The “Gods” Descend Upon Long Island
By Seth M
I know, calling mere humans Gods, especially with the capital “G,” may offend some people, but, well, so be it…I doubt most of those people make a habit (no nun pun intended, I swear) of reading about hard rock and metal music in the first place. Anyway, these Guitar Gods have earned the title with their mastery of their six-strings, and the disciples in the crowd at The Paramount in Huntington, NY could not have been more eager to worship them.
So who are these Guitar Gods? They are none other than legendary hard rock guitarists Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, Gary Hoey, and Yngwie Malmsteen, who have joined together for a short 5 week tour across the US. In addition to this mighty triumvirate, the bill also featured openers TD Clark as well as The Gary Douglas Band; both acts performed blues-influenced, guitar- focused sets which fit perfectly as a precursor to the main show ahead.
After a very brief set change, it was time for the first God to hit the stage. Known to many as one of the guitarist from a later incarnation of Guns N’ Roses, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal has a career that reaches back many years. He started playing guitar at age six and never stopped ~ and he takes his performances very seriously. He immediately told the already amped crowd he only had 35 minutes onstage, set his stop watch (which he did indeed reference a couple of times), and tore right into “Abnormal.” Ron continued his fast-paced set without ever changing guitars from one of his signature doublenecks and tore into songs including “Guitars Suck,” “Objectify,” “Guitars Still Suck,” and the Pink Panther theme…that’s right, the Pink Panther theme. He’s serious and focused, yes, but he does have a sense of humor and joked with the audience a bit between songs.
I’ll admit to being a little biased since I am friendly with Ron, but when I mentioned his name to a guitarist I know who has no connection to him, the reaction of “That guy is so fucking talented!” pretty much summed up what most anyone who’s familiar with Ron’s work would say.
Next up was Gary Hoey, who played about an hour and brought some great blues and grooves to a crowd that was visible enamored with his melodic stylings. Hoey’s set included “Deja Blues” off his 2013 album of the same name as well as “Mass Hysteria” and a number of covers including one of my personal favorites, “Lunatic Fringe” from the Red Riders. He closed out his set with “Hocus Pocus” and left the audience, as they say, “…wanting more.” Although I’d never seen or met Gary before, I got the chance to spend some time with him after the show and can attest to the fact that he’s not only an amazing guitarist, but also a genuinely great person. I’ll jump at any opportunity I get in the future to see him play again.
It’s obvious that Gary and Ron are good friends, share a similar sense of humor, and both really enjoy spending time with their fans ~ just check out their Kickstarter campaign. The campaign offers fans a bunch of cool opportunities to meet them, get some of their music, and even have Ron wear the same underwear (with the “winner’s” name on it) for the entire tour (a “prize” he really hopes goes unclaimed!). These guys know how to have fun and how to include the public in it, too.
Two Gods done with their sets and the stage crew prepping a wall of Marshalls could only mean one thing: it was time for “The Maestro,” Yngwie Malmsteen. I first saw Yngwie when I was around 13 and if memory serves, this night’s show was relatively similar to that first one. Sure, the setlist wasn’t identical, but the flow and general look of the stage hadn’t changed all that much. The audience was primed for what they knew Malmsteen can deliver, and there is no question Yngwie has insane skills, but something about his performance struck me a little off. With his band all pushed to stage right so that he could swing his guitars around his neck, throw them in the air and toss them to his tech, there was an air of self-indulgence that perhaps was just a little much for me that night. But looking and listening to the people around me, I concluded I was a minority of one, as all the showmanship and artistic ego seemed to be just what the crowd wanted to see.
Yngwie shredded up the stage for about an hour and forty minutes to a screaming crowd that definitely couldn’t get enough. He hit on songs from throughout his career ~ “Rising Force,” “Spellbound,” “Rise Up,” and even the National Anthem, and witnessing the set was like watching the longest guitar solo of your life. As a huge fan of the Odyssey record with Joe Lynn Turner, the highlight of the set was their 2014 rendition of “Heaven Tonight.” Ron and Gary came up for a jam which, if you’re a guitarist, was in and of itself worth the price of admission. Yngwie closed out his set with “I’ll See The Light Tonight.”
The Guitar Gods Tour may not be the show for everyone, but if you’re a guitarist or can appreciate amazing guitar work, then it is the show for you; regardless of whether you worship these three particular Gods, there is no denying that their musicianship is spectacular.
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