Vai, Wylde, Malmsteen, Bettencourt, Abasi … the names of men easily recognizable for their accomplishments on guitar. Separately they are some of the greatest guitar players to roam the planet, together they are Generation Axe and last night they shredded Oakland’s Fox Theater.
An insane amount of equipment piled the stage, a clear indication of what was to come. And when the band finally took the stage at 8:15 pm, the seats were full and the crowd was clearly pumped for some action. After trading licks on the intro, Tosin Abasi (Animals As Leaders) took over and mesmerized the crowd with his insane 8-string finger work. Nuno Bettencourt looked a bit intimidated as he joined him on the stage for a tune before launching into a mini set from his own catalog including Get the Funk Out. Proving to be the most talkative of the bunch, Nuno impressed not only with his chops but with his humorous banter as welly.
Next up, Black Label Society’s Zakk Wylde joining Nuno for a duet of Citizen Cope’s Sideways before busting out N.I.B. The crowd genuinely lost their shit when Wylde made his way up the aisles of the seated floor (trailing an impossibly long chord) to jam out in the middle of the shocked audience which air-guitared along.
While it may have been hard to imagine anyone topping that performance, Yngwie was up for the challenge … appearing on stage out of a cloud of smoke, letting loose both the razzle and the dazzle amidst the billowing smoke, tossing and spinning his guitar and generally hamming it up for the audience as he peppered the front row with guitar picks. The speed was mind-boggling and hammered home an earlier joke by Nuno where he quipped about getting paid by the note. Last came Vai, making liberal use of the whammy bar as he nailed his own classics including Building the Church and Frankenstein.
You need a pretty stellar band to back up any of these guys individually so you can imagine the skill required to back them all individually and simultaneously. That’s where Pete Griffin (Dweezil Zappa, Stanley Clarke, Edgar Winter) on bass and Nick Marinovich (Yngwie Malmsteen) on keys came in. Such talent did not go unnoticed by the crowd or the guitarists.
Finally the members of Generation Axe came together one more time to trade leads on Deep Purple’s Highway Star with Malmsteen on vocals, wrapping up an evening of guitar camaraderie with a healthy dose of friendly competition in front of a crowd (of, not surprisingly, mostly dudes) that relished in every note of the nearly 3 hour performance.
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