By Steve Newton
Went to see the Generation Axe show in Vancouver last night–featuring Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi–and, as expected, there were a lotta notes.
But the term “wanking” didn’t come to mind that often, surprisingly–and usually only when flashmaster Malmsteen was practicing his scales at breakneck speed. Sure, the guy’s talented as fvck, but how can he not bore himself playing the same runs again and again?
Anyway, the performances of the other Gen Axer’s made up for the Swede’s tedious display.
I’d interviewed Joe Satriani earlier in the day–in advance of his show at the Hard Rock Casino on April 24–and told him I was going to see his good buddy Vai and the others that night. He raved about Abasi–the Animal as Leaders eight-string guitarist Satch had played with at last year’s G4 Experience guitar camp–but I didn’t get there in time for his show-opening set. The dinner-hour lure of the Lennox Pub’s scrumptious chicken fingers–breaded with coconut, pecan, and almond!–was too much.
When we arrived, stuffed, second-up Nuno Bettencourt was doing the damage. I’m not as familiar with him as I am with Yngwie, Vai, and Wylde, and really only know him as the guitarist from Extreme, which was famous for that pretty ballad and for providing Van Halen‘s least-popular frontman. But man, can that dude play! Totally inventive and wank-free. The highlight of his set was when he got Wylde and they partnered on a killer version of Citizen Cope’s gorgeous “Sideways”.
That was when I realized Generation Axe wasn’t just gonna be a contest to see who has the fastest fingers and finest tone. It would prove to be a showcase for unforgettable songs.
Wylde wasted little time seconding that emotion himself, tearing into Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.”–which I saw performed by the real deal just last month. Wylde’s version of the Allman Brothers‘ “Whipping Post” wasn’t quite as effective–a tad plodding–but well lit up by his fearsome Flying-V action.
When Malmsteen took the stage with enough dry ice to put Spinal Tap off its game the initial buzz of seeing him in all his Ritchie Blackmore finery–black outfit and white Strat–wore off pretty quick when his liquid leads turned into a stream of soulless speedmongering. During one of his lengthier excursions into Fender flatulence I tweeted a crappy iPhone pic of him and the message “Who invited the wanker?” That got favourited minutes later by local metal maestro Devin Townsend, who was also in the crowd. You know what they say: great minds think kinda the same*.
By the time Vai showed up to thank the crowd and fill their heads with the last 250,000 notes the audience had definitely got its money’s worth. This was only the second date of the Generation Axe tour–which continues until May 9–and Yngwie’s showboating aside, there was little to complain about. Who knows how great it’ll sound once the backing band–comprised of Malmsteen keyboardist Nick Marinovich, bassist Pete Griffin (Zappa Plays Zappa), and Animals as Leaders drummer Matt Garstka–gets a few more gigs under its belt.
*actually, great minds don’t always think alike. Townsend has since told me that he is a fan of Yngwie, and only liked my tweet ’cause he thought it was funny. So lay off him, all you Yngwie freaks!