Growing up, I’ve always loved listening to Rock & Roll and I will subconsciously memorize the lyrics to the songs that my father usually puts on every weekend morning. It’s a ritual for us to sit and just listen to the music, and my father will change the songs from time to time. I grew up loving the oldies and even so, being able to sing to the lyrics of the songs, the melodies that bind the words together creates a lasting memory. Each time a familiar tune comes on, way before you can even listen to the lyrics of the song being sung, I’d recognize the songs with the unique riffs and guitar rhythms that comes on. The guitar players are often the forgotten heroes in the band of today but they were being glorified in the olden glam metal days. Every one who is familiar with the glam metal bands each have a guitar hero after their own heart; adopting their sense of fashion and more so, emulating their guitar playing techniques.
I’ve always been a fan of Yngwie Malmsteen for as long as I could remember and I recall the first time I saw him in Singapore, I was blown away. I took time to learn his guitar setup and watch countless YouTube videos to follow and try to learn the way he plays the guitar. His techniques were astounding and he made playing with scalloped frets an easy feat. What more being able to transpose classical pieces into guitar riffs that many aren’t able to do or bring themselves to even start strumming to it.
Upon learning about Generation Axe and the people that are in the band, I remembered having my jaw hung as I opened my mouth wide open. These five extraordinary gentlemen are the very individuals that many budding guitarists. Each with their own style and techniques of playing, with the flow of their rhythm and the melody that comes from within, they create an impact on all the guitars players, young and old, all over the world.
When my friend told me of them performing here, I just went “ARE YOU SERIOUS?” for over 15 times over the phone and I was still reeling from the formation of the band and what more amazing could it be to be able to watch them live. I would do anything to watch Tosin Abasi and Yngwie Malmsteen all over again.
The night started as the five amazing heroes of our hearts graced the stage with their title opening called “Foreplay” as the man responsible for the band welcomed the rest on stage as he introduced them one by one. It was none other than Steve Vai, the man who many look up to for the technicalities for guitar playing and the way he composes his song and how he transposes them into the tunes that sends the crowd roaring. The band, made up of Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen and the man himself graced the stage with the musical instrument of their choice, their second skin, as they work through their magic.
The night transcended into several different solo performances and the one who opened the night was none other than Tosin Abasi. I remembered the time when I learned about his band Animals As Leaders. I was only getting familiar with the new genre that has been taking the metal community by storm, then known as “Deathcore” but newly renamed as “Djent”. It comprises of progressive riffs from the guitars that started from bands such as Dream Theater and Meshuggah with the influences of electronics synthesizers and the constant chugging breakdowns that comes along with the very confusing tempo rhythm count, which is not the basic 4-4 counts. It is widely associated to the usage of a 7-stringed guitar onwards. Some even play on a 12-stringed guitar which I had the chance to watch Tosin Abasi played with his band about two years ago in Melbourne. I was blown away by his prowess as he started the night with the song “Tempting Time” off their self-titled album encore edition that came out 2 years back. Geared with his signature Ibanez TAM guitar, Tosin graced the stage with riffs that one could never have had imagine to be able to play on a guitar let alone follow through with the unconventional time signature that many were just left dazed and confused. It took me several years to be able to comprehend the style of playing and I have enjoyed the genre through and through. I could safely say that I was the only hyped one in the crowd as I started headbanging my head back and forth and jumping in my own position while the veteran concert goers around me looked at me, surprised that I was able to comprehend his style of playing.
I literally screamed my lungs out when Tosin spoke into the mic to introduce the next song and as soon as he said “The Woven Web”, I mustered every vocal abilities that I have in me and screamed “HELL YEAH” and I might have startled many around me. I was the only girl in sight from where I was standing as I was surrounded with massive masculinity and rockers from various age range. I did not feel out of place at all, in fact, I felt right at home. The song “The Woven Web” off their The Joy of Motion album garnered many fans as the style of playing creates a mystical mood, fitting to be in a intergalactic game song. I closed my eyes as I bobbed my head from side to side. He then invited Nuno on stage to play alongside him for the last song of his set. “Physical Education”, another track off the same album, The Joy of Motion, from Animals As Leaders. Nuno played with his style yet the song still retains it’s tune and momentum, just as good as the album itself, listening to it on the stereo. Nuno introduced Tosin to the crowd and said “I took so long to check out Tosin’s band and as you can tell I was having a hard time keeping up with him to play with his song. He created the term eleventhteen for guitar playing”. Tosin, known as being a very soft spoken person and shy in nature could only afford to grace the crowd with the widest and most charming smile. My heart melted and I was in for a long ride to rock and roll that night.
