GIG REVIEW: An Evening With YNGWIE MALMSTEEN at The O2 Forum Kentish Town, London
After nearly a decade since his last headline show in London, Yngwie Malmsteen returned for a hugely anticipated performance last night and, as usual , the maestro’s reputation preceded him.
As you might expect, his audience is not what you’d call casual. To give you an idea: one of my best friends , who accompanied me to the gig, spent several minutes explaining the never-ending sustain of the Floyd-Rose pickups on his new 7-string Schecter guitar. It seems that almost every guitar player and teacher within a 50 mile radius was in attendance, and they were there to witness the master at work.
Emerging in a cloud of smoke and in front of a towering wall of Marshalls, Yngwie tears into a rousing “Rising Force”. Sadly we only get the 1st verse of the song before he moves into the barrage of “Spellbound”. Occupying the stage and cutting a rockstar figure in his 50s, Yngwie still exudes an intensity that is hard to ignore. However, it took this reviewer several songs to realize that there was in fact a live band playing behind him! It just happened that they weren’t on the stage – they were shoved stage left, next to the amps. Since Yngwie has also chosen to handle most of the vocals himself, one did get the feeling that , at times, this was more of a live guitar clinic than a concert.
However you label it, one things is for certain – Yngwie’s guitar playing has not diminished, slowed or mellowed one bit in over 30 years. A blistering “Far Beyond The Sun” is followed by “Seventh Sign” and some truly awe inspiring soloing. The title track of his last album “World On Fire” is followed by a classic “Now Your Ships Are Burning” with Yngwie doing a more than competent job on vocals too.
Yngwie seems to be in genuinely good spirits too – thanking the crowd for coming, complimenting them on their singing and throwing a small mountain of guitar picks to his adoring fans. This is evident when, after another extended solo, Yngwie covers Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” and proceeds to burn it down – a surprise highlight of the evening for me. After an extended workout session with his Stratocaster (spinning, flipping and tossing!) Yngwie leads us into “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”. The encore of “Black Star” with its extended acoustic intro incorporating some Bach before the final song “I’ll See the Light Tonight” ends the evening on a high.
A masterclass in sheer, unrivaled skill and bloody-mindedness, Yngwie Malmsteen proved in London that he can deliver an impressive show no matter who is in his band and that more really is more, at least when it comes to amps and guitars.