms of self-belief and encouragement that is Beauty Queen is so beautifully emo that it can make you feel ten foot tall.  After the show as we waited around the merch desk for the team to gather for the drive home, the connection that Zuzu shares with her audience is right there for all to see as people of all ages and genders queue up to speak with and get a hug from her.  They feel like Zuzu is them on stage.


As I was in Photographer Mode for Yonaka, and so worried after my three songs that I hadn’t got anything, review responsibility for the Yonaka set gets handed over to Elena Katrina…

I was all set for this tour from when it was announced to say… I’ve not seen Yonaka play live for years!  Only now, thanks to the non-stop festival season life, I can say, it has only been a few weeks.  Lucky, lucky, lucky me!  Thinking back to the first time I saw them (around 2015) I knew they’d grow and grow; but wow they went and did just that, but forgot to take me on that ride. This makes me a little sad, but it’s never too late to jump back on in and fall in love with a live show and WOW – what a live show Yonaka deliver.

There isn’t just one focal point here either – and it became obvious fairly quickly that guitarist George has his own fans.  Screaming ones.  I wasn’t really expecting this at this kind of a show, but in for a penny in for a pound, it all gave to the immensely intense atmosphere that buzzed all around the Academy 2. Teresa Jarvis too is one hell of a show woman too.  I find it difficult at times to pit her stage performance against some of her lyrics, which suggest that she has some rather intimate knowledge of mental health issues.  Something she goes on to talk about before the band’s performance of Don’t Wait ‘Til Tomorrow.  This track she dedicated to anyone who was going through, or had been through, a hard time and encouraged people to talk.  This is something I wish more people had the nerve to do and it made me feel hugely emotional.  Hearing tracks like Creature  – about the love you feel when people still love you even when you’re not at your most sparkly – had the same effect.  Let’s face it, we all know someone, or are that someone, who has been in need of that kind of love.  Of course, too, you can’t mistake the narrative of Bad Company.

I missed out on (my favourite Yonaka song) Bubblegum as it was not in the set but I couldn’t fault the treats that Yonaka had in store for us.  One such special moment was the stripped back version of Guilty and oh my (swear words – lots of them) it was something else.  Where do those notes come from?  Breathtaking and certainly something I’ll never forget when I think about this show.  But it wasn’t just the tender moment, nor the tracks that showed great depth of bravery but also the ones that made every single person in that room feel like they could be a fighter too.  FWTB has to be the take home vibe of the night.  “You’re ALL Bosses” called Teresa before launching into this epic, thunerous beast of a song. Thank you Yonaka, you killed it.

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  • About Popped Music

    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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