JULY 3, 2017

Whether you love Albuquerque, or hate it, one thing that we have going for us is geography. Sitting right on the infamous Big-I, where Interstates 25 and 40 meets, is hugely advantageous to music lovers in the area. While Albuquerque does have a couple of high volume venues, that draw in major tours, we often miss out on the smaller ones. We do have venues to accommodate these shows, nonetheless we often get skipped. On a near weekly basis, I'll read about a band announcing a tour, and excitedly check the dates only to find Albuquerque missing from the list. Occasionally, however, a band's management will realize that there are three days off between a Las Vegas, and a Dallas show, and have a gig booked in Albuquerque, on short notice. This was the case with Yngwie Malmsteen's World on Fire Tour that came to Albuquerque June 8th at the Historic El Rey Theater.

The Opening Act was New York based THE RASKINS, who describe their sound as "rock/retro/alternative/pop-rock/singer-songwriter." And whom brought a lawsuit against Motley Crue in 2016, for $30 million, stemming from their allegations that they were not given dressing rooms, and had been squirted with water guns, filled with urine, by people in monkey masks, during Motley Crue's 2014 Final Tour. The NYC based duo seemed an interesting selection for support of a Yngwie Malmsteen tour, however, I cannot attest to that or anything else about the band since they simply did not show up for the show in Albuquerque. Strangely, the tour dates have been pulled from the band's website, and they have no mention of anything about it, that I could find, on their social media accounts. I attempted to reach out for a comment from THE RASKINS; no response has been made as of this writing.

It did not seem to faze the crowd this night. 

I have said it before, will no doubt say it again, and will stand by it every time, there is nothing better than seeing an artist that is one of the best at their craft, perform. It truly is an awesome, and I mean awe-inspiring, thing to see. Yngwie Malmsteen is one of those artists. 

I am often criticized for not writing about guitarists enough, or not as in depth as one might deserve. Maybe those critics are right. As a drummer, I tend to pay attention to the rhythm section. I also have heard enough drummer jokes from guitarists that maybe I harbor some subconscious resentment toward them. Maybe I figure they get enough attention as it is.With a career spanning over four decades, and over twenty albums to his credit, one could easily argue that Yngwie Malmsteen is the most technically accomplished hard rock guitarist of all time. With his famously reported love of the classical composers Bach, Beethoven, and Paganini, coupled with the witnessing of the great Jimi Hendrix as a child, Yngwie, through obsessive practice, and dedication has made an indelible mark on rock, and guitar playing. There are those out there that have criticized him for not growing as an artist. It has been opined that after the first couple of albums, everything sounded the same, and he was not progressing as a guitarist. Ironically, he is credited with being the father of the heavy metal guitar "shred" yet accused of sounding the same as every other guitarist that has come after him. Damned if you do, damned if you don't, it sounds to me. The fact remains that love him or hate him, Yngwie Malmsteen is an amazing artist, that still to this day leaves audiences with their mouths hung open in amazement, and admiration.

It was 2017, when I found out the show was coming to town. It was 2017 when I found out I was going to cover it for ROCKWiRED. It was 2017 when I went to the venue. When I entered the Historic El Rey, it was still 2017. Ordering a beer at the bar, it was 2017. When Yngwie Malmsteen and his band hit the stage, it was 1987. I don't know where that magnificent Swede got his Flux Capacitor, but the moment he took the stage, holding his Yngwie Malmsteen Signature Stratocaster in the air, standing in front of a wall of Marshall amplifiers, all bathed in an orange light, we were staring into the past. I had seen Yngwie on a television show about a year before, he looked like most of us do when we get to middle age, he seemed to have put on a few pounds, but nothing extreme. So, I was a puzzled when, on several different occasions, telling friends and acquaintances that I was covering the show, many of them remarked on his size. Several asked me to tell them after the show, "how fat he had gotten now." Consequently, I was half-expecting Yngwie to come out to the stage on one of those motorized Rascal scooters, his legs unable to support his mass any longer. Instead, the guitar virtuoso, looked like he had stepped right out of the feature article of a mid-eighties issue of Circus magazine. It was outstanding! Complete with black leather pants, some sort of half crushed velvet, half leather looking shirt with only one buttoned fastened, enough bracelets to supply Cyndi Lauper's photo shoot from 1983, a leopard print guitar strap, and that hair. My god, that impossibly high, ozone ruining, glorious, 1980's heavy metal hair! The rest of the band looked as if they at least somewhat kept up with fashion trends, not Yngwie. No way.

