2019 was an amazing year for guitar-oriented music, especially in the Rock vein. After years of being declared dead by both artists (who will not be named) and listeners, guitar based Rock is on an upswing. I believe the trend actually started in 2018 when I first heard Greta Van Fleet. Their blues-based guitar rock with a nod to a certain band from the past still sounded fresh enough to garner major airplay on the radio and on Youtube. You couldn’t get more basic than the approach they took – solid (though unspectacular) guitar work, a singer with an amazing vocal range melded together in a blues groove that immediately connected with both young and old listeners. More bands followed: Ghost – with a throwback to the late seventies crunch-rhythm sound and melodic solos, blues rock revivalists Rival Sons and latecomers Dirty Honey. The great thing about these bands is that they all sound different while making a mark at the same time. It’s a good time for Rock and I’m hoping the coming year will be even better. Still, while things are looking up for guitar-based music, it’s still fun to listen to the masters of their craft – the soloists. Fortunately there are some newer players out there in addition to the established pros. I saw quite a few of them this year and while the newer artists have made it cool to play lead guitar again, they haven’t yet equaled the old guard. With that in mind, here are the top five live performances of 2019 I’ve had the pleasure to see this year.
Vivian Campbell: First of all, the fact that it was even possible to see Vivian Campbell on the small stage was amazing. After years of playing in huge arenas with Dio and then Def Leppard, the Irish shredder took his solo band, Last In Line on tour in support of their latest album, “II.” While handling both rhythm and lead parts, he still managed to sneak in a little shredding. Check out Vivian’s playing on the Dio hit “Last In Line”:
Paul Gilbert: Ok, so Paul has toned it down since his days in Mr. Big. He is more of a bluesman these days, frequently playing slide guitar on his new songs. Still, when he wants to he can shred with the best of them. The video of him playing “I Own a Building” is one of our more popular YouTube Videos:
Nita Strauss: Alice Cooper’s blonde bombshell guitarist proved there was more than meets the eye with her debut release – “Controlled Chaos.” Integrating neo-classical runs and speedy licks with pounding rhythms while still maintaining a melodic sense made this album a lot of fun to listen to. The live recording of her performing “Our Most Desperate Hour” is the most popular video on our YouTube page.
Michael Schenker: The old guard are still to be reckoned with and Schenker is no exception. Michael is playing as good, if not better than he ever has these days. Putting alcohol addiction and stage fright behind him, he has embraced his audience and it shows. His show (along with Badflower’s) was one of the most fun I’ve been to in a long time. One of my all-time favorites, the master of neo-classical melodicism has still got it and shows no sign of slowing down. If you get the chance to see him, don’t miss it!
Joe Satriani: Satriani has been the guitar hero’s guitar hero for the past twenty years. There are many good players out there and then there is Satriani. He is one of the top five guitarists of all time in my book and the video shown here is one reason why. From the moment he took the stage he was in total control of his instrument and the audience. He simply blew everyone away, including myself. This guy truly is a guitar god. His shredding is mind blowing, his technique is flawless and his passion for the music unparalleled. Just watch and listen to him destroy the audience on this clip from the Experience Hendrix tour:
A special honorable mention goes out to Buckethead. This guy has amazing chops and is a prolific writer with over three hundred albums released. I strongly recommend you go see him the next time he’s in your area. He is worth seeing!
It’s been a great inaugural year here. We’ll be bringing you more articles on guitarists and bands but we’ll also be touching on new gear so check back here often. We’ll also be making a few changes designed to make it easier for you to reach us. Lastly, I want to see and hear from you upstart female guitarists. Part of this resurgence has been due to women making inroads in both Rock and guitar playing. If you’ve got a Youtube Video of your work, post the link to it in the Comments section below!
Be sure and check out the full reviews of Joe Satriani with Experience Hendrix, Michael Schenker, Nita Strauss, Last In Line with Vivian Campbell and more. Be sure and check out the full schedule of upcoming concerts for 2020 as well as featured articles. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter! Most of all, have a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a great 2020!
What was YOUR favorite band/guitarist performance of 2019? Tell us about it below: