Rock Solid: Y&T are now sticking to what they do best: live shows.
In Rock They Trust
Y&T beats the odds, reunites for three-night stand
By Greg Cahill
I love this job," says Y&T guitarist Dave Meniketti, "the live performance, the interaction with the fans, this feeling that is unexplainable to someone in any other job. When you stand up in front of an audience of a couple of thousand people, or even a couple of hundred, and feel the emotion that they're giving back to you from what they're getting from you--well, there is no other feeling quite like that."
It's been 30 years since Meniketti, bassist Phil Kennemore, and drummer Leonard Haze-- Oakland residents at the time, one and all--formed the core of a band inspired by the melodic hard rock of Deep Purple and named after the Beatles Yesterday and Today album (the band shortened its name to Y&T in 1978).
Y&T's first two albums--1976's eponymous debut and 1978's Struck Down, both released on the London label--won kudos for their melodic rock, swaggering confidence, and biting guitar riffs. Sales were slow at first, but on nearly a dozen major label albums released throughout the '80s and early '90s, Y&T unapologetically flew in the face of the punk, new wave, and grunge onslaughts to build a rock-solid blue-collar following. Some critics derided Y&T as defiantly unhip--the All Music Guide decried the band as "little more than a blot on the American hard rock canvas."
But don't assign Y&T to the heavy metal scrap yard just yet.
After a four-year respite and playing with its original lineup for the first time in 15 years, Y&T is set to perform an unprecedented three-night stand next week at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma. Even rhythm guitarist Joey Alves, who gave up playing professionally in the late '80s, will join the band for a couple of songs.
The band's return is a milestone for a group often portrayed as the Bad News Bears of hard rock. The rap on these big-hair, power-ballad-toting rockers is that Y&T had one of the best live performances around but suffered from bad luck, missed opportunities, and an inability to convey on record the sheer energy of their concerts.
"I've heard that assessment for most of my career," Meniketti says with a laugh, "so it's not something new to me. And I understand some of that--actually I understand the whole thing, but I don't necessarily agree with it. When you're in the studio, there is a whole different energy than when you're onstage, and it is difficult to capture that on tape. So there is some validity to that criticism.
"And there are breaks and there are breaks. Sometimes there are mistakes made by management or the record label or the band members themselves. And in collaboration with all that happening, you never know how the dice are gonna roll."
A promoter coaxed Y&T back onstage last November to join Joe Satriani, Journey, and several other '80s acts at the Chronicle Pavilion. "We were just sort of testing the waters," says Meniketti, 50, who also fronts his own band, "and when people found out about it things just sort of went crazy. We started getting offers for festivals in Europe and all sorts of gigs. We sat down and evaluated it and said, 'Yeah, this is fun--let's keep playing.'"
Earlier this summer, Y&T played the huge Monsters of Rock tour in England, along with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore and White Snake. "It was great," says Meniketti. "It's always good to play, and it was a real exciting thing for fans to see the band after almost 20 years. And it was equally exciting for us because we knew that fans were anticipating seeing the band again. It made for great performances for us."
The success of the U.K. tour has ignited interest stateside. "It looks like this could end up being a banner year," he adds.
Unfettered by the pressure of a recording contract, Y&T now can focus on what they do best--live shows. "It's funny because we studied that recently," Meniketti says when asked what distinguishes Y&T in concert. "We realize that we really put a lot of energy into our shows and a lot of passion into our playing. It's not like nobody else does that but there just seems to be this amazing amount of energy inside of us that's never left through the years. The intensity has never changed and we really enjoy what we're doing up there. Lots of bands have that--we just have it in spades.
"I mean, the whole thing about enjoying music is to get out there and play in front of people and get the reaction of the fans. That's the most exciting part for me, and I sorely missed doing it in a big way like we did in the '80s. So this past year has been great.
"It feels like we never stopped, really."
Y&T perform Nov. 14-16 (9pm on Friday and Saturday; 8:30pm on Sunday), at the Mystic Theatre, 21 Petaluma Blvd. N., Petaluma. Tickets are $30. AC/Dshe open the first two nights. 707.765.2121.
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From the November 6-12, 2003 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.