Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Guitar Gods with Yngwie Malmsteen - Phoenix Concert Theatre Toronto Ontario June 21st 2014

Get Adobe Flash player Photo Gallery by QuickGallery.com When I first heard about this thing called "Guitar Gods Tour" I immediately clutched my left chest and said a few unrepeatable words. When I heard the tour was coming to Toronto I had to go for a quick change of wardrobe. As the weeks passed I became more excited knowing Yngwie Malmsteen, Uli Jon Roth, Gary Hoey and Bumblefoot would be sharing the same stage the same night!

Then a few weeks before the show we received the devastating news from the Roth camp that their visas had not been secured and Uli had to back away from his participation in the tour. I again had to go for a quick change.

Anyways, since I already had a ticket and had never seen Yngwie live before (at my age and the artists ages its all about the bucket list at this point) I decided to head to the show. Because I have always considered Uli Jon Roth the greatest guitarist of all time and being a die-hard early Scorps fan I wore my Uli t-shirt in his honour. I was lucky enough to see him two nights in a row last year at the Rockpile. When I arrived at the parking lot across the street from the Phoenix the lineup was already quite a ways down Shelbourne Street. The doors were supposed to open at 7:00 but it was close to 9:00 before they started to move people in at a snails pace.

When I finally got in the first band had already started. They had found a filler for Roth in the name of T.D. Clark. I had not heard of him before but was amazed at how polished and professional he and his band were. More importantly, how he could shred with the best of them.

Next up was Guns N' Roses' axeman Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal. Right off the bat there seemed to be sound problems. Once corrected he brilliantly played that double neck Vigier as if part of his own body. The music however was a bit too modern and almost too Green Day-ish at times. Kudos to him though for his fabulous rendition of the Pink Panther tune to end his 7 song tenure.

Third on the bill was Gary Hoey. I had only known of him from his Heavy Bones band that he formed with Quiet Riot's Frankie Banali. However I knew he had a reputation as being up there with best especially on the more bluesy side. He certainly got the crowds attention early on when he said he wanted to make a Canadian classic song "heavier". He then proceeded to rip into Tom Cochrane's "Lunatic Fringe" with an edge I loved. He continued through his set of 8 songs ending strongly with his version of Dutch band Focus's "Hocus Pocus". The thing I appreciated about Gary was you could tell when he was playing he really put a lot of emotion into it and almost got lost in himself. I am glad I had a chance to see him live!

Once they started to move the first 3 bands equipment out of the way they also started to reveal what was behind it. Holy smokes Batman, the whole friggin' stage was wall to wall Marshall Amps! I took a few quick shots with my iPhone and sent them back home to responses like "WOW" and "Hope you brought your earplugs".

When the "The Maestro" as vocalist/bassist and fellow Canadian Ralph Ciavolino kept referring to him as broke through dry ice the fans went crazy! The opening song "Rising Force" set the tone for the next 17 songs that would bleed your ears throughout the night. You could sense right away that the show was all about Yngwie, strutting the stage, posing for the crowd and flicking guitar picks by the minute into the crowd. I was amazed that along with Ciavolino, drummer Mark Ellis and keyboardist Nick Marino how well they managed to keep up despite being cramped into such a small space of real estate. To be honest I was never a huge Yngwie fan and only knew the more popular songs that rocked the 80's radio. Songs such as "Spellbound", "Evil Eye", "Live to Fight (Another Day)", "Dreaming (Tell Me)" and my fave "Heaven Tonight" kept the three quarter full Phoenix Concert Theatre rocking. You could really tell who the die hard fans were when Malmsteen knelt down on the edge of the stage to rip a solo. They would fight and claw their way to touch royalty in the form of him or his guitar at all costs. After the final song, "Black Star", the crowd roared him back on stage for an encore. This time he had company. Both Bumblefoot and Hoey came on stage to rip through Deep Purple's classic "Burn". This was the highlight for me. But not to be outdone Yngwie kicked them off stage to have one final moment alone with "his" crowd as he closed with "I'll See the Light Tonight".

A night filled with one big guitar solo may not be for everyone and while Yngwie Malmsteen also requires a certain taste that not everyone appreciates - he truly was the "Guitar God" this night!

Attached are the photos of my experience that night. Enjoy!!!

Brian Ronald

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