Nuno Bettencourt, a very stunning looker and a more amazing guitarist whose identity was his long silky hair and his nose ring, and not forgetting the smile that could calm the most violent storm started his set with “Get The Funk Out” from the band Extreme, of which Nuno is the guitarist for the band, got the crowd tapping their feet and raising their hands up in the air celebrating the rhythms and he sang to the crowd. Never took Nuno for an amazing singer until the night when he filled in for the vocals of Gary Cherone. I could only asked for the most popular number to be played that night. I know it might not be something favourable but I can’t say I’m a huge fan of Extreme but there are always songs that made the band’s landmark and evergreen. Nuno sat down and requested for the smoke machine to be switched off and he added “I know Yngwie likes this stuff but I don’t” as he proceeded to strum to the song that got the crowd roaring at the very first note and we sang with all of our hearts to the lyrics of “More Than Words” that brought back a lot of nostalgic memories and sends cheers to the hearts of many. He then went back to pick up his electric guitar, his custom Washburn N4-vintage guitar and played a string of medley of all the popular numbers from Extreme, only playing the intro and the riffs and he told the crowd how he was inspired to do such through a music video that he stumbled upon a young kid doing so and he adopted the idea. The transition from song to song in the medley was crazy and it flowed so well that we were just left in awe. He was later joined by none other than Zakk Wylde for the song “Sideways” and they were both rocking on stage like they’re in their teen years, I don’t see them huffing on stage for their age and I was majorly impressed.
Zakk Wylde has always been the benchmark to my future partner. The long hair, the majestic beard and not forgetting, the insane guitar playing skills with his signature Epiphone Les Paul Bullseye. But he was using his own Wylde Audio guitar for the night, a BARBARIAN Vertigo S. Purple and he started the night with the song “N.I.B”, a Black Sabbath cover. I was hoping he’d play “Crazy Train” but the night went on with “Little Wing”, the song written by the legendary late Jimi Hendrix when Nuno joined him on stage on the drums. I was blown away by Nuno’s prowess on the drums and just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the night transcended to a night that made my heart almost explode. The familiar riffs to the very song that got me to pick up guitars and I felt that it was the closest thing I have to watching Black Sabbath live. The song was none other than “War Pigs”. Zakk worked his magic on the guitars and he’s known to play the guitar with his nails only and it was amazing to know that he could achieve just tenacity on the guitars just by playing with his fingernails. Seems unattainable to many but Zakk made it possible. I couldn’t help but to record the song and my heart just felt so full. I can’t deny though that I was distracted through and through by his massive biceps and the way he worked his guitar; it was amazing. It was only when he introduced the keyboardist that I realised that Derek Sherinian was on the keyboards in the band, an ex-Dream Theater member and I was instantaneously blown away.
I was smiling from ear to ear and I knew the night was getting better and better by the second. Steve Vai, the brainchild of this band, graced the stage with his “Flo” – modified Ibanez JEM 77 with true-temperament neck and graced the crowd with “Bad Horsie” as we welcoming piece for his set. I was staring at him the whole time and when he played the song “Tender Surrender”, I was trying to figure out the licks he worked on the guitar. His guitar playing is technical and I was truly astounded. I thought understanding Tosin’s style was difficult enough until I got to see Vai played and I was just very intrigued. I found myself wanting to dissect every note that he played and I was convinced that no normal human could execute such astounding pieces on anything, let alone on a guitar but Steve Vai made it seem easy.
I was reeling from Vai’s performance and I was in for the treat of the night, the man that I looked up to in many ways possible and the name that rolled off my tongue oh-so-easily each time someone asks me “Who is your favourite guitarist?” I was admiring the piece of beauty in his hands and one thing that I could never afford to have even if I have the monetary means for it because I don’t think I deserve to own such a masterpiece if I’m not able to play nearly as good as the Maestro himself that is Yngwie Malmsteen, accompanied by his signature vintage Stratocaster with scalloped frets. As soon as he started playing, I could feel my soul being lifted. It was a surreal feeling altogether and as soon as he started playing to “Overture”, I tried to move right to the front and I managed to place myself directly infront of him as I watched him in awe with the soaring arpeggios as the transitioned to the song “Arpeggios From Hell”. I could not fathom how he could work such magic with his fingers so effortlessly like it’s oxygen for him. The rest of his set was almost a magical blur as I felt I was thrown into a limbo where all other sounds were cut off except for his guitar. It was like a vacuum that sucked everything out except to the riffs of “Far Beyond The Sun” and when he played “Paganini’s 4th”, I knew that it was only so much that my mind could be blown in one night, having to watch my guitar hero for the second time, I am just so lucky to be able to witness the prowess and tenacity of such an amazing guitarist. What got me edging was when Vai joined him to play “Black Star”. I was all in smiles and I could not feel my face due to the overwhelming feeling I was going through. Words failed me.
The night was soon ending with all five of them playing “Highway Star” as the closing song. All the guitar heroes, old and new. The reason why I chose this genre of music to be my priority and the reason why I loved guitars and gears were because of these amazing line of gentlemen that graced the night with each of their unique skills and the emotions transposed into their music, I could not ask for more. Thank you IMC for making dreams come true and allow us to learn the true essence of the beauty of the genre that is rock and roll.