A once in a lifetime line-up of guitar virtuosos took to the stage in Chicago for the Generation Axe tour.

Generation Axe has a line-up of five virtuoso guitarists that fans would never in their wildest dreams have expected to see adorning a stage at the same time. But sometimes dreams do come true. Cue Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Steve Vai. They are together to put on a one-of-a-kind show.

It has to be said that Steve Vai has done an excellent job curating the best of the best for this tour.

These are busy guys. One of them performing alone would have the crowds flocking to see them. Having all five together is a rare treat.

The night started off with all five guitar legends on stage. You would think this would be overload with everyone fighting for the limelight, but there is such mutual respect between the members of the tour that this was never an issue. Each guitarist subsequently played their own set before bringing it back together again for an epic finale.

The portions of the show performed by each guitarist were, as you would expect, very diverse. Tosin Abasi was first up, amazing the audience with the complex rhythmic pieces coming from his custom Ibanez eight-string guitar. This prompted, Nuno Bettencourt, who played with Abasi on his final track to ask the audience whether anyone could tell where the ‘1’ (downbeat) was.

As promised, there was no doubt where the ‘1’ was in Nuno’s set as he ripped through a number of Extreme songs, including a fantastic mash-up of some of his best riffs and solos. He remained on stage to perform alongside Zakk Wylde, who, as expected, brought the rock n’ roll during his set (and the humor during his interactions with the crowd).

Next up was Yngwie in all his sweep picking, neo-classical glory, high kicking and guitar juggling his way through his set before, finally, it was time for the man who put the show together to take the stage.

Steve Vai’s greatest talent is that, whether he’s hanging on a single note or shredding away, every single note has a purpose and everything he plays is musical. His portion of the night was pure class and seemed to be over in a flash before all the guitarists were once again together. They finished the night with Malmsteen on vocal duties for a rousing rendition of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star.”

Whilst the headlines and plaudits will undoubtedly go to the guitarists, a special mention has to be given to the rest of the band. You have to be a phenomenal musician to play a set with five world-class guitarists, each with their unique (and often highly complex) style. However, Pete Griffin (Zappa plays Zappa) on bass, Nick Marinovich (Yngwie Malmsteen) on keys, and JP Bouvet (a recent replacement for the original drummer) provided flawless performances and were a critical part of the show.

None of the guys playing on the Generation Axe tour can go home saying they’ve had a tough day at the office. The grins on their faces as they played said it all; they were having the times of their lives. So too were the audience. It was a wonder that Zakk Wylde made it back onto the stage in one piece after he took a long walk through the audience whilst soloing over “Little Wing”.

Looking at the crowd, it was clear that certain people were there for their own particular guitar hero. There was a sea of Extreme and Black Label Society t-shirts on show throughout the Copernicus Center. However, as each of the guitarists played, it was obvious they had the entire crowd fully behind them. Indeed, the crowd remained on their feet for the entire three-hour set while each performer left Chicago with throngs of new fans.

Generation Axe is a unique show. It’s a testament to the individuals involved that the night never slipped into self-indulgence or one-upmanship. Instead, the show was a genuine celebration of what is great about each one of these phenomenal performers. If the show is coming to your town be sure not to miss it; you may never get the chance to see this one again.

Generation Axe Tour
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Tosin Abasi
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Nuno Bettencourt
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Zakk Wylde
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Yngwie Malmsteen
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Steve Vai
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Copernicus Center
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About The Author

Kirstine moved from the UK to Chicago in 2011, and has fallen in love with the city and its music scene. She enjoys combining her two biggest passions – music and photography. If there is a band with a guitar playing, chances are she’ll be there…camera in hand. Kirstine went to her first live concert at 7 years old, and hasn’t looked back since!

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