Yngwie Malmsteen – Carnegie Library Music  Hall, Homestead PA, June 4, 2013

Reviewed by Michael Rampa

It was the ultimate irony. Yngwie Malmsteen playing  a library. The Super Swede’s “Spellbound” tour rolled into Homestead, PA’s historic Carnegie Library Music Hall where he put on a pyrotechnic clinic showcasing his blazing speed, delicate textures and ear-splitting decibel levels only 50 feet away from the actual reading area. Malmsteen’s shows are unburdened by traditional elements such as vocals and linear melodies. Like his albums, they are almost completely instrumental in scope. There are few demarcation lines between songs, just an organic flow.  The stage is encircled by massive Marshall stacks. He emerged like a wizard through a massive smoke haze menacingly draped in black leather. From the first strum of that signature clam shell Stratocaster, he set the audience up for a trip back to the golden age of the 80s shred movement. Even at 49 years old, he displayed boundless energy throughout the 23 song set. Whenever the guitar needed a tune, he simply flung it to the tech 15 feet away.

A Stratocaster is known as the guitar that best evokes a signature playing style.  It’s how the listener knows within a few bars that it’s Jimi or Stevie Ray coming through the speakers. That being the case, Malmsteen is nearly impossible to pin down. His sound ranges from straight on dissonant fret blazing to neo classical.  He has said that classical and baroque styles are hard-wired when he writes. His diverse influences range from 19th century violinist/composer Niccolo Paganini to Ritchie Blackmore. Many casual music fans have accused his music of being difficult to listen to. Indeed, to many, the only recognizable number was the scorching version of the Star Spangled Banner.  His diverse appeal is evident in the crowd demographic.  Fans range from speed and death metal heads to symphony members.

There is no reference point for Malmsteen. Far from just being a high-speed and volume artist, his deep knowledge of music theory differentiates him from other shredders. A Malmsteen show is a visual and auditory assault that is both staggering in scope and an otherworldly display of technical proficiency.