I loved every second of it. I have seen several bands that had reached their apex in the 80's, touring on some retro themed bill, years, now decades later. Good, bad, or ugly, not one of them transported me back in time. I was watching, still shocked by the perceived date, around two or three minutes into "Rising Force", it hit me. This guy is spectacular! I have always known he was one of the best to pick up the instrument, but it didn't really hit me, just how amazingly talented the man is, until I saw him performing on stage. The famous "shredding," the vibrato, the tremolo, the power chords, the pentatonic scale, barre chords, arpeggios, and all those other guitar terms that I have no idea what they mean. I truly do not know what they mean, the preceding terms, I got from a guitar web-site. I do not know if any are techniques employed by Malmsteen or not. That is exactly the point I am making, you do not need to be knowledgeable about guitar, to immensely enjoy Yngwie Malmsteen. I have no idea how he plays the way he does, so other guitarists wanting to discuss technique, and method are better suited having a conversation with someone else about that, but if anyone wants to talk about superbly played, kick-ass rock and metal, then let's grab a beer, and sit down, my friend.

Yngwie and his band, Nick Marino - Keyboards, Ralph Ciavolino - Bass, and Mark Ellis - Drums, went on to play a wide-ranging set, encompassing 40 years of music, plus renditions of Bach, Paganini, and the John Stafford Smith cover of "The Star-Spangled Banner". All the favorites, and timeless classics were there: "Rising Force", "Into Valhalla", "Baroque & Roll", "Seventh Sign", "Arpeggios from Hell", "Trilogy Suite Op: 5", "Like an Angel" - from the 1997 album Facing the Animal his song he has dedicated to his wife, and manager April, as well as, from his most recent release, "Top Down, Foot Down". Yngwie was tireless on stage running back and forth, flipping his instrument, drop-kicking picks into the audience, and French kissing his guitar during solos. At one point, a little more than half-way through the set, Yngwie played his first solo, an electric piece, so in depth, that the rest of the band left the stage, and my photographer that night, Lisa Masters, pointed out how much it looked like John Bonham's drum solo, "Moby Dick", from The Song Remains the Same. It was not hard to envision the other band members leaving the venue to buy drugs, which Yngwie gave them plenty of time to do, if they so wished. Collectively we, as the audience stood in amazement, experiencing the performance, rather than merely witnessing it. Upon returning, the band, now well rested, launched into "Blue" from the album Alchemy. I believe a total of about six words were spoken, by Malmsteen throughout the performance. All of them were words of gratitude, but having so little said in between songs, made for the night to go quicker than usually would have. They simply came to play. Which they did beautifully, going into "Blue", then "Fugue" before leaving the stage. After a few minutes of the crowd chanting "ING-VAY!" "ING-VAY!" The man came back out for an encore to an awaiting acoustic/electric guitar, to play his second Guitar Solo of the night, a beautiful, technical piece that lead right into the rest of the band's return for "Black Star", from the Rising Force album, then finishing off the incredible show with "I'll See the Light Tonight" from the 1985 album Marching Out.

As the band came together at the front of the stage to take their bows, there was an indescribable feeling in the air. When they exited the stage, and the house lights came on, I realized it was 2017 again. I looked around and strangers were making friends with one another because of their mutual admiration for what they saw, the staff was helpful to me, desperately trying to gather information for this article that I had neglected to accomplish beforehand, Yngwie Malmsteen's stage manager, Ken, generously gave me a CD and a couple of tour shirts, because he felt bad that the last copy of the set-list, taped to the stage, that he was going to give me, accidentally to ripped up and thrown away. Even the security guards, whose job is to clear the venue out of all the fans that would stay all night, if it were up to them, did so in the politest way, I have ever seen at a rock show. There was no pushing, shoving, or verbal abuse, as is customary at most. Outside, fans were waiting by the tour bus, hoping for a glimpse, and maybe an autograph, hanging out, having a great time. Again, hoping to gather information for this piece, I approached a crew member, who oversaw the equipment being loaded, and instead of having security get rid of me, she spoke with me awhile, and tried again to locate a set-list for me. In more than 30 years of concert attending, I've never seen anything like that. The night was something magical.

The WORLD ON FIRE TOUR has now completed its North American dates, excepting a final performance in Melbourne, Florida on November 12, at the King Center of Performing Arts.


http://www.rockwired.com/ChrisLinvillePic.jpgCHRiS LiNVILLE (CONTRiBUTOR)
CHRIS LINVILLE is a freelance writer and musician living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. A passionate lover of music, he intends for his writing to introduce the reader to a world that may have otherwise gone unnoticed. Originally from Los Angeles, he began learning the drums in 1990 and has gone on to play for bands such as: FREQUENCY FUNHOUSE, AS MY LIFE FADES, and H. He began writing screenplays in his late teens and his second effort was optioned, but has yet to be produced. He is the author of POETRY FROM THE BEDROOM MIRROR,  a collection of original poems, vandalized on mirrors. He is a co-founder of the SOUTH WEST ADVOCACY GROUP, INC. a non-profit organization assisting individuals in need of accessing and utilizing human services to become self-reliant. CHRIS lives with his fiance, HEATHER-MICHELLE.

CONTACT CHRiS LiNViLLE AT: cdlinville77@gmail.com