Yngwie Malmsteen // Limberlost // Live Review // The Mandela Hall // Belfast
Yngwie Who? Yngwie f**king Malmsteen that’s who!
It is hard to believe that tonight sees the return of the one, the only, Yngwie Malmsteen to Irish shores for the first time in over 30 years.
Malmsteen was one of the main architects of my musical education during my teens and the opportunity to catch him live once again in my hometown is something really special for me. I have mentioned In many a review I was raised by Malmsteen,Satriani, Vai, Gilbert and Bettencourt. These guys dragged this young spotty teenager through the turbulent troubles in Belfast in the 80’s and 90’s, through high school, college and into the new millennium and the music of these five guitar gods was a constant over my last 30 + years. I was lucky enough to see Yngwie when he last visited Irish shores in the 90’s and as a hardcore fan I hit both gigs on both sides of the border, Belfast’s Kings Hall and then Dunlaoighre’s Top Hat outside Dublin in a more intimate setting. I never really thought at that stage that there would be a risk that I may never see him again on these shores, but some 30? Years later here we are. Old friends reunited once again.
Malmsteen exploded onto the scene in the 80’s delivering a style of guitar that simply hadn’t been heard before, there were those who dabbled and tossed out the odd solo or run for what later became classified as Neo-Classical, but Malmsteen took that to a whole another level.
His move from Sweden to the US and joining American hard rock/metal band Steeler was merely just the beginning of a stellar career, steeler would lead to the opportunity to work alongside Graham Bonnet in Alcatrazz and produce what has become a cult album within Malmsteen circles “No Parole For Rock And Roll” with some of the most iconic guitar work and solos from Malmsteen’s early career and one that set the Rock and Metal world alight and truly announced Malmsteen as the new force in the world of guitar.
This led to his first solo album “Rising Force” and the rest as we say is history .. the world just wasn’t quite ready for Yngwie Malmsteen.
I was introduced to his music while visiting my brother’s flat in Dublin, as I mentioned being raised duringthe troubles in Northern Ireland my family moved a lot, my parents trying to do the right thing getting their kids out of the way of what was an explosive time in our history and we live in Dublin once or twice before coming back to Belfast somewhere around 1985, we settled here and have been here since. I always had a real fondness for Dublin and would run back over the summer to visit my brothers and sisters who decided to stay down there and make lives for themselves and one summer I came across a tape, yes a tape and a copy at that of 1985’s ‘Marching Out’ album. Yngwie Malmsteen? Who the fuck is Yngwie Malmsteen, what the fuck is an Yngwie Malmsteen? #mindblown Down the rabbit hole, I went. I can remember clambering to get my hands on his music, being a spotty teen I didn’t know how to and I ended up in The Virgin Megastore in Dublin beside the Liffy enquiring about ‘Rising Force’ on LP and I ordered it to be posted in to me from Germany! Germany! And I remember very clearly the day it arrived, I was then staying at my sisters’ in Ranelagh again in Dublin, the postman arrived and that, that was a great day. #mindblown
Tonight is going to be one serious blast from the past, but first up we have all the way from Seattle, Washington, Limberlost. A six-piece with duelling female ( Jesus can I say that in 2023? ) vocalists and a hard rock edge, both sisters can belt it out! Within minutes on stage, you get that these two powerhouse vocalists have magnetism in abundance! Both take over the stage, bellowing their sensational vocals to a mesmerised Belfast crowd.
One thing I always say when I hit a gig live and a US band comes through is that they always deliver on-stage presence and personality, Limberlost has that and then some, both ladies command the stage and the guys behind them lay down some serious foundations for the twosome to soar! I have to say I was a little concerned as to what kind of band would be supporting Yngwie, you need that ying-yang thing going on where you have enough of a contradicti
on in place that they equally complement each other and I have to say this was a great choice.
The perfect pallet cleanser, the calm before the storm. Toss in a Led Zepplin cover and I’m sold! Bless! A great start to the evening and the Belfast crowd approves of this message, Limberlost is a great hit and well worth checking out, so make sure you get your ass down early if you are attending any of the upcoming European shows on the tour.
