Generation AXE: Pittsburgh

“Every moment of the entire performance is a musician’s and music lover’s dream. To see the best of the best without the ego, sharing one stage, has made this a night to remember.”
-Seattle Music News

“Like dive-bombing planes, laying down a barrage of notes, in deadly succession. suitable title and of course Steve Vai directs them from stage center. What can be said of Generation Axe? She’s a killing machine.”
– Bam Magazine

When you get Bettencourt, Malmsteen, Wylde, Vai, and Abasi playing the instrument that they have mastered at the highest degree to all grace one stage…well it’s magical.  For any musician, guitar geek, or just enthusiast it is a damn wet dream to have such talented and diverse styles put together, Steve Vai: “The Generation Axe experience goes way beyond simply gathering five guitar greats on one stage to jam. The idea was to create a seamless show with one backing band and 5 completely accomplished and astonishing guitarists that take to the stage in various configurations, performing some of their solo music and merging together as cohesive co-creators of lushly orchestrated guitar extravaganzas. Guitar Jams like this can get really messy when there is no organization and my idea was to create parts for everybody to play in harmony and off each other so it’s not a mess of noise. This worked out remarkably well. There are places where everyone is playing together in wild harmony.”

The show starts with “Hocus Pocus” (Focus) with all 5 guitarists jamming away.  Tosin Abasi (of Animals As Leaders) is the youngest of the crew, but no less proficient.  His ability to play in a very technical and progressive manner is mind-blowing.  Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) follows after an accompaniment with Tosin shreds and shows restraint as he blasts on electric and grooves on acoustic tracks.  Bettencourt was being heavily debated as the most proficient in many styles by quite a few audience members.

Zakk Wylde (Ozzy/Black Label Society/Zakk Sabbath) may be the most popular currently and absolutely is the biggest workhorse both figuratively and physically.  Zakk tours relentlessly and did not disappoint as he ripped into some classic Sabb like “Into The Void” and “War Pigs” as well as taking the Hendrix popularized playing behind the back technique to new levels.  Nuno returned to jam with Zakk on Gary Moore’s “Still Got The Blues” of which they were eventually joined by Vai.

Steve Vai is a guitarist best known for his instrumental masterpieces as well as playing with David Lee Roth when he first broke away from Van Halen.  Vai put together the concept of Generation Axe and the highlight of his set could very well be “For The Love of God” from his record Passion and Warfare.  Then everyone except Malmsteen hit the stage to play the classic “Frankenstein” by Edgar Winter.

Malmsteen is the best known symphonic/technical guitarist of the bunch, but probably the one that is most argued to be a one trick pony.  Playing his famous, “Black Star” and also playing heavily to the crowd, Yngwie has amazing skill but lacks some soul.

All five masters then hit the stage for Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Deep Purple’s “Burn”.  It’s a killer show to witness and truly mind-blowing for any guitar god fan.

All photos  ©2018 Ed Thompson