Is rock music now a niche market? That was the subject of a discussion I found myself getting involved in on Facebook recently, seeing as fans of this style of music are ageing with the bands themselves. I reluctantly had to concede that yes, it is now niche as even younger bands of this style are finding themselves with fans ‘of a certain age’. I know, because I am now one of them!
Regardless, veteran band Y&T have carved their own niche within this niche market; they tour Europe every autumn and always include a good run of British dates, whereas in their heyday they were never seen in this country from about the mid-80s up to their initial split in 1991. (They appeared at the 1984 Monsters of Rock festival at Donington and impressed many, including myself but broke in their native US soon after.) Only mainman Dave Meniketti remains from the classic line-up, and he has had a 2016 to forget. His wife Jill (who acts as the band’s manager) took ill during this tour and was hospitalised; he has had to bring in a new bass player (Aaron Leigh) in place of Brad Lang who took a leave of absence in order to deal with a self-confessed alcohol problem (and subsequently declared he would not return to the band so that he could recover properly). In addition, the band’s long-time soundman Tom Size had been diagnosed with cancer this year, and a fundraising page was set up to help with the cost of treatment. Sadly news of the soundman’s passing came through on the day of this show, a further blow to the band as their original drummer Leonard Haze had also passed away weeks before this tour took place.
Trooper that he is however, Meniketti and his current band (guitarist John Nymann, drummer Mike Vanderhule and the aforementioned Aaron Leigh) still put on a night of classic hard rock for the fans who had turned out on a cold Sunday night in Liverpool. The audience was indeed ‘of a certain age’, although one or two young faces were there, accompanied by dads who obviously had brought their lads out to see ‘a proper rock band’ show how it should be done. The downstairs stage of the o2 Academy was encouragingly full, if not sold out it was a good attendance for the Bay Area foursome.
Before the main act we had another veteran act in NWOBHM survivors Praying Mantis. Still featuring founding members Chris and Tino Troy, they are now fronted by a Dutch lead singer by the name of John Cuijpers. They gave a very impressive set of melodic Metal, and Cuijpers’ voice reminded me of the great Ronnie James Dio. So much so, I think that Last In Line should be taking a serious look at this guy! I’m not well up on this band’s history at all, that will have to change. I treated myself to their ‘Legacy’ CD afterwards (their most recent effort, which showcases the band as they are now) and will make a note to look into the band’s recording history.
When I saw Y&T last year in Buckley I observed that they have a back catalogue sufficiently deep for them to change their set around considerably, even though their last release (‘Facemelter’) came out way back in 2010. That proved to be the case, as the band opened with ‘On With The Show’ from that album before digging out classics such as ‘Lipstick and Leather’. One deeper cut performed on this night that even the frontman said isn’t played often was ‘I’ll Keep On Believin’ (Do You Know)’, from 1984’s ‘In Rock We Trust’ album. It was a much-changed set from last year although they still played fan favourites such as ‘Dirty Girl’ and ‘Midnight In Tokyo’. Early on in the set, Meniketti came to the front of the stage to give a brief eulogy to Tom Size and Leonard Haze; he then dedicated ‘Winds of Change’ to both, plus the late Phil Kennemore, the band’s original bassist who died in 2010. That cannot have been easy for him but he handled it superbly, bringing an ovation from the crowd.
The crowd gave Y&T a superb response all night, every song was greeted with enthusiastic cheers which seemed to lift the frontman. I felt that just like the last time the came to this venue in 2012, Meniketti took a few songs to warm up vocally but once he did he was in great form. Then again, performing such demanding material as ‘Don’t Stop Running’ and ‘Mean Streak’ early in the set might have been asking a lot even of him, still one of the best vocalists of this genre. Of course, he also is a phenomenal guitar player with a magnificent tone many others would kill for, so even if his voice took a while to reach 100% his fingers still have the magic.
They seemed to want to get on with it; it turned out they were working against a curfew and Meniketti said that they wouldn’t be able to play their ‘usual’ two-and-a-half hour set, settling for a mere (!) two hours and keeping chat to a minimum. It was still a terrific value show in a setting that allowed the performers close contact with the audience.
This band delivers the goods year in and year out and really should be celebrated more; yes they had their moment in the sun during the 1980s but arguably are still as good today as back then. In a year when we’ve lost many iconic rock stars, it’s great to see at least one band from those days still kicking and still prepared to take their music to the people.