Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Y&T - Bristol Review

Despite the fact that American hard rockers Y&T come to the UK for a fairly lengthy tour each Autumn/Winter, I had never actually seen them live before this past weekend! I think the fact that you know you will have plenty more opportunities to see a band can sometimes make you complacent when it comes to booking tickets. I had always wanted to see the band live, but with only a finite amount of funds available for gig expenses, Y&T shows always got passed over for bands that I was either: a) a bigger fan of; or b) do not come over to the UK that often. That is why this year, when the tour was announced quite a few months ago, I booked by ticket straight away! I did not want to go another year passing up an opportunity to see Y&T, as their reputation as a fantastic live band is an opinion that is pretty much universally held by rock fans. The fact they were playing in Bristol too made the decision easy, as Bristol is usually quite cheap for me to get too, and it is a nice city to visit anyway. The O2 Academy there, while not the best venue of it's kind, is certainly not a bad place to watch live music (unless the show is sold out, or close to being so). That was not the case here though and, while there was a decent amount of people in attendance, there was still plenty of space to stop things getting too cramped. I do not usually try to get to the front for gigs these days, but the sparser crowd made this easier than usual, so I made my way down to the barrier where I stayed for the entire evening. As with the Anathema show the day before, there was very little hanging around. The support band went on 15 minutes after the doors opened, and there was a very short turnaround before Y&T came on. I much prefer shows like this, as the endless hanging around can get very tedious, and it stops the evenings from being ridiculously late all the time.

The aforementioned support band was Praying Mantis, a band who originally found fame as part of the NWOBHM movement in the early 1980s, but have since become a bit of a cult band with their excellent brand of melodic hard rock. I had not seen the band since the 2013 edition of the Cambridge Rock Festival, so this was a set I had been looking forward to almost as much as Y&T's. They only had just over half an hour to play with, but they made it count with 6 hard-hitting yet melodic rock songs that seemed to impress the growing crowd. A couple of songs from last year's Legacy were included, with the opening number Fight for Your Honour being one of the set's highlights. The band have improved considerably since frontman John Cuijpers joined the band in 2013. His voice and stage presence are both great, and has the range to do the band's catalogue justice. The band's sound is characterised by lots of twin-lead guitar riffs from founding member Tino Troy (guitar/vocals) and long-time member Andy Burgess (guitar/vocals), with all of the band's songs featuring extremely melodic harmony guitar lines. The real highlight of the set however was ballad Dream On, which features a fantastic chorus, and a stunning guitar solo from Burgess. Two old songs ended the set, including the muscular Captured City, a song which featured on the hallowed 1980 NWOBHM showcase compliation album Metal for Muthas. This was a set that was far better than your average support slot, and I hope to see a full-length set from the band sometime in the future. The setlist was:

Fight for Your Honour
Panic in the Streets
Believable
Dream On
Captured City
Children of the Earth

After the short changeover , Y&T hit the stage with little fanfare, and ploughed through a two-hour set with great energy and professionalism. Their set was mostly focused on their mid-1980s albums, but there were a few songs from their latest album Facemelter thrown in for good measure. One of these songs, On with the Show, opened the show with Aaron Leigh's (bass guitar/vocals) bass riff before it morphs into a real hard rock anthem with a big chorus. Y&T are a very uncomplicated band, with simple, riff-based, songs, but they are songs that are made to be heard live. Sole-founding member Dave Meniketti (vocals/guitar) is the star of the show throughout. His voice still sounds as good as it did in the 1980s, and he takes the vast majority of the evening's guitar solos and shows off what a fantastically underrated player he is. Lots of well known songs came early on with Lipstick and Leather, Dirty Girl (which was drawn out with solos from both Meniketti and John Nymann (guitar/vocals)), and Mean Streak all impressing. Songs from the band's late-1980s AOR-influenced period were also included. Don't be Afraid of the Dark was one of those featured, but without the keyboard backing that the album version had it felt a little flat. This was unfortunately the case for all of songs from that part of the band's discography, with the band's tough live sound overpowering the songs' melodies. The lack of volume in the backing vocal department did not help either. The band's earlier songs, and more recent numbers, all sounded fantastic however. Winds of Change and Black Tiger were both highlights of the middle part of the show, before a slightly re-arranged version of a personal favourite Midnight in Tokyo was played. I liked the new arrangement, with the slower introduction, and there was plenty of singing from the crowd at this point. Another song that was drawn out for guitar pyrotechnics was the ballad I Believe in You which saw Meniketti launch into a soaring and emotionally-charged solo that went on for quite a while. At my position on the barrier, I could take in every note of this solo, and that made it even more special. Unfortunately fan favourites Contagious and Summertime Girls suffered the same fate as Don't be Afraid of the Dark, and did not hit the spot as they really should do. I understand that the band have reverted back to their heavier early 1980s sound these days, but maybe some basic programmed keyboards would help these few songs live? The set came to an with Rescue Me and I'm Coming Home, which were both fantastic and helped to end the set on a real high. Despite being on stage for nearly two hours by this point, there was still time for a couple more. Open Fire was a surprise with it's heavy riff and powerful chorus, before another fan favourite Forever was played to a huge cheer before the band took their final bows and left the stage, bringing another European tour to an end. The setlist was:

On with the Show
Lipstick and Leather
Don't Stop Runnin'
Dirty Girl
Mean Streak
Don't Bring me Down
Don't be Afraid of the Dark
Winds of Change
Blind Patriot
I'll Keep on Believin' (Do You Know)
Black Tiger
Midnight in Tokyo
Down and Dirty
Hang 'em High
I Believe in You
Contagious
Drum solo
Summertime Girls
Rescue Me
I'm Coming Home
-
Open Fire
Forever

My first live Y&T experience was a positive one, and this was one of the best honest rock 'n' roll shows I have seen in a while. I shall definitely look to see the band again next time the come to the UK, as their reputation seems to be more than justified. I met three members of Praying Mantis at the merch desk after the show too, and got them to sign my copy of Legacy and one of their setlists which was given to me by one of the crew after their set!

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