The 47 greatest live guitar moments: the most iconic, infamous and explosive onstage antics in six-string history

41. Pink Floyd reunite for one last time (Live 8, 2005)

Though in retrospect it didn’t quite have the same overall fanfare as the original Live Aid concert of 1985, this event of two decades later was especially notable for one major reason – it saw Pink Floyd’s classic lineup of David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Richard Wright taking the stage for the first time since 1981. Sadly, it would also be the last time, following Wright’s death a few years later.

42. Prince literally makes it rain (Dolphin Stadium, 2007)

The heavy rain that fell over Miami ahead of the Super Bowl XLI halftime show left its organizers and attendees fearing the worst. When asked if the tumultuous weather conditions were going to be a problem ahead of his set, Prince simply requested, “Can you make it rain harder?” 

As fate would have it, the Purple One rose to the challenge and then some, delivering a 12-minute medley of originals and covers ending with Purple Rain. Can I play this guitar?” he asks the masses gathered around his stage, before tearing into that instantly recognizable G minor solo on his custom-built purple symbol guitar, all while the heavens opened above him. Truly one of the most astonishing performances in guitar history.

43. Led Zeppelin remind us of their genius (London, O2 Arena, 2007)

Will the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert end up being the last time we see the surviving members of Led Zeppelin on stage together? Quite possibly. 

“I knew it was going to sell out quickly, but the tidal wave of euphoria that preceded the gig – the anticipation – went beyond what I could possibly have imagined,” said Jimmy Page after the event.

“We’d had a few shambolic appearances in the past, like Live Aid, so if we were ever going to come back together, we were going to do it properly and stand up and be counted.” 

Which is precisely what they did, thundering their way through songs like Ramble On, Trampled Under Foot, No Quarter and Kashmir (and let’s not forget For Your Life!) with John Bonham’s son, Jason, behind the kit.

44. Jeff Beck gets up close and personal (Ronnie Scott's, 2007)

When it comes to improvisation, Jeff Beck has always been in a class of his own. His tours in the mid Seventies performing newer material from Blow by Blow and Wired marveled in sheer ambition, moving away from the blues roots of his past and into more jazz-rock territory. 

That said, in more recent years, it was his five-night residency at London’s intimate Ronnie Scott’s venue that became one of his most talked-about performances – documented by the live release that came out the following year.

Adding to the wow-factor was then-21-year-old Australian bassist Tal Wilkenfeld, who joined Beck’s live band at the suggestion of drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Truth be told, these are some of the finest versions of Scatterbrain, Led Boots, and – of course – Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers to ever see release.

45. Guthrie Govan brings down the Albert Hall (Royal Albert Hall, 2013)

Progressive rock mastermind Steven Wilson recruited Guthrie Govan for his third solo album, The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories), so it made sense to have the world-renowned virtuoso on stage with him for the tours that followed. The new material was more fusion-led than anything Wilson had put his name to at the time, therefore allowing plenty of opportunities for Govan’s genius to shine through. 

His leads during Luminol, The Holy Drinker and Drive Home were nothing short of magnificent – perhaps even the most tasteful of his career to date. Though Govan and drummer Marco Minnemann would soon bow out of that band in order to focus on the Aristocrats, the guitarist would later return to the Albert Hall for a handful of tracks with Wilson in 2015.

46. Put Me in, Coachella! Angus Young meets Guns N' Roses (Indio California, 2016)

2016 was a big year big year in terms “guitar events.” You had Guns N’ Roses’ Not in This Lieftime... tour featuring Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan – and AC/DC’s Axl-fronted tour (Rose was filling in for Brian Johnson, who was sidelined by issues with his hearing). 

The event that tied them both together, however, took place that April 16, when AC/DC’s Angus Young joined GNR on stage at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The eternal schoolboy put his all into Whole Lotta Rosie and Riff Raff, while Axl (who was still in his Dave Grohl-owned “recovery throne”) nailed the songs’ Bon Scott-era vocals. Yeah, 2016 was kinda cool!

47. Talkin’ ’bout my Generation Axe... (Seattle, 2016)

Did someone mention 2016? As the fates would have it, that’s also the year the mighty Generation Axe tour went from some deranged shred fan’s dream journal to full-on reality. 

The tour – which combined the talents of Steve Vai, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt and Tosin Abasi – made its debut in Seattle that April 5 and then went on to conquer the world.

The lineup provided some bizarre pairings, like Vai and Yngwie playing Deep Purple’s Black Star and everyone (except Tosin) playing Boston’s Foreplay. And let’s not forgot the night (May 2) Yngwie’s “guitar toss” didn’t go, um, as planned... 

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Guitar World Staff

Since 1980, Guitar World has been the ultimate resource for guitarists. Whether you want to learn the techniques employed by your guitar heroes, read about their latest projects or simply need to know which guitar is the right one to buy, Guitar World is the place to look.