Review by Dale Jr., Photos by Micah Gummel
Show photos HERE
The Generation Axe tour rolled through the Casino Ballroom and the Hampton Beach crowd witnessed a special night of an eclectic mix of guitar playing styles from legends and heroes alike. The tour was the brain child of Steve Vai, and answering the call to action were Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi; and when “Father Steve” calls, you answer. The playing styles of the five guitar “fathers”, as they were called, are so varied and different, that there would be something for a fan of all different styles, regardless of what you liked. The format of the show was that each player would take the stage doing their own small set, and then they would be joined onstage by the next guitar “father” for one song as a kind of handoff.
The night opened with all five men taking the stage, covering Boston’s “Foreplay” with each taking the spotlight, playing their leads, each with their own unique style. It was a hell of a way to start the show, as we in New England take pride in the acts that make it big that get their start from here, and that would certainly be on display later in the evening.
First to take the stage by himself was Tosin Abasi. Abasi is the guitarist and founder of the instrumental progressive metal band, Animals As Leaders. Abasi played songs from the band’s catalogue, which were all intricate. His style is most all substance, and it’s a thrill to watch him work. He was joined onstage by local favorite, Nuno Bettencourt, to finish his set. It was an interesting mesh as Bettencourt’s style is more energetic, where Abasi is very scientific.
Bettencourt treated the crowd to some of the Extreme catalogue, which came with no dismay from the hometown crowd. He got the party rockin’ with “Get The Funk Out” and treated the crowd to an Extreme medley. There would be no “More Than Words” tonight and that was okay, because that wasn’t what the night was about. Bettencourt shared some stories with the crowd about growing up in the area and idolizing some of the men that he now shared the stage with on this tour. He was then joined by father Zakk to close out his set with the cover of Citizen Cope’s “Sideways”.
The metal guitar titan that is Zakk Wylde treated the crowd to an assault of guitar shredding while playing some selections from Black Sabbath, The Allman Brothers’ Band and Jimi Hendrix. Wylde’s style provided the biggest contrast from the other styles of the night, with long and shredding solos that even spilled out into the crowd. Wylde hopped off the stage and onto the floor, among the masses and treated the audience to an epic face melting during his cover of Hendrix’s “Little Wing”. Members of the crowd flocked from across the room to get their own up close and personal experience with the titan. It was certainly a highlight that brought the crowd to a high.
Malmsteen took the stage after Wylde, and the crowd was in for a show. Yngwie, ever a showman, came out and put on an over-the-top, but nonetheless, complex show of guitar mastery. Malmsteen knew that he owned the stage, and you could tell by his actions of posing, kicking picks, and throwing guitars in the air. The neoclassical metal guitarist played with speed, skill, and complexity, and was getting incredible sounds by pulling out and breaking guitar strings and balancing a guitar from atop the amplifier stack.
Up next was the ringmaster of this guitar showcase, Steve Vai. Vai encompassed many of the styles that we had seen throughout the night, and melted into one beautiful mix. Vai’s set showed of his amazing technical skill with his jams and solos. Vai’s set showcased some of his best solo material within the past decade, all done with class and showing why he’s one of the best to ever pickup a guitar. Vai was joined onstage for his last song by Abasi.
After nearly three hours of the guitar tour de force, Vai and Abasi were joined onstage by “Father Nuno” and “Father Zakk” for an absolutely incredible performance of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”; where each slinger had an incredible solo, and even had Bettencourt play Winter’s traditional drum part, where the drummers go back-and-forth. To close out the show, the four were joined onstage by the “Viking from Brooklyn”, Yngwie Malmsteen, and the five “Guitar Fathers” took the whole place down with a blistering rendition of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”. It was the perfect ending for an absolutely incredible show.
The Generation Axe tour showed to everyone in attendance that night at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom that it wasn’t just your average tour; it was an experience, and hopefully its one that isn’t “once in a lifetime”. The lineup of guitar titans is something special to behold and its one that won’t soon be forgotten to anyone that was lucky to be in attendance.
Review by Dale Jr., Photos by Micah Gummel