Y&T/Stormzone – Belfast, Limelight 1 – 8 November 2017 Print
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 04:40

There used to be a time when Y&T’s traditional end of year UK tour saw them pull into one city which has really taken the band to its buxom, but recently their visits have been somewhat more sporadic, as Dave Meniketti acknowledged during their latest long overdue return – but, that’s something we’ll come back to a little bit later on…


Stormzone 7


Belfast’s own power metal bombers Stormzone seem to have become something of a “support band for hire” of late – fulfilling that duty for Inglorious next door a few weeks back and due to do likewise for DiamondHead around the corner in Voodoo in the not too distant future… but, then, the band have undergone a few changes recently and are in the initial throes of recording their new album, so perhaps they’re looking merely to keep their chops up on the live circuit.


As it is, the band deliver a competent and audience-friendly set, drawing on the biggest pops of their five-album career to date, from the traditional opening of ‘Where We Belong’ through ‘Another Rainy Night’ (well, you don’t need the weather forecast to tell you it’s just that outside) to the title track of the ‘Three Kings’ album. I mentioned changes, and indeed there have been some of late, not least behind the drum kit, where new recruit/temporary stand-in (I’m not sure which, to be honest) Johnny Miller fits in like a well-worn glove, not least on the intro to ‘The Pass Loning’ and the double thump of unscheduled set closer ‘Death Dealer’: unscheduled in that the band had expected to play another song, but get the signal to cut their set short.


Stormzone may have been kicking around the NI metal scene for nigh on a decade now, and clearly attracted a smallish early crowd, but there were others who obviously were unaware of them until now, and I can vouch for the fact that they made a few new fans… even if the majority had stayed in the bars either next door or around the corner until closer to the main attraction’s scheduled stage time!


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Talking to an old friend at the end of Stormzone’s set, he remarked that the crowds for Y&T’s visits to Belfast seemed to be getting smaller on each occasion: we agreed that it was perhaps understandable, given the fact that the San Fran rockers haven’t released a new album in something like seven years… Is there only so long that you can go out and play the same songs without injecting something fresh into the set? But, then, we also agreed that there were many like us who will still turn up, no matter what, because we know we know we’re in for a great night’s entertainment. Now, while the crowd may have been somewhat diminutive at the end of the support slot, we need not have worried, as it quickly filled during the turnaround period.


We were also wrong in another regard… all around us, bets were being placed on what Y&T would open up with: the odds were very firmly on ‘Open Fire’. But, Meniketti totally blindsided us as the dark thump of the intro to ‘Black Tiger’ snarled from the venue’s massive speakers and dissipated itself all over the hungry crowd. As Mike Vanderhule saunters on stage to take up his position behind the kit, followed by John Nymann and “newbie” Aaron Leigh, both the anticipation and volume levels rise organically, before the man himself danders on, straps on his guitar, strikes the first riff – and the party well and truly starts.


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What follows over the next two hours or so is a masterclass in how to do a rock show: know your audience, know what they want – and give it to them… and then some! Y&T are one band whom I’ve seen live on multiple occasions (it must be at least half a dozen on this very stage), and not once have they failed to deliver a performance which is neither faultless nor flawless. And, tonight is no exception: in fact, if anything, like the wines Meniketti has taken to producing in recent years, they get better the more they mature, and I would say that this is the strongest incarnation of the band since the unfortunate passing of Phil Kennemore.


Meniketti is quick to acknowledge that their visits to this part of the Überverse have been a bit sporadic recently – “we skipped a year… I don’t know how, but here we are” he declares before sleazing his way into the intro to ‘Dirty Girl’, which itself is bookmarked by a thorough plumbing of the Y&T back catalogue, with ‘Lipstick And Leather’, ‘Straight Thru The Heart’ and ‘Eyes Of A Stranger’ all recalling the band’s commercial heyday of the mid- to late-Eighties.


Y&T 2


As requests are shouted from the crowd, Meniketti shrugs them off with a wry smile and launches into ‘Mean Streak’, which sees Nymann and Leigh fooling around with each other’s instruments while their leader wrenches out the solo, before delving right into his archive with the punchy duopoly of ‘Lay Me Down’ and ‘Storm’ from his own side project : it’s an unusual choice of diversion, but then it’s his band and his night, and he has the extremely knowledgeable crowd eating out of his hands, so what the hell?


Dave pauses proceedings briefly to pay tribute to the other three founding members of the band – Kennemore, bassist Joey Alves and drummer Leonard Haze – and the crowd respond, appropriately, with a respectful round of applause before the appropriately poignant ‘Wind Of Change’, at the end of which you can clearly see the frontman wipe the tears from his eyes. The requests keep coming, earning the response of “later, maybe, but first…” And we’re into ‘I Believe In You’: and, yes, Dave, we believe in you too, brother, as we prove year after year, and hopefully will do for many to come. At this stage, DQ is in bits, as Meniketti produces yet another stunning solo and the song produces an absolutely huge response, with the clapping and cheering going on for more than a minute: Dave is genuinely humbled as the chants of “Y&T” reverberate off the walls – it’s ‘Contagious’ baby!


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After the virtually obligatory drum solo, featuring some beautiful double-hit snare work from Vanderhule, Meniketti declares that ‘Rock n Roll’s Gonna Save The World’ as the set heads well into its second hour… but, no matter how much he wants to stick to the set list, the requests keep coming. “You guys know our material,” the singer responds, with a knowing smile. “I can probably do ten seconds of each of those songs… but, here’s one I can do…” It may be early November, but those ‘Summertime Girls’ are always welcome, as is a touch of thon ‘Bar Room Boogie’.


Meniketti may be one of the best, and most under-rated, guitarists and singers in the hard rock business, but he’s also a generous performer, as he demonstrates when he steps to the side to allow Nymann to take the lead on the retro-thump of ‘Squeeze’. But, then, we’re ‘Coming Home’ in fine style and, at a surprisingly protracted hour and 53 minutes the main set finishes….


But, of course, it’s not over: this is a band who could happily play all night – and a bunch of fans who would equally happily stand and listen to them do just that, and cheer every note. As the bar starts to run out of beer, Meniketti declares that “we got time for one request”: and it’s the fans who sing every word of the first two verses and chorus of ‘Midnight In Tokyo’ before the band slowly pick up the pace. If it’s at all possible, both the crowd and the band are getting more energetic as the latter race toward the curfew with ‘Rescue Me’ before finally declaring that this music, and these sort of gigs, will last ‘Forever’: with the energy levels exuding from every corner of the room, many of us could indeed have gone on for that long, but we had to settle for the fact that we had just witnessed another consummate performance from one of the best, and most enduring, hard rockin’ bands around – and long may they continue to prove themselves so.


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