I don’t like turning up late to gigs, especially when I’m going on my own and can’t blame anybody else. (“I would have been on time, but XXX wanted another pint!”) Night By Night were already on stage when I arrived at Fibbers tonight but, given that the ticket said 8pm and I got there at about a quarter to, it wasn’t really my fault.
I’ve no idea how much of their set I had missed but I managed to catch four and a bit songs from a band that is garnering great reviews from the likes of Classic Rock magazine, Kerrang! and even Def Leppard’s Rick Savage. The five-piece from London looked a little cramped on a stage which was already set up for the headliners but they were giving it their all. By the second track, it was obvious that vocalist Henry Rundell could hold a note (and a scream) but it was the triple harmonies that were the most impressive, giving the band more of a AOR sound than full on heavy metal/rock. The band’s current single, The Moment, had a definite American-rock sound but the impressive and epic set-ender started with a crunchier guitar sound before moving into the more usual “screaming” guitar, but with a relentlessly powerful backbeat. It’s not fair to judge a band from a partial set but, in this case, I was impressed enough to be keeping an eye out for the upcoming debut album.
Moving closer to the stage before the headliners came on a few things grabbed my attention. Firstly, this was the first time I had seen a band put a sign on the door behind the stage declaring it as their dressing room and cover the window onto the room with a towel. Secondly, among all the various patches and rock t-shirts in the audience, there seemed to be more references Motorhead that I had seen outside of the eighties. I was beginning to worry that Y&T might be a bit too heavy for me. After all, this was another band that I had chosen to see based on the description on the what’s on listing and I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to the gig, except for a brief visit to the website, where a banner declaring “facemelting music” was pretty much front and centre. Between acts a hard-rock mix tape was warming the crowd up, with Highway To Hell especially getting them singing. Soon the towel was, somewhat curiously, taken down and the band took to the stage.
I needn’t have worried. Y&T are firmly in the American brand of heavy-rock, somewhere between AOR and the heavier stuff that I’ve never quite got used to. There’s a bit of a nostalgic feel tonight, not least because of the twenty one songs played more than half come from three albums originally released between 1981 and 1983, with only four coming from outside that decade. And it’s a decade that bass-player Brad Lang seems strangely stuck in, his smouldering stares and the conveniently placed fan blowing his hair back from his face give him a look straight from the soft-rock video directors’ handbook. The set opens with Mean Streak and the slightly heavier Straight Through The Heart. It’s another case of a veteran rock outfit drawing a large crowd and frontman Dave Meniketti – the only founder member and looking uncannily like Brian May – thanks us for coming out, quipping that the band had the choice of a night off or playing York. The fact that they chose the latter gets a huge cheer. With a roadie scurrying on stage to help Meniketti swap guitars before Afraid Of The Dark, it becomes obvious to the band that Fibbers’ low ceiling means they are going to have to be careful or risk snapping a neck and, between Don’t Stop Running and Black Tiger, one audience member advises them not to jump up and down. There’s a more bluesy opening to Dirty Girl, with a slow and sleazy solo from John Nymann leading into an extended instrumental section. Meniketti jokes about his age as he introduces Midnight In Tokyo, a thirty-year-old song with a very eighties’ rock sound. Then things come more or less up to date with the crunchier, heavier How Long, a mere youngster at just three years old and from the band’s latest album, Facemelter. Then it’s back to the eighties for Lipstick And Leather and the fast and furious Hurricane. An audience member shouts out a request for Take You To The Limit and the band comply. Coincidence? Apparently not as the song is missing from the set lists from the gigs either side of tonight. There’s a ballad-like opening to Winds Of Change and, between it and Contagious, Meniketti tells us that his Les Paul guitar is in for repair (much to the apparent sorrow of the blonde lady standing next to me) and then admits that he has used the classic 80’s Kramer he is currently holding on the last few albums. It seems to matter to some people.
I Want Your Money, another from Facemelter, sees the genial frontman using a lyrics sheet and then the opening bars of Rescue Me gets the biggest cheer so far from the crowd. There’s another bluesy opening to the instrumental I’ll Cry For You and, eventually the track reminds me of Eric Clapton’s theme from Edge Of Darkness. Nymann takes over vocal duties for Squeeze, which is dedicated to Phil Kennemore, the band’s previous bass-player who died in 2011, and is more Rock and Roll than all out Rock. Menikettia then gives us the choice of hearing Summertime Girls which, he says, he had been criticised for not playing on the last few tours. It seems to be a favourite and of course the audience want to hear it. I Believe In You is a ballad that builds in power an volume and leads into the appropriately named I’m Going Home which turns out to be a high-energy set-ender. Thankfully, the band decide not to go home and after a short while return to the stage for an encore of Eyes Of A Stranger.
Then it is time to head home, but not before a quick trip to the merchandise desk where, from the variety of items on offer, I choose to take home of copy of Facemelter (although I have since ordered a box-set of classic albums). Y&T are another of those rock bands that somehow bypassed me during their heyday, at a time when I was listening to pretty much nothing but Rock. Despite the current line-up being together for just a handful of years and with three of the four members having joined since 2000, they still put on a great show. Meniketti, nearing sixty, is a formidable guitar player and great frontman and I only hope that, if they continue to tour, they decide to play York again, if only because after hearing Facemelter, my wife announced that she would like to see them next time.