Tagged: Steve Vai

The Guitar Gods disaster in Miami

As always, when there is TONS to write about, I never have TIME to write. Since my last post, I’ve been to the US for the Guitar Gods festival in Miami, the Monsters of Rock Cruise to the Bahamas, to Hamburg, Germany for Avantasia and right now I’m in Nashville relaxing for a change (although there will be a gig tonight).

So, I’m behind with the updates, but since I finally have lots of time and no stress (wow, I almost forgot THAT feeling…) I thought I’d try to go back to where I left off and see how much I can remember of this past month’s adventures!

Going back to my trip to Miami…

The Monsters of Rock Cruise was planned a year in advance, so I already had my flight tickets, hotel arrangements and everything taken care of. But then, about two weeks before departure, there was an announcement that there would be a Guitar Gods festival on Miami Beach, featuring Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai and Gus G, among others.

guitargodsfestival2016poster-1

It sounded like an absolute DREAM! Three monster guitarists on stage together, I was super excited! So, like I mentioned in my last post, I had to buy a new flight ticket to make it to that show. The original ticket was non-refundable and couldn’t be changed, and I would never have made it if I had chosen that flight. But – I thought it would be worth it. Wouldn’t miss this for the world!

After a comfortable flight with Austrian Airlines, I landed in Miami at 3.30 PM and breezed my way through customs and immigration. I even got a laugh when the immigration officer asked the standard question: “So, what brings you to the United States?” and I said that I was there for the Monsters of Rock Cruise.

“Monsters of Rock Cruise? I believe that is the cruise where last year they ran out of beer! Why would you want to go on THAT?” He laughed, gave me my passport and wished me a good stay.

I had a reserved cab that was waiting for me to take me to my hotel. On the way there, I saw the venue and people standing in line outside.
Got to my hotel, I checked in and just threw in all my stuff in a pile on the bed, quickly put on some extra lipstick and ran out the door.

There was a long line of people alright, but not nearly as long as I had expected. And what the heck was going on, why were they late? The doors were supposed to open at 5 I think, but it took more than an hour before they started letting people in, no explanation or apology, no nothing. Well okay…

Once I got in, it looked like some weird sort of cabaret/family fair with clowns and unicycle acrobats or whatever… Just not at all what I would expect to see at a rock event.

The cause was great, I liked that it was to benefit the April Malmsteen Foundation, a foundation that works to protect endangered species and their habitats around the globe. I’m all for that, anyone who actively works for animal rights is in my good books. But quite frankly – my impression of this event as a whole was… “WTF?”

It was a pretty small outside venue, the stage looked like someone had just thrown everything they had off the truck, on stage without any thought whatsoever. The visual impression was anything but impressive. It looked like the work of total amateurs, like there was some sort of local talent show for the neighborhood, not something that was going to feature some of the most amazing musicians on the planet!

Seriously, it was embarrassing.

There WAS a talent show. It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. Not the contestants, they were all pretty good actually, but the organization of it was nonexistent.
People were running around on the stage like headless chickens, nobody seemed to be in charge of anything. It was as if they didn’t even know who was doing the presentation of the players – or when.

The backing tracks that the contestants brought on their iPhones or tablets, was the source of major confusion. It took several minutes between every contestant, to figure out the technical issues (=how to plug in an iPhone to get the sound through the PA… Very advanced stuff apparently).

And the worst part was when the poor guy who WON, was handed over the microphone by the host so he could say a few words – but next thing he knew, the host was gone. Just wandered off the stage and the guy just stood there with the microphone after he was done, wondering wtf to do with it. Nobody there to grab the mic and go: “Thank you, let’s hear it for xxxx and congratulations!”. The winner was left alone on stage with a microphone. Lovely.

You get the picture. A total freaking disaster.

But the disaster wasn’t over.

Now it was time for the actual GUITAR GODS. First one was Gus G, one of my favorite guitarists. He walked out on stage and played flawlessly, like he always does. I heard people behind me and beside me talking, they were hoping he would come back and play more, cause he only did one song.

12768383_1682582168658393_2570629375462790647_o

I was waiting for the JAM! The one I’d been looking forward to since the damn thing was announced. The JAM that made me buy another flight ticket, cause I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Yngwie, Steve and Gus, what a treat! But… I’ll get to that.

Next up was Steve Vai. I think that guy can play in a shed somewhere and still be brilliant, make people forget about the circumstances, and he almost did just that. Steve Vai is pure CLASS.

