Like many young, naive guitarists, when I first started playing I had the burning desire and a dream to become the fastest player in the world. Prior to the conception of the internet there were two VHS tapes I borrowed indefinitely that would forever change my world, Yngwie Malmsteen’s Trial By Fire: Live in Leningrad and Tokyo 1985 concerts. Both really “lit a fire underneath my ass” as Yngwie’s bassist Ralph Ciavolino put it, inspiring me to work harder and take my guitar playing to another level.
Walking into the wonderful 170 Russell venue was like stepping into an alternate reality where time and space stood still. Classical violin music filled the air for a mixed demographic of young and old, amongst a dark red silhouette of Marshall amplifiers and cabinets of all models and eras as far as the eye could see.
In the chaotic world of live music technical difficulties are not uncommon, and a quick line-check indicated that there were going to be some serious issues tonight. Everyone was quick to point the finger at the poor guitar tech, including a comical bass player who broke the ice with “What do you get when you cross the world’s best guitarist with the world’s worst guitar tech?” The fact of the matter is when you plug a single guitar is into more than 20 foreign, rented amplifiers, you invite the “Spinal Tap-esque” to occur.
Luckily, an always sharp and “in-the moment” maestro was quick to sort of the problems himself after blazing through the burning opener “Rising Force”, much to the relief of a frustrated crowd. While the focus of the evening was undoubtedly on YJM who comically occupied around 90% of the stage with the remaining band members squeezed into a corner, I was equally impressed with keyboard/ vocalist Nick Marino’s powerful, searing melodic vocals, that were both ferocious and pitch-perfect all night.
Next up, “Spellbound” took the audience on an instrumental journey into the realm of super-sonic speed picking, sweeping arpeggios, and note-flurries best described as brain-jarring. It was great to see that Yngwie’s playing hasn’t suffered too much over the years, and was still as exciting and relevant to a loyal fan-base more than 30 years into his career.
As the night progressed everything you wanted you got, including some magnificent staccato nylon-string shred, face-melting self-accompanied solos with harmony based delay and Moog Taurus bass lines, as well as a short tease of “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits and a burning rendition of Red House featuring YJM on lead vocals. Other highlight’s included “Black Star”, “Trilogy Suite Opus 5”, “Heaven Tonight”, and the crushing finale, “I’ll See The Light Tonight” played at a sizzling pace.
Technical problems aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. It was a great opportunity to see the master guitarist up close and personal.