On this date in history, 4/26/2016, I was transported to Guitar Heaven! The Generation Axe tour took place at an incredible venue inside The Old National Centre in Indianapolis, the Murat Theatre.
This tour was orchestrated by Steve Vai, and featured Vai, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi.
Each guitar god played an individual set, and played together in various configurations throughout the show.
All 5 began the concert playing “Foreplay” by Boston in a veritable fusillade of guitar pyrotechnics that hit like a ten ton hammer.
As soon as we had time to digest what had just knocked the collective wind out of us, Abasi was alone on stage with the backup band that played for all the featured artists. These guys were amazing, too…as they had to complement the varying styles of the principal players.
Abasi is the lead guitarist for Animals As Leaders, and his djent style of syncopated alternately crushing and soothing 8 string guitar wizardry was challenging but rewarding in its intensity. For his last song, Tosin was joined by Nuno Bettencourt on “Physical Education” and they managed to be complex and funky at the same time.
Nuno took the funk and ran with it, performing a medley of his best stuff from his Extreme days, and also throwing down some spicy acoustic playing. His last song was one of the highlights of the entire show for me. It is called “Sideways” by Citizen Cope, and featured Nuno and Zakk on tandem guitars and lead vocals. The song was mellow, full of passion and heart and made me long for a whole album and tour with these two amazing musicians.
The Zakk attack commenced immediately after, with the Wylde man demonstrating his dizzying speed and velocity on a trio of rock classics by Black Sabbath (N.I.B.), The Allman Brothers Band (Whipping Post), and Jimi Hendrix (Little Wing). The Viking biker ventured far into the crowd, getting up front and personal with many lucky audience members who got to see closeup views of his manic style.
For some reason, Zakk and Yngwie didn’t play together, but Mr. Malmsteen didn’t waste any time demonstrating his virtuosity on various Fender Stratocasters. Personally, I feel like some of his stage moves are a little unnecessary, but his playing is breathtaking and magnificent. When he played his signature song, “Black Star”, he was joined by Steve Vai, and the results were some of the most flawless playing I have ever heard. Vai took over from there, earning his top billing with a master class in guitar genius.
Steve has such command of his instrument, and effortlessly lets his physical grace and charming personality shine through his signature unique style of songwriting.
After Vai’s set, all but Malmsteen combined for a crushing version of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”, and then Yngwie came out to sing and help the entire band lay down the ultimate “Highway Star” (Deep Purple) to close out this once in a lifetime assembly of guitar godliness…until the sequel…I hope!
Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic
Generation Axe – Foreplay