12747237_1682582181991725_5118684548566742256_o

Last up, the “god” himself, Yngwie Malmsteen. Anyone who knows me or is reading this blog, knows that I’m a huge Malmsteen fan. I always have been. Last year I saw him at the Monsters of Rock in Brazil, then I travelled to Bucharest, Romania to see him, and years before that I saw him in New York City at the Gramercy and now this, I just try to see him anywhere I can, since he’s decided not to play in Sweden for whatever reason (I’ve heard a few explanations but it’s all just rumors).

But seeing him run out on that “kid’s dress rehearsal for their school play for their parents“-stage was a bit sad.

He’s supposed to be larger than life, a guitar god. The setting was for anything BUT.
Again – embarrassing. The crowd was…not huge, and that’s an understatement. I had expected this to be the event of the year, kind of. Instead, it was… THIS.

All that aside – I love his playing, I love his old-school rock star antics, his posing, his music…. I enjoyed THAT, and tried not to think too much about everything else. I will always be touched by his music, there’s no getting around that.

I was STILL waiting for that Yngwie/Steve/Gus jam though.

Then FINALLY, after all the mess inbetween songs and artists, it looked like it was time for THE JAM. That was going to be worth the flight ticket, the time, the money, the badly organized event, everything. So I was bracing myself for that, woo-hooo!

Yngwie started introducing his guests. Steve Vai, his “brother”, Rudy Sarzo, the one and only, Nicko McBrain on drums yeyyy and…. no Gus. Okay, well, maybe he’ll make an appearance in another song or something.

12710778_1682582095325067_950454935260398727_o 12747396_1682582268658383_7915789293733409348_o

The jam session included Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love by Van Halen, played by Steve and Yngwie. It was actually so bad that Steve Vai had my YouTube account locked down till August for sharing the video.

Quite frankly, I had a feeling that somebody would get the hickups when they saw that, but I hadn’t expected it to be Steve. He did just great. In fact, he was the only person NOT slaughtering that song. I don’t blame him for panicking and wanting that video off YouTube right away.
The reason why I shared it was because of the unique mix of artists playing a VH song, at this last-minute event. It was newsworthy, I always think in those terms. Even bad PR is good PR sometimes.
Blabbermouth had already shared it – like they do with all my videos – so thousands of people had already seen it and reacted in the usual Blabbermouth troll-manner…

stevevaijpg

Sorry Steve, and Yngwie for that matter, I love you both, but I suppose that was proof that even “gods” fuck up sometimes. Probably made a whole lot of aspiring guitarists out there feel better about themselves for about five minutes, before the clip was removed. ;)

Gus G however, had nothing to be ashamed of though, so I’ll just share his performance instead:

Speaking of Gus, I was STILL waiting for him to get on stage with the others. He never did. I’m not the only one who was pissed off about that. I heard people in the crowd talking as well, where is Gus? Why isn’t he up there?

One of the main reasons why I even wanted to see this gig was cause I’d get to see a cool jam with these THREE guitar gods. Instead, there were only TWO.

Frankly? I think it’s the most unclassy thing I’ve ever seen or heard of. If you’re organizing a festival event, and you invite guests, then the crowd will EXPECT ALL of those guest musicians to be on stage for a final jam.
Excluding someone is something that only an asshole would do. I don’t know who that asshole was, so I’ll leave that unsaid, but someone was responsible and I hope that that person realizes how unprofessional it was to do something like that.

On the other hand, the jam was so bad that not even Steve himself could stand it, so Gus was probably lucky for not having to be associated with it.

The guy who won the guitar contest was really good though, and I hope he does well in the future. :)

And the “custom made” pizza that I got at the venue after the show was good. So, it was not a complete disaster. I hope next time they’ll hire professionals who know what they’re doing.

Rant over.

The world needs guitar heroes

 

Nothing symbolises rock’n’roll like an electric GUITAR.
 
What would rock be without its guitar heroes, the axemen and axewomen who can speak through their strings – translate their inner musical visions through their fingertips??
 
My first guitarhero was YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. I loved, loved loved everything he did, from the early Alcatrazz-stuff, to his first Rising Force instrumental album and to my favorite “Trilogy” and up to “Odyssey” which was a fantastic album in my opinion. He had Joe Lynn Turner singing on it for gods sake, how could you go wrong?! :)
 
In a way, it was thanks Yngwie that I got my first job at the newspaper Kvällsposten back in 1988. He was coming to Olympen, Lund, to do a show with the Odyssey-lineup and I wrote to Kvällsposten several times, begging them to bring me along if they were going to interview Yngwie. I wanted to see a music journalist in action cause I wanted to be one one day. So to me it was a great idea to kind of do both – meet Yngwie and watch a reporter in action, all at the same time.
 
