What guitarist hasn't stood in front of their bedroom mirror, imagining the unlikely scenario of playing onstage with their guitar heroes?
For most players, it's nothing more than a pipe dream, but some are lucky enough, be it by happenstance or careful planning – holding up a sign that reads, “can I play guitar with you?”, or giving a quick elevator pitch of their six-string abilities at a meet and greet – to get the chance to grace the stage with their idols.
And when they do make it to the stage, there's the small matter of making sure they seize the moment and nail the guitar part they've been invited to play. Fortunately, the fans in the following list were well-rehearsed by the time they answered the call.
Here are 10 times fans were invited to play guitar onstage and absolutely killed it.
1. Tom Morello lookalike plays Bulls on Parade with Prophets of Rage
Let’s be honest, if you’re someone who looks like Tom Morello at a Prophets of Rage gig, just stand reasonably close to the stage and you’re bound to be noticed by the band. That’s exactly what happened to Mike Svensson at the supergroup’s show in Stockholm, Sweden on June 26, 2018.
Towards the end of the set – which included a selection of Prophets of Rage originals and Rage Against the Machine and Public Enemy covers – Morello sought to take a short break from performing to rest his hand, which was recovering from a fracture at the time.
Spotting his doppelganger, the guitarist plucked Svensson from the crowd, equipped him with his signature Arm The Homeless electric guitar, and invited him to play RATM classic Bulls on Parade with the band, where he nailed the Evil Empire cut note for note while busting some serious moves. We’re not quite sure how many hours Svensson spent in front of the mirror rehearsing that moment.
2. Fan brings the house down at a Steve Vai show
Back in July, Steve Vai played the final show of the European leg of his Inviolate World Tour at the Teatro Tivoli in Barcelona. Vai had planned to make his own way to the venue, but an “excited cab driver” spotted him and insisted on taking him there. When Vai was in his car, the cabbie took the opportunity to show him a clip on his phone of his son playing For the Love of God – from Vai’s 1990 album, Passion and Warfare.
Later that night, while Vai played the encore track of his set, Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba, he noticed the taxi driver and his young son sitting in the audience. Assured by the prowess displayed in the video clip he had been shown just hours earlier, Vai walked into the crowd and handed the boy his guitar.
The kid subsequently brought the house down with his formidable shredding, and even ran to the stage to revel in the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“I decided to make his day,” Vai said in a social media post, “and he certainly kicked some ass! It was a splendid way to cap off an outstanding tour.”
3. Kid joins Green Day for a stellar performance of Jesus of Suburbia
Green Day have brought fans onstage numerous times in the past, but few moments have been as killer as when Billie Joe Armstrong invited a young boy to play American Idiot epic Jesus of Suburbia with the band in Chicago in 2009.
Oftentimes, the authenticity of such interactions is thrown into question, with some accusing artists of planning them in advance. But this moment is certainly legit, as Armstrong can be seen in footage asking the boy to confirm the song’s key, to which he replies correctly: “C#”
After pulling the kid onto the stage, Armstrong seats him on a stage monitor, hands him his Gibson Les Paul Junior, and plucks out and discards his earplugs. “We want it loud,” he exclaims.
Armstrong then offers the boy some brief guidance, before realizing he needs no such help. The child plays the near-10-minute song all the way through with ease, at times taking a moment to look at the crowd and take in the once-in-a-lifetime moment.
4. 11-year-old plays Van Halen’s rendition of You Really Got Me with Steel Panther
11-year-old Aidan Fisher attended a Steel Panther show in 2013 at the Midland Theater in Kansas City, Missouri, and during the band’s set, held up a sign that said: “I challenge Satchel to a guitar solo.”
After spotting the young buck and his somewhat confrontational placard, Satchel granted him his wish and welcomed him to the stage, handing over his signature Kramer Pacer and inviting the boy to play a cover of Van Halen’s version of You Really Got Me.
But before launching into the track, the boy let loose with a face-melting solo loaded with precise alternate picking runs, insane two-handed tapping passages and whammy bar dives, prompting Satchel to retreat off stage in utter defeat.
