In 2016, three time Grammy winning guitarist Steve Vai brought together some of metal's finest guitarists for the supergroup GENERATION AXE, which has continued into thieir third successful year of touring. 2018, the progressive guitar supergroup includes Vai (David Lee Roth, Whitesnake, Alcatrazz), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy, BLS), Yngwie Malmsteen (Alcatrazz), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme, Dweezil Zappa, Satellite Party, Rihanna) and Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders), with a baking band of bassist Pete Griffin (Dweezil Zappa, Stanley Clarke, Edgar Winter), keyboardist Nick Marinovich (Yngwie Malmsteen) and drummer JP Bouvet.
“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.” - Steve Vai
GENERATION AXE showcased the five very unique and different guitar players, all taking the stage at once and starting off the show with Focus' "Hocus Pocus" - this gave the audience a glimpse of what they were in for as all five traded riffs back and forth for the classic song. All five guitarists played sneak peek solos on the opening number, and the show was on.
After the opening group debut, the set showcased each individual members guitar prowess, with the next few songs featuring instrumental progressive band Animals As Leaders guitarist TOSIN ABASI. Tosin plays a Blur 8-string extended range guitar, and this man is unbelievable live. As one of his biggest influences is Steve Vai, he was a natural fit for this tour. Abasi started with "The Woven Web", and continued through a few AAL songs before turning the strings over to Nuno Bettencourt for the next few songs.
NUNO BETTENCOURT, best know as the lead guitarist for the band Extreme, blew me away showcasing his versatility on both electric and acoustic guitar, and is also a pretty good singer and showman. Bettencourt shined on the Extreme songs "Get the Funk Out" and "Midnight Express", he also came out and joined Zakk Wylde and then Steve Vai on a song during later in the set.
The true guitar rock god on the stage that night was ZAKK WYLDE who blew the roof off the Joint inside the Hard Rock. Wylde started off his set with "Into The Void", and did not slow down at all from there. He followed that up with the greatest and longest version of "War Pigs" I have ever heard, during which Wylde left the stage and went into the crowd where he soloed and soloed and soloed, but didn’t stop there - he disappeared and emerged in the upper balcony and continued to solo. This went on for at least 20 minutes before he came back down to the main floor crowd, continued to solo, and was joined by Bettencourt and Steve Vai before returning to the actual stage. Wylde performed the song "Still Got The Blues" with Bettencourt, and his set was to me the highlight of the evening and totally different than the others.
STEVE VAI took over guitar next, a highly specialized guitar player who utilizes guitar techniques like two-handed tapping, alternate picking, legato, hybrid picking, sweep picking, whammy bar acrobatics, and circular vibrato in his music - a one of a kind guitar player who continues to wow the crowd. He shined on "There's a Fire in the House" and "The Animal" for s short set solo on stage.
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN was the final guitar player to take the stage, and has been described as neoclassical metal. Yngwie is a one of a kind guitar player also, who has been ranked as one of the top 10 of all time, onstage he is a showman, taking guitar pics and kicking them into the crowd, swinging his guitar around his neck and then tossing it into the air, while messing with his hair off and on during his set. He also showcased his ability to play off the feedback he generated from his guitar and the amps, and he is fast with the fingers. For this show Yngwie was on fire, during the song "Black Star" he was joined onstage by Vai, which was a real treat seeing two guitar players perform together onstage. All the guitarists came back onstage and jammed to the Edgar Winters classic hit "Frankenstein", and followed that up with Deep Purple's "Burn". The show was one of those rare collaboration tours that really worked, and was a blast to get to see, and after three and a half hours the fans cheered one last time as Generation Axe 2018 came to a close.
Generation Axe photos from Harold Mountain / JustAFanPhotos