Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Yngwie Malmsteen at the Gramercy Theatre

Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck, who at age 12 renamed himself Yngwie Malmsteen, was born into a musical family in Stockholm, Sweden. At age 10, the young guitarist formed a duo named Track on Earth with a schoolmate on drums. As a teenager, his musical influences included 19th century violinist composer Niccolò Paganini and rock guitarists Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth and Brian May. Malmsteen came to the United States at age 18 and briefly joined Steeler and Alcatrazz in 1983 before releasing his first solo album in 1984. In 2009, Time rated Malmsteen as among the 10 greatest electric guitar players of all time. Malmsteen's 20th and most recent solo album, World on Fire, was released on June 1, 2016. Malmsteen now lives in Miami, Florida.

Headlining at the Gramercy Theatre tonight, Malmsteen's guitar techniques once again married classical influences to heavy metal. The back of the stage was a wall of amplifiers. Keyboardist/vocalist Nick Marino, vocalist/bassist Ralph Ciavolino, and drummer Mark Ellis held down the left side of the stage, and Malmsteen displayed enough showmanship for the rest of the stage, spinning the guitar, tossing it into the air, playing it with his teeth and producing feedback by perching it in various places. His technical wizardry included lightning fast harmonic minor scalar riffing and "sweep picking," where he played single notes on consecutive strings with a sweeping pick motion while using the fretting hand to produce fast and fluid notes. Amidst the heavy metal thunder, Malmsteen's neoclassical inclination drew from the influences of classical composers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Niccolò Paganini, and Antonio Vivaldi. The indistinguishable songs themselves were basically the train that carried the merchandise, however. For all the feedback and distortion that often muddied Malmsteen's playing, he nevertheless dazzled as one unmatchable musician.

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