Generation Axe is back for its second year with an all-star lineup of Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne/ Black Label Society), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme) and Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders). Generation Axe stopped at the Grove of Anaheim on Nov. 8 for a three-hour guitar extravaganza. The show started off with all five guitarists playing Focus’s “Hocus Pocus.” This was a great way to start this shred filled evening. The first set of the show was performed by Abasi who played the Animals As Leaders songs “Tempting Time,” “Woven Web,” “Cafo” and was joined by Bettencourt for “Physical Education.”
Bettencourt took over for the next part of the show with Extreme’s “Get the Funk Out,” “Midnight Express,” which was played solo acoustic, and a medley of Extreme solos which Bettencourt said he found a 12-year old on YouTube playing. Wydle joined in for Citizen Cope’s “Sideways,” before playing his set. Wylde who played the heaviest set performed Black Sabbath’s “Into the Void,” and “War Pigs,” while walking through the crowd. One of the biggest surprises of the night came when Bettencourt joined Wylde for Gary Moore’s “Into the Blues,” and both of them came to the middle of the venue each playing on a chair. While the audience was distracted Vai came right down the middle of the venue undetected and pulled his hood off and joined in and all three made their way to the stage before Vai’s set.
From getting his start as a transcriptionist for and member of Frank Zappa’s band after leaving the prestigious Berklee School of Music, Vai has had quite the career in music. Vai was a member of David Lee Roth’s band at the peak of his solo career post-Van Halen. Vai has also had a long time history with Malmsteen from replacing him in Alcatrazz in 1984. After Roth Vai released the groundbreaking Passion and Warfare and was a member of Whitesnake for two years. Since 1984 Vai has released nine solo albums, won three Grammys, and has been awarded 12 times by Guitar Player Magazine including honors for Best Rock Guitarist and Best Overall Guitarist. Almost two months ago Vai assembled the Big Mama Jamathon, the first event of its kind at Musicians Institute Hollywood featuring himself and a star-studded lineup of some of the top guitarists worldwide. Vai’s set consisted of “There’s a Fire in the House,” “The Animal,” “Whispering a Prayer,” and Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” with Abasi, Bettencourt and Wylde. For the drum solo, Bettencourt played timbales.
There was just one more set left before the big finale with all five guitarists. The final set came from none other than the man that brought neo-classical guitar playing to metal Yngwie J. Malmsteen. From the second Malmsteen kicked off his set with “Big E” he tore up the stage with his insane guitar skills, throwing around his guitar, prancing around the stage, and throwing out and kicking guitar picks into the crowd. Malmsteen played nine songs some of which were medleys before being joined by Vai for “Black Star.” Bettencourt, Wylde, and Abasi all joined in the for the grand finale of Deep Purple’s “Burn.” Generation Axe’s final stop will be at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, CA on Dec. 18.