Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde
The Wiltern – 12/18/18
To call this show a shred-fest would be an understatement. 4 of the world’s most well known guitarists, Steve Vai (David Lee Roth, Whitesnake), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Yngwie Malmsteen as well as legend in the making, Tosin Abasi. (Not to say that Tosin isn’t deserving of his spot among the top 4 of the six-string royalty on this tour, he more than holds his own, it’s that the others have been more or less household names in the rock community since the 80’s.)
This was the last night of the 2018 Generation Axe tour and the usually subdued LA crowd showed up to worship at the feet and fingers of the masters.
If you weren’t able to catch the tour, the format was all 5 guitarists came out to Jam together at the start of the show (to Focus‘, “Hocus Pocus“) and then would trade off sets until a grand finale saw them all come together… more on that later.
After the initial jam, Tosin Abasi took to stage right and kicked off the night with some amazing licks from his own band, Animals As Leaders. The set consisted of 4 instrumentals from AAL, “Tempting Time“, “The Woven Web“, “CAFO” and “Physical Education“, the latter of which he was joined on stage by Nuno, who was amazed at the amount of notes that Tosin was able to fit into these tunes.
Tosin played his own beautifully crafted, signature, extended 8 string, Abasi Guitars. They have an amazing design and each one is a thing of beauty. It’s clear that six strings were way too limiting for Abasi’s talents.
Next up was Nuno, who, after ripping through Extreme’s “Get The Funk Out“, took center stage behind his acoustic and instead of slowing it down, shredded the acoustic with Extreme’s “Midnight Express” from their “Waiting For The Punchline“.
He then ripped into a string of Extreme solos and riffs for a 10 minute medley that started with “Flight Of The Wounded Bumble Bee” and included “He Man Woman Hater” “Rest in Peace” and “Cupid’s Dead” among others. Nuno as always was playing his signature Washburn N4 series of guitars. He finished his set by welcoming out Zakk Wylde to duet on a killer version of Citizen Cope’s “Sideways“.
Zakk Wylde is just a beast of man in all ways, the muscles, the hair and most importantly on his custom Wylde Audio Guitars.
He lit up The Wiltern with his riffing and extended soloing all over the place. Literally and figuratively. By the end of the night Zakk had made it to almost every inch of the theater, including a blistering solo hanging off of the mezzanine balcony. The crowd were blasted with extended versions of Sabbath’s, “Into The Void” and “War Pigs” which had the crowd chanting the lyrics along with Zakk.
He concluded his set by honoring the late, great Gary Moore with a version of “Still Got The Blues“. I’m not going to say he did justice to Gary’s vocals, but it was a great change of pace with a nice introduction to some slower, blues licks. It also again brought Zakk into the crowd to the right side of the theater, while Nuno appeared on the left side…and while they traded licks, a spotlight lit up Steve Vai at the back of the crowd to create a guitar god triangle.
Steve Vai was next to take center stage and showed why he is indeed a six string legend. He pulled out incredible licks, riffs and sounds from his signature Ibanez JEMs.
Steve took the crowd on a journey through almost every guitar scale ever created via “There’s a Fire In The House“, “The Animal“, “For The Love Of God” and a solo that went everywhere and anywhere he could take it. A solo that would break or sprain mere mortal fingers that tried to attempt it.
The appearance of tons of smoke and red lighting signaled the introduction of Swedish Guitar God, Yngwie J. Malmsteen.
Yngwie’s long mane and the way he prances and kicks around the stage reminds me of a prized show pony. I’m not even sure what songs he ripped through, although I caught parts of “Baroque & Roll” and “Trilogy Suite Opus: 5“. He produced such a flurry of notes from his Strats, that this little brain just tried to concentrate on getting pictures through the dense, red smoke the whole time.
Yngwie is one hell of an an entertainer and seems to have an unbridled anger towards his picks as he makes it rain by kicking them out at the crowd.
The end of Yngwie’s set saw the return of Nuno, Steve, Tosin and Zakk to the stage to reunite the 5 in an amazing instrumental of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody“, that should really be seen and heard if you can. The evening was concluded with a shredfest jam from all of them through the Deep Purple classic, “Burn” that saw Yngwie take lead on vocals.
It may seem like the guitarists didn’t have a lot of time for their sets with 3-4 songs a piece, but with the riffing, soloing and jamming, the show was a good 3 1/2 hours plus! It really was an amazing spectacle and well worth the price of admission.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 3 musicians who provided the backbone of the show. Nick Z did a really great job on the keyboards, but the rhythm section of JP Bouvet (Animals As Leaders) on Drums and Pete Griffin on bass was incredible. I mean keeping up with a revolving door of 5 of the greatest guitarists to ever pick up the instrument is a feat that shouldn’t constitute them as a run-of-the-mill backing band. These guys twisted and turned and took every curve with ease. Major Kudos!
This was the last date on the tour and from the closing ovation they received, I’m hoping that there’s a good chance we get to see Generation Axe – 2019!