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by Ray Anton – photos Maria Serritella Anton

South Florida has had some major musical talent pass through over the years, such as Eric Clapton, The Bee Gees, The Eagles, KC and the Sunshine Band, as well as jazz greats Joe Diorio, Jaco Pastorious and Pat Matheny in the 70s and 80s. Miami has also had one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time living amongst us for the last 30 years. Yngwie Malmsteen exploded on the seen in the early 80s and knocked the rock guitar world on its ear, much like Jimi Hendrix in the 60s and Eddie Van Halen in the 70s. We have been fortunate that Yngwie has provided us many opportunities to catch him onstage. Our latest encounter was at Fort Lauderdale’s Culture Room on May 5th, where a spectacular performance, mixed with discussions of his life as an artist, made for an intimate experience.

Unlike his previous shows, this one was more like a clinic. There was no opening act. Rather, we were looking at a wall of 28 Marshall heads sitting on 14 Marshall 4×12 cabinets. The artist had several of his white Fender Stratocasters lined up and the ready to be played over prerecorded backing tracks. He also answered questions from the crowd.

Shortly after 9, the lights went off, fog filled the stage, and wild arpeggios blasted out of the wall of Marshalls. Yngwie walked out and greeted the crowd. Then he motioned to his assistant Emilio Martinez, who also happens to play bass in the touring band, to start “Top Down, Foot Down,” which led into “Baroque and Roll.” Intermittent blasts from the fog machine enveloped Yngwie several times during the set. This particular show was an opportunity to see a different side of the maestro. In between songs while he switched guitars with Emilio he actually fielded questions from concertgoers. He answered that Johan Sebastian Bach was and is one of his main influences. Yngwie also claimed to love living in Miami. His favorite sport is football, despite the Dolphins’ record.

Yngwie also experienced some technical difficulties. It seemed he was having a hard time hearing the track he was playing to. A few times, he even stopped playing so he could hear it before resuming. A lady in the audience asked him about his favorite color. He responded that he has different favorites for specific things: white for his guitars, red for his Ferraris, and black for his clothes. Another question he answered was about his upbringing. He explained that growing up in a family of classically trained musicians meant there was always something playing. It instilled in him a desire to compose a symphony, and that he was able to accomplish that many years back with the Prague Symphony. Yngwie then performed a song he wrote for that specific performance, and it was quite stunning. His electric guitar played the part that would normally be handled by a violinist. Somebody else asked Yngwie what’s more important in his writing, speed or emotion? He answered with “What’s more important on a car, the wheels or the engine?” Yngwie went on to explain how all facets of songwriting are equally important.

When a person asked if it was true that he started playing guitar when Hendrix died? Yngwie revealed that seeing footage of Jimi breaking a guitar is what got him wanting to play. After 90 minutes of blazing runs, sixteen songs, techniques explained and much camaraderie, Yngwie ended with one of his most recognized songs, “Far Beyond the Sun.” Personally, I am ecstatic that I attended this hybrid concert/clinic. I got to hear amazing music, and I got to learn about one of our prized local residents. I’m also glad Yngwie saw the footage of Jimi breaking that guitar.

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