Generation Axe at Hard Rock Live Orlando in Florida 2018

What happens when you put five of the greatest guitar players on one stage? You get the Generation Axe tour! The brainchild of guitar wizard Steve Vai, he gathered four of the absolute greatest guitar players walking the earth to join him and put on an amazing tour. This show isn’t about the bands they were in, but about showcasing all their amazing skills. Joining Steve Vai is Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne, and Tosin Abasi from Animals As Leaders.
Generation Axe Florida 2018 poster
The format of the show is simple, all five of the guitarists hit the stage for an opening number, then they each come out and show the crowd what they can do individually and with a little help from their fellow guitarists, then finally they close the show together. While this may sound simple, when you get musicians of this caliber in one place, you never know what can happen.
When it was time for the show to start, and all the guys took to the stage they dove right into an all-star jam of the 1970’s hit song “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. With each player taking a turn with their own take on this classic song, you got a glimpse of just how exciting and diverse the night would be. As the first song ended it was now time for the solos to begin. First up was Tosin Abisi, the guitarist for progressive rock band Animals As Leaders. While he may the least known of this crew, his skill is more than equal of his peers. Playing a truly unique custom eight string guitar. His twenty minute set was filled with intricate jazzy work that was breathtaking to say the least. Towards the end of his set he brought out Nuno Bettencourt and they played the Animals As Leaders song “Physical Education”. What an ending to an impressive opening set.
Next to take the stage was Nuno Bettencourt. Made famous from his days as the guitarist from Extreme, his playing lives up to the name of his band. Starting his set out with the Extreme hit song “Get the Funk Out”, this was one of the few songs where there was singing, and Nuno did an awesome job! In addition to singing, Nuno was the only one of the night to pick up an acoustic guitar, sitting down to play “Midnight Express”. For the last song of his set, Nuno brought out Zakk Wylde to play a rip roaring version of the Citizen Cope song “Sideways”.
When Zakk Wylde took to the stage the crowd erupted in cheers. Clearly, he had a lot of fans in attendance. His time on stage lived up to his last name, as it was wild! Zakk was the other guitarist to do some singing. But this is no big deal for he also handles the singing in his band Black Label Society. Speaking of singing, He did a hell of a job covering the Black Sabbath classic “War Pigs”. At one point he was standing on his platform and pointing at each half of the audience to see which side would cheer louder. It wouldn’t be a Zakk Wylde performance without a foray into the audience. He did this not once, but twice. The first time, he was weaving throughout the crowd playing the whole time, including behind the head to the delight of everyone that was in his path! During his second trip off stage, he decided it was time to head upstairs and show those in the balcony what he can do up close and personal. When he was up top, he was even leaning off of the balcony while playing so everyone down below could even see him play. For the last song of his set, he brought out Nuno Bettencourt and they did a blistering cover of the classic Gary Moore song “Still Got the Blues”, with both venturing out into the crowd.
Now it was time for everyone to get to see Steve Vai showcase his mastery. Coming on stage with his custom Ibanez guitar with a lit up fretboard added a cool visual touch. His set showed everyone in attendance just how much of an amazing player he truly is. His riffs were soaring and at times psychedelic. At one point he even played the guitar with his tongue, and when he did that it was better than most guitar players can do with their fingers! It was awe inspiring watching someone with such complete mastery of their instrument.
The final solo performance of the night belonged to Yngwie Malmsteen. With more than 20 albums to his credit, he had plenty of material to dig into for his set. With his well-known neoclassical style combined with his breathtaking speed, it thrilled the audience. Not only was his playing on fire, but he was the lone guitarist to use smoke during his set, and he also did his trademark tossing his guitar high into the air and catching it in the middle of his songs. When he needed to make a guitar change, he was even throwing them to his tech. Joining Yngwie on stage was Steve Vai for their performance of Yngwie’s classic song “Dark Star”. What a blast it was watching these two go lick for lick on this song as only these two could possibly do.
Now that the solos were done it was time for the guys to get together on stage again. For the first song, Yngwie was off stage taking a breather from his blistering set, while Zakk, Nuno, Vai, and Abisi tore it up on a cover of the Edgar Winter classic hit “Frankenstein”. After this song, Steve Vai told the crowd that they were working on something together that was pretty special, and with that all five guitar players launched into a beautiful cover of the Queen hit “Bohemian Rhapsody”. What a treat that was for the entire crowd to hear.
What an amazing night of guitar wizardry. Every player brought their best to the stage. While this isn’t a concert for everyone, it isn’t designed to be. This is a show for fans of the guitar, who want to see the best of the best share the stage. On this front it more than delivered the goods. Every person in attendance at Orlando’s Hard Rock Live left breathless at the playing that they came to see. For fans of guitar work of the gods this is a must see night of music.