Forty-five years ago, I was a 15-year-old Monta Vista High School sophomore living in a Northern California town that would eventually become known around the world as the home of Apple computers.
It was a spring Friday night, and my friends and I excitedly fueled up on pizza and beer provided by my buddy’s older brother. Then we walked a half-mile to see our first “real” concert.
The show was first scheduled as Journey, which was in a transition period from jazz fusion to an arena rock style. The event itself was a promise made by a budding politician who recently was voted class president. Most of us had been skeptical of the connections he’d claimed, but he was true to his word.
Between then and the show, Journey hired Steve Perry as lead singer and the rest, as they say, is history. With Neal Schon and the boys about to take off, another band needed to play that little school gym rock and roll show. Journey manager Herbie Herbert had a few other Bay Area bands in his stable, and he brought to our school Yesterday and Today, since abbreviated to Y&T, which has now sold more than 4 million records.
Last Friday night at Cargo in downtown Reno, I laid my eyes on Y&T for the first time since that ear-ringing show in our gym. Only frontman Dave Meniketti remains from the original band, but he has steadfastly remained the driving force behind it.
The crowd at Cargo Concert Hall on April 15 was filled with dedicated and knowledgable fans. There are 18 Y&T albums to choose from for your set list, Mr. Meniketti. No problem. They were ready. Even the opening house music featuring AC/DC, the Stones, Rush and Tom Petty was as comfortable as that favorite old rock ‘n’ roll T-shirt.
When Y&T launched into “Open Fire,” it was as though I’d stepped into a time capsule. That song wasn’t played way back when, but Meniketti’s vocal and guitar stylings were very much the same as I’d remembered. What changed was a smoother vocal and guitar, polished by years of perfecting what he does.
Since 2011, three of Y&T’s original members have died, drummer Leonard Haze, bassist Phil Kennemore and rhythm guitarist Joey Alves.
These days, Meniketti has solid veteran support on stage from bassist Aaron Leigh, drummer Mike Vanderhule, and guitarist John Nymann.
While Meniketti handles the frontman duties, there is plenty to watch from Nymann and Leigh as they move around the stage in various classic stances. Vanderhule makes the energetic set look easy, a talent in itself. The last drummer I saw on Cargo’s stage who made it look so simple and sound so good was Dennis Chambers with Victor Wooten’s band.
From the opener, the band pushed Cargo’s PA system with two hours of gritty power chords, shredding solos, and rock ballads, much like the tunes that shook the rafters of our high school gym all those years ago.
Staying relevant in the music business for more than a half-decade is an incredible accomplishment. I suppose Y&T’s devout legion of fans will pay to see them for as long as they pump out classic rock jams. I’d imagine, too, they’d even pay to see them in a high school gym as I did that first time so long ago. Yesterday and Today, indeed.