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Watch Herman Li and Paul Reed Smith trade licks at a DragonForce show

Herman Li and Paul Reed Smith playing guitar onstage
(Image credit: PRS/Twitter)

Show up to a DragonForce concert, and you'd expect a healthy helping of power metal shredding. Yet seasoned gig-goers have also come to expect something else: a barnstorming bluegrass arrangement of Flatt & Scruggs’ Randy Lynn Rag.

True to form, that is exactly what attendees got at the band’s April 7 gig at the Baltimore Soundstage. However, there was one surprise twist: for the cover, DragonForce electric guitar ace Herman Li invited none other than PRS head honcho Paul Reed Smith himself onstage to trade licks.

“For this next guest,” Li said in his glowing introduction, “he’s not just any player. He has helped guitar players around the world pick up the guitar, making guitars.”

After the “Maryland legend” emerged to a quite-clearly-surprised audience chanting his name, Li then brought out his DragonForce bandmate Sam Totman, who joined the fold wielding a banjo while wearing dungarees and a straw hat – a sign of the high-octane romp about to come.

Without further ado, the trio – backed up by prog power metal outfit Master Sword – launched into their arrangement, headed up by Totman’s knee-bopping banjo hook. Master Sword’s Kojo Kamya then took the lead in the six-string department, prefacing Li’s bend-heavy opening contribution with a scorching, chromatic-laden run of his own.

Smith, who appeared with a Charcoal-colored version of PRS’s Paul’s Guitar model, followed suit with a series of pentatonic bends and box-breaking slides, before passing the baton back to Totman.

The stomping rendition merely upped the ante with each round, with Kamya and Li quenching the thirst of attending shred fans – peep Kamya’s insane two-hand tapping sequence at the 5:10 mark in the video above – while Smith catered to blues guitar fans with his selective phrases.

Unfortunately, Smith only stuck around for the one song – despite the crowd's protestations – meaning we didn’t get a chance to see him shred over Through The Fire and Flames

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While Kamya looked to be playing an Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty 6, Li paid homage to Smith by opting for his custom PRS 2020 01 axe – one not too dissimilar to the guitar he teased back in September last year.

DragonForce’s show with Smith on April 7 was part of the band’s 2022 North American tour, which concluded last Saturday (April 23) at the UC Theater in Berkeley.

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Matt is a News Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.