What do you get when five elite guitar heroes join forces? Generation Axe, that’s what you get! The baby of guitar wiz Steve Vai, Generation Axe was formed in 2016 when Vai recruited four of the most notable guitarists to ever plug in and wail. A who’s who of guitar virtuosity, Vai battles the guitar gods alongside Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders), Nuno Bettencourt (Extreme), Zakk Wylde (Black Label Society, Ozzy Osbourne), and Yngwie Malmsteen. Together, these creatures of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal create one unstoppable super-group who wowed audiences all over North America and Asia back in 2016/2017.
After receiving raving reviews from their sold out debut, Generation Axe has gifted North America this holiday season by hitting the road on a brand new tour. On November 7th, Generation Axe kicked-off their 2018 excursion at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California – a run that would take the show into the week before Christmas. That said, a stop at the cozy NYCB Theatre at Westbury on Long Island, New York was at hand on Tuesday, December 4th.
On a chilly night, things were about to heat-up as some of the best Rock fans around packed into the theater where no one would be less than 60 feet from the action all night. Speaking of action, just before 8 PM, the show began with Vai, Wylde, Malmsteen, Bettencourt, and Abasi taking the stage together. Hailed by the Long Island crowd, these titans of the guitar stormed Westbury via a performance of Gary Moore’s “Hocus Pocus.” Let’s not forget, Generation Axe is backed by Bassist Pete Griffin, Drummer JP Bouvet, and Keyboardist Nick Marinovich to round out the band.
After a fantastic opening, the individual sets began with a young man some fans are just getting to know, Tosin Abasi. A slayer of Progressive Metal, Abasi is a Nigerian-American guitarist who formed the trio Animals as Leaders in 2007. Performing a few numbers from the Animals as Leaders catalog, Abasi bestowed his chops on “Tempting Time,” showing his range of influences from Dream Theater to Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah.
Delivering a fine set of Prog Metal, Abasi shined on cuts like “The Woven Web” and “CAFO.” A humble musician, Abasi praised the other guitarists on the tour. He spoke about growing up watching these guys play and what sharing a stage with legends means to him. Abasi then said he loved this next guitarist for his shredding and brought out Nuno Bettencourt to join him on “Physical Education.” A cunning pair, Abasi and Bettencourt grooved out note upon note to close Abasi’s set. Overall, the fans really took to Abasi as he is by far a talented guitar player with so much variety to offer the ear.
Nuno Bettencourt has been the guitarist for the Boston, Massachusetts based Hard Rock act Extreme for three decades. Bettencourt first emerged with Extreme in the late 1980’s, playing a funky blend of groove-infused Rock. It is easy to say, there are few guitarists out there who fuse these musical styles the way Bettencourt can. Right off the bat, Bettencourt fed the nostalgia to Westbury with Extreme’s “Get the Funk Out.” The crowd simply loved Bettencourt’s technical prowess and his incorporation of fast licks and funky melodies.
Taking a seat, Bettencourt grabbed an acoustic guitar and even teased “More Than Words” before amusingly letting the crowd know he would not be performing Extreme’s biggest hit. Bettencourt did, however, proceed to dazzle the ear on a deeper Extreme cut, “Midnight Express.” This here was a brilliant display of skill on a simple instrument like the acoustic guitar. Next, Bettencourt performed a dizzying medley of his best known solos before introducing Zakk Wylde. After an impassioned set, Bettencourt was sent off in the midst of hard earned cheers.
Next, Zakk Wylde would enforce perhaps the most commanding set of the evening. Metal fans all over the world know Wylde as the leader of Black Label Society and the right hand man to The Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne. For Long Island, this was the third time Wylde has played the area in 2018. Wylde and Black Label Society graced the stage of The Paramount in Huntington back in August. Then, Wylde played with Ozzy at The Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh on September 8th.
From the very first note, Wylde set the Theater at Westbury on fire as he played what seemed like the longest possible version of Black Sabbath’s “Warpigs.” By his presence alone, Wylde can ignite a crowd and he sure got the people of Long Island feeling rowdy as they cheered him on. Running all over the room, Wylde became part of the crowd as he stood alongside the fans while shredding some of Metal’s most monumental riffs. For his last one, Wylde brought back Nuno Bettencourt for an axe duet of Gary Moore’s “Still Got the Blues,” as both men tore it up from in the crowd. After bringing the house down, Wylde thanked the Long Island chapter and introduced Gen Axe founder Steve Vai.
A native of Long Island, Steve Vai was born in Carle Place, not too far from the famous Westbury venue. One of the absolute best, the Grammy Award winning Steve Vai led guitar virtuoso’s in the 1980’s while he played for legends like Whitesnake and David Lee Roth. As a solo artist, Vai really hit his stride with classic albums like 1990’s Passion and Warfare. A style all his own, Vai’s music can be described as melodically hard hitting, emotional, and storytelling.
As Vai took the stage at the NYCB Theatre, the room was virtually set on fire by his presence before he struck a note. Lighting it up, Vai was magical on his opening number “There’s a Fire in Here.” Next, Vai added to his rocker attire by wearing an Alice In Wonderland style top hat during a groove oriented and tantalizing rendition of “The Animal.” Tipping his hat, Vai shattered hearts on his closing number “For the Love of God,” rounding out two straight cuts off the aforementioned Passion and Warfare. Since there’s no place like home, Vai showed his hometown crowd why he is a world renowned musician and an absolute predator on the guitar. After taking in the rousing ovation, Vai introduced the great Yngwie Malmsteen.
One of the fastest guitar players in the universe, Sweden’s Yngwie Malmsteen has been slicing up the strings for the better part of four decades. Over the course of his career, Malmsteen has played for the bands Steeler, Alcatrazz, and his solo band, sometimes referred to as, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force. Unlike any other player, Malmsteen mechanically incorporates the most technical traits of Heavy Metal and Classical Music – a style known as Neoclassical Metal.
Hitting the Westbury stage with striking presence, Yngwie Malmsteen received a huge ovation as he emerged from the clouds of smoke and flashing sirens. Taking over, Malmsteen fiercely erupted on the opening cuts “Into Valhalla,” “Baroque and Roll,” and “From A Thousand Cuts.” Malmsteen soon kept the fires burning via “Arpeggio From Hell” and “Far Beyond the Sun.” Praising his favorite classical master, Malmsteen paid tribute via “Paganini’s 4th Adagio” and then he crushed all with “Black Star.” Pledging his allegiance, Malmsteen played the quintessential “Star-Spangled Banner” before the final acts of the night took place.
A star studded finale, Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi joined Yngwie Malmsteen, as all of Generation Axe was back on stage. In a few words, Vai told the Long Island crowd “You know this one!” as Generation Axe proceeded to perform an incredible instrumental version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Fans on their feet, everyone in attendance knew all the words and was floored by the song choice. Time for one more, Generation Axe raised the roof with Deep Purple’s “Burn,” rattling the foundations of the Westbury Theater before taking a final bow.
Well, Santa got it right with this one. Generation Axe really gave Long Island fans an early Christmas present thanks to a night of killer Rock-n-Roll. As Generation Axe, Vai, Wylde, Malmsteen, Bettencourt, and Abasi displayed some of the finest guitar work known to man. A perfect holiday treat for the Rock fan in your life, the 2018 Generation Axe Tour rolls on until December 18th in Los Angeles, California – so don’t miss out!
Photo credit: Andrew Fiero Photography