When Y&T original singer/guitarist Dave Meniketti wrapped up our interview before his band's previous visit to San Antonio in 2010, he had a message for those on the fence about coming to that show:
"This is one helluva band, and it kicks ass," he said. "And if you think we don't play as good as we did a few years ago, well, you'd be mistaken."
Fast forward to 2013. The point remains taken.
Y&T (click on related coverage in blue at bottom) delivered the goods Friday night at Backstage Live in a crisp, hard-rocking 1-hour, 50-minute set that delighted the few hundred in attendance. And for those who may have still been mistaken? Well, they missed one of the few '70s/'80s bands that concentrates on good rock songs minus frills, political messages or an overabundance of sexual lyrics (not to say there aren't some of those. It is Rock N' Roll, of course. More on that later).
Y&T had been celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Mean Streak album by playing it in its entirety "at select shows," and San Antonio figured to be one of them. Instead, the group mixed up its set to span most of its career, with Meniketti telling the crowd they would still hear many Mean Streak tunes.
After taking the stage to an energetic version of the title track to 1982's Black Tiger, it was clear Y&T's rock machine was in motion. The sound throughout the show would prove to be consistently crystal clear, unlike the distortion that accompanied prior act Faster Pussycat's 45-minute set with a different sound engineer. Meniketti, guitarist John Nymann, bassist Brad Lang and drummer Mike Vanderhule were a juggernaut that kept rolling all night long.
A slew of '80s classics kicked things off, including Dirty Girl, the title track to Mean Streak, Midnight In Tokyo, ballad I Believe In You and Lipstick N' Leather.
We all have those songs, albums and groups from our childhood or high school days that enabled us to first identify with a band. When you hear them live 25-plus years later for the first time, well, it can turn someone into a different animal. Such was the case with Y&T's 1987 Contagious album -- the first of theirs that really got me going midway through high school even though 1985's Summertime Girls was the first Y&T tune I'd heard, thanks to the glory days of MTV.
So when Meniketti forewarned that a song from Contagious was about to ring our ears, it was time to stop watching appreciatively and simply rock out. It didn't matter which song off Contagious was coming. That it proved to be Rhythm Or Not added fuel to the rock fire. Sure, it may have been a bit odd to hear Meniketti, 59, still singing "look at those Timbalis" and "do fries go with that shake" 26 years after the song came out. But again, it's a rock show. The song rocks. If you want serious stuff, stay home, and watch CNN. Case closed.
Then a funny thing happened. The Contagious songs kept coming. Four in all: Eyes of a Stranger segued into instrumental I'll Cry For You, just as they do to end the CD. Moments later, the title track rang true. Although it was one of the band's biggest videos, it was still a surprise inclusion into the set given that it's not on 2012 double-live album Live At The Mystic. In fact, only one of the live disc's 22 songs -- Eyes Of A Stranger -- hails from Contagious.
Y&T has released only one album this century -- the brilliant Facemelter from 2010. Meniketti said Friday that the band would mix up the set from the 2010 Backstage Live visit, and it wasn't until 10th song "Shine On" that we got our faces melted with newer rock. The only other track off that album played Friday was a poignant one. I'm Coming Home was dedicated to original bassist Phil Kennemore, who passed in 2011 (click link in blue below).
Vanderhule was a steady force on the drums throughout the show. Lang moved around the stage the most, and Meniketti's voice, enthusiastic guitar playing -- heck, even his appearance -- were straight out of 1987. But of course, Y&T's catalog goes back further. In addition to the bevy of Black Tiger and Mean Streak tunes, click on the video box at the bottom for footage of 1981's Squeeze -- with Nymann on vocals -- and 1982's Forever. Those eventually gave way to lone encore Rescue Me.
By then, many in the original crowd had left. An unexplainable occurrence given that it was a Friday, and, more importantly, that Y&T was in the house. But to each his or her own. Those who came in the beginning to catch opening acts The Art, Bone, Wolfpack, and Bad Obsession, as well as Faster Pussycat, and stuck it out through nearly two hours of Y&T more than received their money's worth.
As for the headliners who show no signs of slowing down? Yesterday and Today's future bodes brightly. And those who may have made the mistake of thinking Y&T no longer plays solidly or cohesively likely won't make that miscue again.
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