I didn’t get to meet Yngwie on THAT visit to Lund, but the next time he played – I was there to interview him – for Kvällsposten. :) By then, they had given me the job as their rock-reporter because they saw, judging from my letters, that I could write and that I knew my music…!
 
[One of my absolute favorites… Black Star.]
 

 
I thought he was a musical genious.
 
I mean – he was WILD on stage! He was like a super-model, striking 30 different poses in one minute, yet he would continue playing that guitar like nobody’s business, it was breathtaking. How could you do all that running and posing and headbanging and still play like a modern Paganini and make it look like a piece of cake???
Yngwie is the ultimate guitar hero in my book.
 
[From one of my first meetings with Yngwie – at Olympen, Lund 1989.
He wouldn’t let the photographer take any pics before he got a Rolex on his wrist!
He had a whole BOX of Rolexes that he wanted help choosing from!
As far as I know, this photo was never published, I got it from the photographer as a gift because it hadn’t been used. :)]

 

 
 
My next guitar hero was PAUL GILBERT.
I wish I could say that I “discovered” him through Racer X but I didn’t. I got the Racer X-albums later but it was the first Mr Big-album that blew me away.
 
I get all excited just THINKING about it! :))
Paul was – no, Paul IS fantastic! What I loved about him, and still do, is his very personal style. He can show off but he always does it tastefully, and he always has an element of entertainment in everything he does. I adore his goofy sense of humor.
 
It was always fun and interesting seeing him in a new video, or live shows or something – cause he always had those crazy pants, suits, shirts, and and guitars! I remember the one with the fringes – and he was talking about it in an interview – or maybe in one of his first instruction-videos. He was laughing while explaining why he liked the fringes – and suddenly it made perfect sense. It looked cool and it kept his hands dry!
 
[My copy of Guitars That Rule The World – with Paul Gilbert’s signature on it]
 
100_9901.jpg
 
I collected EVERYTHING there was with Paul Gilbert. I loved his Jimi Hendrix-solo album cause he has such a cool singing voice too. But one of my favorite things was a silly little tune that he played on a CD called “Guitars That Rule The World“, released by Guitar World back in 1992.
It had other great players on it: Yngwie, Nuno Bettencourt, Reb Beach, Zakk Wylde (although I’m not a Zakk-fan) and Richie Kotzen to name a few.
 
Paul’s contribution was this very goofy, fun melody that to me is 100% HIM. Anything goes!
It was called “I Understand Completely” (even the title is very…. Paul)
 
Found these on Youtube – the actual tune and Paul explaining how the song came about.
 


 
I travelled all over the place to see Mr Big, and of course, it was for one reason – mainly – and that was Paul Gilbert. I was backstage with the guys a few times and I was shocked because back in those days, there was one “prop” that you would always see backstage with EVERY band that came through town: Groupies.
 
There were barely any groupies backstage with Mr Big, just very few that kind of “had to” be there for the image of the band or whatever. The only one who gave a flying fuck about them was Billy who politely talked to one chick that was dressed in a white leather cowgirl outfit. Paul didn’t give a rats ass, he was eating cereal out of the box. Eric Martin didn’t care either. Don’t even remember where Pat was.
 
These guys were 100% musicians, not interested in the groupie-thing. Eventhough Paul wrote the kind of self-explanatory song “A little too loose” about his “side step” with a chick in Oklahoma city, he just seemed so nerdy that he wouldn’t know what to DO with those chicks. He was a rock star – yet he wasn’t. He was a musician, all the way, and I admired him even more after that.
 
I believe in telling people if they do something that I like – cause we could all use more positive feedback in life, in general.
So…. I wrote to Paul when he was out on the road (back in those days, without internet, you had to buy a music mag, check the dates and venues, and then try to send it to the venue that seemed closest, where they would actually receive the mail).
 
One day, when I got home from work, there was a letter for me. From some hotel in England? It was from Paul!!
I was really touched- he took time to reply, it was the sweetest thing. I’ve had that in a frame ever since. That – and his guitar pick. :)
 

 
Saw Mr Big everywhere and Billy Sheehan was the one who ended up talking to me every time, cause Paul was a kind of in his own little world most of the time – which was okay by me, I loved his musicianship, he could be whoever he wanted to be offstage.
 
