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STEVE VAI On Playing Live Onstage With YNGWIE MALMSTEEN: “It Was ‘Challenging”

Steve Vai discusses sharing the stage with Yngwie Malmsteen.

Guitar virtuoso Steve Vai recently spoke with Myglobalmind, and the subject of what it was like for him to join Malmsteen on stage for a performance of Yngwie’s song “Black Star” came up.

The two legendary guitarists came together live on stage during the “Generation Axe” tour, which had numerous runs between 2016 and 2019, and also featured shredders Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi.

Vai said: “I can’t play like Yngwie; nobody can play like him. Nobody can play like me. Nobody can play like anybody. What I did was take the harmony or melody of the song and play it the way I would do it. It was challenging because there were a lot of little fast runs with his fingerings and his tonal center, which is different than mine. I had to work on it. I could do it, but when it came time as to playing against each other, I’m Steve, and he is Yngwie.”

Referencing the other players on the tour, Vai continued: “That is one of the greatest things about that tour; they are all extremely confident in what they do. They don’t compete with you at what you do. What happens is it forces us to compete with ourselves to be the best we can be. Zakk is being Zakk as best as he ever can be. We are all helping each other to push all sorts of aspects of being professional to stage appearance to communication to playing to off-stage etiquette.”

The concept of “Generation Axe” was the five guitar virtuoso’s sharing a backing band and performing together in addition to playing individual sets. The tour also saw the five musicians connect for an 11-city tour of Asia. Select performances from that April 2017 concert appeared on a live recording, “Generation Axe – The Guitars That Destroyed The World: Live In China”, which was released in June 2019 via earMUSIC.