Sometimes it takes vision. And a simple vision at that. The vision of one clear-sighted, single-minded – some might say stubborn – individual. And that vision is to do what you enjoy, and what you want to do, need to do, to fulfill that enjoyment, no matter what adversity, what travails, stand in your path. It is the sort of vision that leads to determination: the kind of determination that has driven one Dave Meniketti to take his band, Y&T, to that most historic of landmarks in any career – their 40th anniversary! And the affable Californian shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, as he led the current incarnation of the band out on one of their longest treks yet – including what has now become their (almost) annual visit to the corner of this ‘ere planet mosh called Belfast…
For openers Maverick – a band who grew up on a musical diet of the likes of this evening’s headliners and contemporaries such as Winger, Dokken et al as much as Judas Priest and their ilk – this was undoubtedly the biggest gig of their short careers to date. However, the five lads show absolutely no sign of any nerves and rise to the occasion with youthful enthusiasm – as epitomized right from the off when frontman David Balfour runs on stage, grinning from ear to ear (well, he would be if you could see his aural cavities below his trademark bandana) as the band blast into the insanely catchy opener that is ‘Snakeskin Sinner’.
Following a particularly grunting, growling version of the first single ‘Paint By Numbers’, the Mavs follow the route mapped out on the previous weekend’s (PM-sponsored) mini-tour by unveiling a new song from their forthcoming debut album (‘Quid Pro Quo’ – released on November 28 via Massacre Records): in this case, it’s the pure and simple sleazy r’n’f’n’r of ‘In Our Blood’. As the audience continues to file into the venue, Maverick undoubtedly capture many new fans who hopefully will go on to support both this particular quintet and many of the other damn fine acts on the Norn Irish scene rather than thinking it’s OK for their r’n’r streed cred to turn up a few minutes early in order to check out the local support act…
The last time Y&T played Belfast, Dave Meniketti was extremely upset by having to cut the band’s typically epic set short by almost a good hour, due to the gig being staged on one of the venue’s club nights: the result was the omission of the city from last year’s annual UK jaunt… however, this time around, there were no such worries, as the promoter deliberately booked the show for a night when the band could pay full and proper homage to their five-decade long heritage – with the result subsequently being a full two-and-a-half hour and 24 song long set which touched almost the bases of the aforementioned band history.
Opening with the appropriately hard-hitting ‘Hurricane’, what follows is not only a consummate display not only quality musicianship – proving, once again, that Meniketti is one of the most under-rated songwriters, guitarists and vocalists of his generation – but a lesson in how to deliver a set befitting of this sort of occasion. ‘Black Tiger’, for example, growls, prowls and hunts down any unbeliever in the house, while ‘Meanstreak’ is a song that always lives up to the reputation of the woman about whom it was penned, and the intro to ‘Dirty Love’ gets every hand clapping, every arm swaying and every lover entwining with their partner (yes, all at the same time) as it twists and coils around the room.
It’s a set that is as much about what is left out as much as what is included: Meniketti’s solos are sublimely under-stated, almost indifferent in places, while stripped back versions of the likes of ‘Midnight In Tokyo’ and ‘Winds Of Change’ are by turns broodingly majestic and gloriously heartfelt. At the same time, they really know how to rock out, playing with an energy, excitement and pure adrenaline-fuelled rush that many bands two generations their younger would envy. They also retain the ability to surprise, especially in their choice of material: ‘Lucy’, from the ‘Ten’ album, gets a rare outing, while ‘All American Boy’ – recorded during the ‘Summertime Girls’ session – is aired for the first time ever on this tour, summarizing the band and their attitude!
‘I Believe In You’ closes the main set, proving once again that it is one of THE best hard rock ballads EVER, while the band lead to their inevitable finale by playing the entire first side of the ‘Black Tiger’ album in order, with the fiesty and fiercesome ‘Forever’ (a track they disappointingly had to drop two nights later at Hard Rock Hell) closing another night which epitomizes professionalism and dedication of the highest order and summarizes what a rock show is supposed to be all about.
Hurricane / Black Tiger / L.A. Rocks / Lucy / Meanstreak / Dirty Girl / Midnight In Tokyo / Cold Day In Hell / Winds Of Change / I’m Coming Home / I’ll Cry For You / Surrender / Eyes Of A Stranger / Rescue Me / Contagious / Lonely Side Of Town / I Want Your Money / All American Boy / Summertime Girls / I Believe In You
Encore: Open Fire / Don’t Wanna Lose / Hell Or High Water / Forever
Photographs by Paul Verner.