Review - Generation Axe featuring Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi @ the Fox Theater (4/8/16)

Nuno Bettencourt, Zakk Wylde, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Tosin Abasi (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Steve Vai's 'Generation Axe' tour, featuring guitar greats Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt and relative newcomer, Tosin Abasi, riffed the Fox Theater this past Friday night. We spoke with Nuno Bettencourt (here) the week before the show, so we had a bit of an idea of what to expect going into the show; and the tour wasn't even a week old yet, so there were a few kinks the crew were working out throughout the night, but overall, this is a show you won't want to miss when it comes to your town!

For those of us in the Bay Area, the night kicked off with all five guitar gods sharing the stage before relinquishing the spotlight to the extremely talented Tosin Abasi. If you're not already familiar with Tosin, he's the founder of progressive rock trio, Animals as Leaders, and an extremely technical guitarist, playing an 8-string Ibanez TAM100 guitar. Tosin amazed us as he played up and down the neck of his 8-string before being joined by Nuno for a duet, and then sneaking off the stage to give Nuno his 20-minutes of stage time.
Nuno Bettencourt (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Extreme co-founder, and since 2009, Rhianna's touring guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt took us through a history lesson of some of his best solos from his original bands' extensive catalog. He joked that he's never been a solo guitarist like Wylde, Malmsteen or Vai, so he went on YouTube and found a video of the 'best of' Nuno guitar solos and thought he'd use that to define what he played for us at Oakland. At one point, he teased the audience with the first bar of Exteme's most popular ballad, "More Than Words," before continuing with another song.

Here's Nuno's medley from the Seattle show:

One of my personal highlights of the night was when Zakk joined Nuno to perform Citizen Cope's "Sideways." It was one of the few songs performed throughout the night with vocals, of which, both Nuno and Zakk took turns on the verses and chorus.

Then it was Zakk's turn to dazzle us. And dazzle he did! Zakk is the true definition of rock guitarist. Having essentially taken over guitar duties for the late Randy Rhodes in Ozzy's band, he then went on to form Black Label Society, and has released two additional solo albums -- the most recent, Book of Shadows II (iTunes), was released on the day of the Oakland show.
Zakk Wylde (Photo: Kevin Keating)
During Zakk's performance of the classic Allman Brothers Band "Whipping Post", Zakk jumped offstage and strode down both aisles of the orchestra section while frantic stage hands followed behind to ensure his guitar cable didn't get caught on anything while he made his way through the crowd.

Malmsteen took the stage after Zakk and I'll admit I've never been a huge Malmsteen fan, so maybe I'm a little biased when I say this, but I think Yngwie must have been having a bad night. For me, he had flashes of greatness, but seemed to be off and relatively sloppy throughout his performance. Having said that, he was the biggest 'showman' of the night -- swinging his guitar around his body, playing with his teeth, his ass, even using the stage floor to strum the guitar strings. I just wish it sounded better.
Steve Vai (Photo: Kevin Keating)
Mr. Vai joined Yngwie for a performance of "Black Star" before leaving the stage for Vai to shine, and unlike Yngwie, Steve was fully on form throughout the night. Steve didn't try too hard to impress like Malmsteen did, and as you can see in the video below, Steve just let his fingers on the guitar do the talking. Vai's had an incredible career and one that I hope continues long into the future!

But the absolute highlight of the night came when four of the five came together for a cover of the Edgar Winters Group "Frankenstein". Check it out below.

Overall, the show was fantastic and an incredible treat to see how these guys played and interacted with each other. Given that this was only the third show on the tour, there were definitely minor issues to work out. For instance, the spotlight sometimes lit the wrong guitarist during a solo. Or Yngwie's fog machine that was blowing so much smoke during his performance that it was hard to discern where he was on stage. But make no mistake, this is most likely a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see these five phenomenal guitarists perform onstage together. Don't miss this show if they come to your town!

Below is a shot of the Seattle setlist, which I believe is nearly identical to what they performed in Oakland. If not, let me know in the comments!
Seattle Setlist

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