Generation Axe @ City National Grove – 11/08/2018
2018 has been the year of the guitar player with tours from G3 with Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Phil Collen to the recent Ritchie Kotzen tour with Gus G and Vinnie Moore to Michael Schenker Fest and Rob Zombie guitarist John 5’s solo tour, all focusing on guitar driven instrumental performances. Add Generation Axe to that list featuring Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi as this group of guitar royalty is currently on the road and made a stop at City National Grove in Anaheim on Thursday night November 8.
The brainchild of Steve Vai, Generation Axe first hit the stage in 2016 and are now back together for another run and boy do these guys deliver! All five guitarists hit the stage at 8:00pm and kicked off this 3 ½ hour extravaganza with a cover of “Hocus Pocus” which had each guitarist take the spotlight and blaze a solo to get the night off to an epic start. From here on out each guitarist took the stage individually and played some of their own songs as well as some covers before they all re-emerged to end the show with a cover of Deep Purple’s “Burn”.
Tosin Abasi was up first, #97 on Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, Abasi is the founder of progressive metal masters Animals as Leaders and is an eight-string guitar wizard. If you are a prog fan then no doubt you were fascinated by Abasi’s performance that included Animals as Leaders songs “Tempting Time”, “CAFO” and “The Woven Web”. Abasi’s solo performance ended with Nuno Bettencourt joining him for an amazing version of “Physical Education”.
Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt had the spotlight next and kicked into Extreme’s “Get the Funk Out”, doing vocals as well as playing guitar. Next, he took a seat and did an acoustic performance followed by a medley of Extreme guitar solos. Bettencourt may not be the first name you think of when you mention guitar shredder, but he proved he belongs on this tour demonstrating some killer six-string magic. Nuno invited Zakk Wylde out to join him on a killer cover of the song “Sideways”. Bettencourt left the stage and it was all Zakk Wylde for the next half hour.
In his own words, Wylde delivered a “COLON CLEANSE DEMOLITIONFEST O’ DOOM” on this night starting off with Black Sabbath’s “Into the Void” and then “War Pigs”. During each song Wylde played some crazy extended solos and spent a lot of time out in the crowd letting fans get right up close and personal as he played. One thing is for sure, Zakk Wylde is a total beast onstage as he played different models of his signature Wylde Audio guitars. He ended the set with a cover of “Still Got the Blues” again showcasing both his vocal and guitar talent . . . WOW what an amazing performance.
Up next was the Grand Wizard of the guitar, Steve Vai. Playing three killer songs starting with “There’s a Fire in the House”, Vai is just mesmerizing to watch, the way his body becomes one with the guitar and how he utilizes every inch of the fretboard and strings and the sounds he creates with the whammy bar are out of this world. At the end of his set he played a cover of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” as the other’s joined him onstage minus Yngwie Malmsteen who’s solo set was up next.
Yngwie took the stage and possibly played the longest solo set of the night and without a doubt had the most elaborate stage lighting with lots of reds and yellows along with lots of fog. Malmsteen wasted no time getting down to business with his flashy, fast paced neoclassical playing style. He played several solo numbers including parts of “Trilogy” and the fans upfront were certainly fist pumping and getting into the show. He slowed things down with some acoustic material before Steve Vai emerged to join him on “Black Star”. Malmsteen never disappoints and he certainly delivered a killer performance to end the night. But before the show ended all guitarists took the stage for one last song as they played a cover of Deep Purple’s “Burn” with Malmsteen on vocals. Again each guitarist ripping a solo to melt your face off throughout the song.
The night ended with all taking center stage hand in hand for a bow to the crowd. City National Grove just witnessed the most over-the-top guitar show of the year, Vai, Malmsteen, Wylde, Bettencout and Abasi, it doesn’t get much better than that!