Generation Axe @ Tower Theater

PHILADELPHIA, PA—In a world filled with Auto-Tune and vapid pop lyrics, Generation Axe is a breath of fresh air. Some will say “rock is dead.” But it’s been said before over and over again and then you see a show like this with five guitar virtuosos and it reminds you what’s great about the genre.

The five opened up together playing the Boston hit “Foreplay/Long Time.” They all traded solos but Steve Vai was front and center, playing fast and clear and tossing picks at will.

Tosin Abasi, of Animals As Leaders fame, was very precise on the song “Tempting Time.” You could hear every note. He played four songs, closing out with “Physical Education.” On that song, the guitar he was playing looked like a hunk of tree with strings. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Nuno Bettencourt, who was in the band Extreme, sang and played “Get The Funk Out” to perfection. He has a terrific voice and he held his own on the guitar. He was probably the most well-rounded performer of the five. He also played “Midnight Express” and “Extreme Medley.” He did a nice duet with Zakk Wylde as well.

Zakk Wylde, of Ozzy Osbourne fame as well as Black Label Society, only played three songs, but there was a good reason for that. He played a very, very long version of the Allman Brothers classic, “Whipping Post.” He played long solos as he ran up and down each side of the theater with a guitar chord being held by a tech. His Flying V guitar and gravely vocals were terrific.

Yngwie Malmsteen, guitar prodigy, started off strong. He had his long hair flowing and his leather pants on, tossing around his guitar on the song “Spellbound,” and it was flawless. He had the audience in the palm of his hands and then he heard something that wasn’t right. Then for the next two songs, he got into it with the tech and still played great renditions of “Valhalla” and “Overture.” He wanted everything to be perfect but perhaps forgot that sometimes the imperfect is just as memorable, and he was memorable.

Steve Vai has worked with Frank Zappa, Billy Idol, David Lee Roth and so many others. He’s slick, dramatic, and a great showman, and he knew how to get the most out of audience participation. During the song “Now We Run,” he was nice to the guitar tech to balance out the scales. His guitar was talking to the audience at times, and it was a crazy sound. “Frankenstein” was a classic and all five closed it out with “Highway Star.”

There were some shredded strings, some crazy squeals and a lot of standing ovations from the audience. The combinations were terrific, and this tour is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.


Show date: May 5, 2016