Then there were no more guitar heroes for a while. Except for a short Steve Vai-period during the “The audience is listening“-time. I loved his crazy Ibanez-guitars, the one with the hysterical, insane neon colors and the HANDLE! :)
 
Then…. I went to NYC back in December, which was a dramatic story just that – might tell it again someday but not now… I had tickets for Toronto too but since my friend Kevin couldn’t go and my other friend Shawn had to cancel in the last minute too, I figured what the heck, I’ll skip Canada and just concentrate on the Madison Square Garden-gig.
 
I just wanted to see my hero ROB HALFORD. That was the purpose of even going to the show. My plan was to just see a few songs with Ozzy and then leave. I’ve seen Ozzy a bunch of times through the years. He is a living legend, NOTHING he’s ever done has ever been BAD. I love all his albums and all that, but I was tired after the ordeal even GETTING to New York that day when LaGuardia was closed and I had to get there from Nashville and Washington D.C by car….!
 
So I was a wreck when I finally got to the show. Of course, Halford gave me my energy back, I was HIGH after his gig, I mean, what can I say…. The man rules.
 
The plan was to check out a few songs with Ozzy and go back to the hotel to get some sleep.
But……. Change of plans!!
 
Zakk Wylde was out of the band, which I think was about time, cause Ozzy needed something new and fresh. And he sure found it.
 

GUS G is the new, modern guitar hero. I was blown away and time just flew. Tired? Oh yeah, I just forgot that I was. I didn’t miss a thing of Ozzy’s show at Madison Square Garden, and certainly not one single note of Gus’ playing or antics on stage. Holy crap.
 
Suddenly, Ozzy’s show wasn’t the “same old, same old” anymore. It was new, refreshed, ALIVE, interesting. And it’s because of a 30-year old Greek guy with a “hair-fan” and his ESP’s…!
 
I haven’t really been a “fan” of anything for a few years, but I felt like an enthusiastic kid again. You get kind of jaded after a while – I mean, I still love my old heroes but it’s hard to get me into the new stuff because nobody quite sticks out anymore. I grew up with larger-than-life rockstars. Those are pretty much extinct.
Gus G has brought it back to rock’n’roll.
 
What I love about that guy is his ENTHUSIASM, his true love for what he does – you just can’t miss that.

The guy really lives for his guitar.
I enjoy the OzTV-video blog episodes, so I subscribed to them. Almost in EVERY video, you see Gus sitting around somewhere playing his guitar. Before the show. During the show. After the show. In his sleep?? :-D

It’s his best friend, it’s a part of him. And unlike other hyped guitarplayers – he is not mainly about image, he is all about being 100% musician / guitar hero. Guys look up to him. Girls want to do him. The ultimate guitar god.
 
He plays with passion.

You see him on stage playing, and it’s with such intensity that it’s as if he’s making love to his guitar.
Classy, beautiful, aggressive, technical, heavy, his fingers are so fast that you’d swear you’re watching them with a motion-blur!
 
I like this guy because he is genuine. There’s nothing fake about him. It makes me curious to find out what lies behind his sincere, pure passion for guitarplaying.
 
That show in NYC had me go to London with very short notice, to see his band Firewind. I wouldn’t care if he was playing with fucking JUSTIN BIEBER – I would want to go and see him play!
  
[one of my videos from the London-gig]
  

 
I wrote him just to ask about the London show and he wrote back almost right away. Very few people in his position do that. They are busy or lazy or both, and fans are gonna be there anyway, so why bother?

It’s refreshing with a musician that doesn’t have attitude-problems and who plays like he’s best pals with GOD. Or that other dude… downstairs! :)
 

 
My perception of this guy is very positive and a big Gus-fan from Canda, a cop who is absolutely nuts about Firewind and Gus, has the most fantastic things to say about Gus as a person. Actually, when I look around the web, the same thing keeps coming back in comments from fans: “He’s such a nice guy”.
 
He’s unbe-fuckin’-lievable on stage, plays like he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his super-talent – and … he is nice to people. What’s not to like about the dude? :)
 
I’ll be all over Europe this summer to enjoy Ozzy-shows. Gus G has already placed himself in the history-books as Ozzy’s guitar wiz, yet he doesn’t quite seem to get it yet. :) Watch this clip:
 
“People think I’m somebody famous….” :-D
 
 
 
The guitar symbolises everything that we love about rock – passion, love, hate, anger, strength – power!!
 
And the world needs its guitar heroes.

 

 

http://www.facebook.com/InTheRearviewMirror