JAM Magazine Concert Reviews

Generation Axe
December 14, 2018
The Bomb Factory
Dallas, TX

Review by Dave Gray
Photos by Rene Rivera

Vai’s Generation Axe Slices Through Dallas’ Bomb Factory

Vai’s Generation Axe Slices Through Dallas’ Bomb Factory Photo by Rene RiveraSteve Vai and four of his closest guitar friends almost imploded the Bomb Factory and honestly challenged the Dallas power grid tonight. Baby, it was cold outside, but that didn’t keep the masses away from Dallas’ Deep Ellum, as a packed house stayed for the four full hours of nonstop guitar wizardry from the likes of Vai, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi. The night songs left my ears buzzing as I walked out of the venue after midnight, and I was sitting in the balcony most of the night.

The quintet opened the set with all five guitarists onstage at once performing the 1970’s instrumental “Hocus Pocus” by Focus (a hard rock anthem, before there was hard rock). The song featured each musician as they took turns performing a few bars of a guitar solo, and then slickly passed the torch to the next guitarist, which seemed to throw gasoline on it, igniting their own instrument, smoking, blazing hot. The rhythm of the song is a fast-paced epic, and the band provided the lush background as each guitarist took their turn with the torch.

Vai’s Generation Axe Slices Through Dallas’ Bomb Factory Photo by Rene RiveraAnimals As Leaders’ Tosin Abasi followed the opening number with a variety of instrumental skillfulness on the eight string guitars he brought along. “The Woven Web” was an interesting listen, as he mesmerized the crowd with Stanley Jordan type tapping and over the top progressive heavy melodies. He segued his set by performing “Free Bird” with the next guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt.

Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt opened his segment with “Get the Funk Out” (including the vocals) and then showed that he still has the chops as well. I’m not sure where or what he’s doing these days, but he hasn’t lost a step from the days of Extreme. Acoustically, or electrically, his lightning fingers and heavy tones are awesome, bewildering. I was impressed. He performed a psychotic medley of Extreme solos and such that left me wondering if I sure go ahead and turn my electric guitar body into a coffee table. (see Spinal Tap).

Vai’s Generation Axe Slices Through Dallas’ Bomb Factory Photo by Rene RiveraZakk Wylde followed, and joined Nuno for Citizen Cane’s “Sideways” before blazing into his set which included a few Black Sabbath numbers. He greeted the Dallas “Dime Chapter” with “Into the Void” and “War Pigs” and even played the opening riff of Pantera’s “I’m Broken” before basically melting the audience with seemingly unending “arpeggios of doom”. Walking offstage and into the crowd numerous times, he brought a different guitar into the audience, amongst the brethren, down the aisles, up the stairs, into the balcony(s) hanging off the balcony(s), just everywhere. He also slowed it down a bit by doing Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues”, and threw in a hint of Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs” in there somewhere as well. Steve Vai and Nuno Bettencourt hopped into the crowd also and dueled it out with him a bit, before the next set.

Surprisingly, Steve Vai was next up. Sirens wailing, red police lights racing, Vai opened his set with “There’s a Fire in the House”, which kind of summarized the night, in my opinion. The song, a smoking track written over 20 years ago is a blazing number which features Steve at his best, especially with the wah pedal and tremolo. He also donned a green hat for “The Animal” on a green set which looked really cool before launching into “For the Love of God”. I’ve seen “Father Steve” several times, but tonight FTLOG song seemed really perfect, every note like the original record, a beautiful melody. He even eased in a bit of Christmas spirt at the end with “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen”. I was really impressed, again. He never ceases to amaze.

Vai’s Generation Axe Slices Through Dallas’ Bomb Factory Photo by Rene RiveraYngwie J. Malmsteen made his appearance next, in front of a huge row and stack of Marshall amps. On a stage of red lights, he performed mostly classically driven instrumentals. “Black Star” was great, and for his age, it’s amazing how Malmsteen can still spin the guitar and kick guitar picks into the crowd at will, all while performing challenging sweep arpeggios.

The conclusion was a five-man electrical band, a short set which included Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”, Deep Purple’s “Burn” and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, an instrumental. Steve said that they worked very hard on this song and it showed. It was a delightful rarity which featured Nuno and Steve doing most of the demanding vocal parts on the guitar. It was a cool end to a cool show on a cool evening. Thanks guys, happy holidays!

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