Cometh the hour and cometh the man, a wailing guitar solo rips out from side stage and the crowd goes wild, shizzle is going down! Immediately the band rips into one of Yngwie’s fan favourites and classic hits ‘Rising Force’ and Belfast’s Mandela Hall is bathed in smoke and red light, Yngwie temporarily disappears amidst the smoke, myself and the other two togs despairingly look at each other trying to figure out how to capture anything and take a brief pause for its to settle, suddenly out of the smoke Yngwie is in front of us pointing to the other side of the stage, again confused we look at each other not quite knowing what is going on, Yngwie is busting his best moves, wailing on the guitar and occasionally pointing at us and to move, now at this point in my head I can hear that opening line of Guns ’N’ Roses ‘Civil War’ “What We Got Here Is A Failure To Communicate” Someone failed to communicate that WE were on the wrong side of the stage as per instructions of Yngwie’s management and things had gone little tits up! One stressed bass-player later freaked out trying to get us across to where we were meant to be and Yngwie orchestrated us like little minions we figured it all out and eventually ended up on the opposite side. Phew! So amidst this chaos, I have to confess I can’t even remember what songs were played, it was all a blur! I was actually grateful when our time In the pit was over and it was time to just sit back and soak up the show.
Yngwie was on fine form, even if his beautiful collection of vintage Strats weren’t quite playing ball, as the man himself kept saying the guitars seem to have jet lag! Minor tuning issues most likely due to the the dramatic climate shift travelling across the globe and the lack of time between gigs to settle back down and have the guitar tech make all those necessary adjustments to allow these gorgeous instruments to sing. Not that anyone in the crowd really would have been aware, but Yngwie can hear those minor imperfections and his untouchable high standards mean a nod to the guitar tech, (that poor guitar tech) to bring another buttercream Strat out and switch them over. I actually lost track how many changes of guitar happened as part of the set anyway as it was substantial number, then there were quite a few more on top as Northern Ireland’s glorious climate messed with Yngwie’s mojo a little more. In fairness he took it all in his stride and the crowd enjoyed the interaction between Yngwie and his guitar tech (that poor guitar tech), it was all part of the showmanship that comes with an YJM live show, and what a show. As I mentioned before it was a total blast from the past, Yngwie mixed old classics like ‘Now Your Ships Are Burned’ with some newer tracks like ‘Wolves At The Door’ from 2021’S Parabellum album, there literally was everything in-between.Even in short bursts we got teasers and snippets of old classic tracks tossed in between full songs and it a glorious display both of musicality from one of rocks greatest guitarists, his ability to switch on a dime from one track to another with ease all at blistering speed as he only knows how.
One thing that was obvious throughout the whole show was just the level of concentration of Yngwie’s band as they watched him like a hawk, or in this case three hawks all sweating wondering “What is he going to do next?” (That poor band) I jest of course, Yngwie does what Yngwie does and you can tell unlike Satch, Vai etc this show is an ethereal experience, it blooms and grows and every show will be different depending on where Yngwie will want to go from night to night, tonight for example we got treated to a Deep Purple cover of ’Smoke On The Water’ and Hendrix’s ‘Redhouse’ neither of which was on the setlist below Yngwie’s feet, so be like a Boy Scout and be prepared for anything! What will you get come this weekends performance at HRH? I don’t even know if Yngwie knows! But it’s going to be fucking great! The guitar work is mesmerising, hard to comprehend at times, I watch Yngwie’s hands move and there are more notes that I can process in such a short time, I am glued to his picking hand to see how he does it, watch his left hand glide from one end of the fretboard to another andjust can’t keep up. Like many of our guitar heroes these guys and dolls just are another level. This is why we are all here tonight, celebrating our love for one of the greatest, one of the most unique masters of his instrument, I hear people screaming out song titles, desperate to hear their favourites, Yngwie tosses out guitar picks like sweets at halloween to the trick or treaters and fans clamber to snatch them out of the sky, failing miserably but this all part of the journey of an YJM gig!
What more can I say, it was magical seeing Yngwie back in Belfast once again, way too long since he was last here, but hopefully it will reignite his love affair with these shores and we will see him back again sometime soon. As the lights came on and the diehard fans searched the floors for wayward guitar picks an army of dedicated fans streamed out onto the Belfast streets gasping for air, minds boggled at the sonic display just witnessed and all thinking, when will we get our next hit? Time to dig out those CD’s and remind myself of that glorious back catalog. Thank you Yngwie for making this little ladies year that little bit brighter, keep fighting the good fight, don’t ever change.