For the band and fans alike, Y&T‘s annual end of year UK tours have become something akin to a pilgrimage. Despite being more than four decades into their career – and not having released any new material in a little more than five of those years – Dave Meniketti and his troubadours show no sign of slowing down, and inspire an almost fanatical following, with fans travelling the length and breadth of the country to catch them on every date of their increasingly longer and longer tours…
Four years ago, the band threatened to pull the plug on the Belfast leg of said tours, when the promoter stupidly put them on on one of the venue’s student nights and enforced an early curfew – literally turning the power off mid-song! “You fucking what?” was the considered response of all concerned… Fortunately, despite leaving the city off the following year’s tour schedule, common sense prevailed and Y&T not only recognized the wishes of their fans and returned to Belfast – but did so to a bigger venue!
Openers Sweet Savage easily fit into the “veterans” category as well, having been at this old heavy metal caper since the heyday of the NWOBHM three decades past. Even after all these years (which, inevitably, have involved numerous line up changes), founding frontman Ray Haller stills knows how to pimp and preen on stage, machine-gunning the audience with his bass and cajoling the early-comers into moving their aging bones in time to the classic metal vibes of the likes of ‘Warbird’ and ‘Regenerator’: Raymie jokes that “hopefully this will be the last time you have to listen to these songs, as we have a new album coming out!”, before revealing that said opus is called ‘Bang’ and will be released on 19 February.
For this incarnation of SS, Haller certainly has surrounded himself with an impressively tight and professional group of young musos, especially in guitarist Phil Edgar, while fellow axe-slinger Simon McBride – complete with new spiky haircut – obviously does seem to be enjoying eschewing his more characteristic blues rock sound for the heavier Savs material, as he adds a new jam-style intro to ‘Killing Time’ – the one song that the band will never drop from their live repertoire, as it is the one on which they have built their legacy.
Setlist: Warbird / Powder Monkey / Regenerator / Killing Time / Whiskey In The Jar
Right from the off, Dave Meniketti is lost in the passion of what he is doing, playing with his eyes screwed tightly shut, the riffs and melodies tumbling freely as ‘Hurricane’ blasts its way into and out of the venue and through the windswept city streets outside with an undiminished fire its belly. What follows is just shy of two hours 15 minutes of a masterclass in classic, melodic heavy metal played by one of THE best exponents of the art. And having fun while they are doing it. While the frontman consistently loses himself in the rapture of the moment, John Nymann, Brad Lang and Mike Vanderhule possess grins wider than the Golden Gate Bridge as they set about their respective tasks: the drummer twirls his sticks, the bassist prowls and purrs around the stage while the guitarist knows his role as second fiddle to the mainman – as demonstrated on ‘Dirty Girl’, when Meniketti outdoes Nymann’s sublimely laconic and eerie solo without even seeming to think about what he’s doing (and, yes, once again, he does have his eyes closed!).
The devotion of the fans, as mentioned at the outset of this review, is recognized by Meniketti early on, when he disrupts the rest of the UK tour setlist to add in the rarely aired ‘Lucy’, in honour of two fans hanging off the front barrier who have been to every gig (as they do on every tour). This prompts other fans to start shouting out requests – “that was a fucking long time ago,” Meniketti responds to one: “I don’t remember it… why don’t you come up and sing it? Oh, maybe not… but thank you”. One thing that Y&T do know how to do is to pace their set, both for the audience and themselves, switching easily between the intensity of ‘Black Tiger’, the funk vibrato of ‘Rhythm Or Not’, the glammed-down sub-thrash of ‘Meanstreak’ and the bluesiness of ‘Lonely Side Of Town’.
The aforementioned ‘Dirty Girl’ has (almost) every fella in the room wishing their other half was one, with every note masterfully crafted and answered back by the enthusiasm of the fans – most of whom are old enough to really know better! However, the quartet also demonstrate their ability, even after all these years (and when you might expect them to stick to a tried and tested – and hugely successful – formula), to surprise: and they do just that with what a magnificent updating of ‘Midnight In Tokyo’, which is initially stripped back to just Meniketti’s raw guitar and a three-part vocal harmony, before building into its more recognizable framework – and then easing off again in a beautiful re-interpretation.
In between plunging the not inconsiderable depths of their archive – the likes of ‘Take You To The Limit’ and ‘She’s Gone’ get all too rare but welcome outings – it’s pretty much what you would you expect from a Y&T show, in terms of delivering the money shots: ‘I Believe In You’ is a mid-set highlight and earns the biggest, and most passionate response of the evening so far, while ‘Barroom Boogie’ swaggers and struts around the pumps and optics (and the not inconsiderable number of increasingly tiddly middle-aged revellers in front of them). But, as ever, Meniketti saves the best till last, wringing every ounce of passion out of himself, his music, his band and, above all, his audience as he proves that he is ‘Coming Home’ (a song given extra poignancy by the fact that this particular gig is taking place on Armistice Day) to where he belongs – on stage. And simultaneously he takes the main body of set into its third hour… something no other band has done in this venue since, well, Y&T last played here exactly 364 days earlier!
I’ve referred all the way through this review to the passion that Dave Meniketti shows for his art. The grand finale of the evening epitomizes this, as he unashamedly wipes the free flowing tears from his eyes as the dying strains of an ever-tumultuous ‘Forever’ echoes around a room in which everyone present has just spent the previous few hours not only singing and dancing but also standing in open-mouthed admiration at what always has been, and always will be, one of the best live shows on anyone’s annual gigging calendar.
Setlist: Hurricane / LA Rocks / Lucy / Black Tiger / Rhythm Or Not / Meanstreak / Lonely Side Of Town / Dirty Girl / Midnight In Tokyo / Take You To The Limit / I Believe In You / Eyes Of A Stranger / Contagious / She’s Gone / Barroom Boogie / I Want Your Money / Summertime Girls / Rescue Me / I’m Coming Home
Encore: Open Fire / Hell Or High Water / Forever
- Y&T play their annual “homecoming” shows at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 November. They also play a special New Year’s Eve show at the Ace Of Spades in Sacramento on Thursday 31 December. Details of 2016 tour dates can be found on the band’s official Facebook page.
- Photographs by The Dark Queen. All content © PlanetMosh 2015.