5. Young boy plays Belief onstage with John Mayer
An adolescent John Mayer fan’s dreams came true when he was given the opportunity to play onstage with the guitar icon in 2010. Austin Christy’s night went exactly to plan, after standing in the crowd at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia near the stage holding a sign that read: “Can I please play Belief with you?”
After spotting the boy, Mayer chose to make his night – and quite possibly his entire life – by calling him up to the stage, saddling him up with his red Fender Stratocaster Plus and inviting him to play the 2006 Continuum cut.
Fan-shot footage from the event shows Mayer’s acoustic guitar strumming as a backdrop, while Christy nails the track’s smooth and subtle clean leads.
6. Fan plays Catfish Blues with Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. has made a habit of inviting fans onstage to jam with him at his shows, but no such moment has been as memorable as when he played Catfish Blues with a young fan named Jeff at Philadelphia’s The Met in 2019.
After blazing through the likes of Bright Lights, Low Down Rolling Stone, When My Train Pulls In and This Land, the bluesman called the fan to the stage during the show for the most wholesome interaction.
In footage from the event, Jeff is seen shaking hands with every member of Clark Jr.’s backing band before strapping on a Gibson SG for a healthy dose of attitude-heavy blues. Expectedly, the crowd goes nuts.
7. Kid joins Foo Fighters onstage to jam Metallica classics
An exuberant youngster named Collier was welcomed to the stage during Foo Fighters October 12 set at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. After confidently announcing to the thousands of fans in attendance, “I know a lot of Metallica songs,” Dave Grohl handed him his Pelham Blue DG-335 signature model, whereafter the boy truly made the stage his own, launching into the main riff of Enter Sandman and bringing Taylor Hawkins, Chris Shiflett and Nate Mendel along for the ride.
After showcasing more of his ‘Tallica riff knowledge – playing Welcome Home (Sanitarium) and Wherever I May Roam – Grohl capped off the boy’s experience by sending him back to his mother in the crowd, still with the DG-335 in his hands.
“If I see that shit on eBay next week I’m gonna find you,” Grohl told the boy, to the amusement of the crowd.
8. Metallica invite young band to play Seek & Destroy in Philadelphia
There must be something in the air at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia – now the Wells Fargo Center – as Metallica, like John Mayer, also made the dreams of young fans a reality at the venue.
In 2004, while the thrash titans were touring in support of their polarizing 2003 outing St. Anger, James Hetfield invited a young band called Break the Chair – its members aged between nine and 14 – to the stage to jam the intro section of Kill ‘Em All classic, Seek & Destroy.
Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich all vacated their posts, allowing the fresh-faced troupe to showcase their musical chemistry and chops to the thousands in attendance.
Metallica took over shortly before the first chorus, but we’ll bet the kids left the stage with enough adrenaline to last a lifetime.
9. Fan kills the lead lines of Avenged Sevenfold's So Far Away
Avenged Sevenfold are another act who often relinquish musical duties to eager members of the crowd. There is no shortage of such clips on YouTube, including one where a fan plays drums to Second Heartbeat (opens in new tab) in Puerto Rico, and another in which an audience member replaces Synyster Gates to play the lead guitar of Unholy Confessions (opens in new tab).
But few moments match up to the time a fan jumped onstage in 2011 to play lead guitar for Nightmare ballad So Far Away.
In the footage above, the fan, armed with Gates’ pinstripe-finished Schecter signature model, plays the track’s emotive leads and textural clean chords with astonishing accuracy, and even takes the opportunity to stroll about the stage to get up close to his idols.
10. Fan nails the solo of Misery Business live with Paramore
One of the biggest songs in Paramore's catalog, Misery Business has been a staple of the band's setlist since its release on 2007's Riot! That is, with the exception of a period of several years starting in 2018 when the song was temporarily retired due to a few controversial lyrics.
And of the hundreds of times the track has been played, many have seen the band welcome audience members to the stage.
In 2010, after meeting Paramore at a meet and greet prior to a show – and telling Hayley Williams he could play “all of their songs on guitar” – one fan was summoned to the stage during Misery Business, where he was equipped with Josh Farro's guitar, before absolutely nailing the track's guitar solo.