Brazil Rock in Rio

Adam Lambert, left, and Brian May perform at the Rock in Rio music festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sept. 19, 2015.

Of the 100 entries on Rolling Stone’s list of the greatest guitarists of all time, I’ve personally heard 27 of them live.

I’m not sure if that number is impressive or not. I sure wish it was a higher number, but it’s more impressive when you consider that almost half the list was, uh, unavailable during my lifetime.

That said, the list notably has some exclusions, and I’ve seen plenty of guitar greats who didn’t end up getting ranked by the mother of all music magazines.

I’ve seen countless concerts in my day, but some of my best memories are of the guitarists I’ve seen play.

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton performs in Los Angeles on March 14, 2007.

I only saw Clapton once (here in Omaha with Steve Winwood). It was quite a display of Clapton’s guitar skills, and there was only one song from the entire performance that didn’t contain a guitar solo. No complaints here.

B.B. King

B.B. King

Legendary Blues guitarist B.B. King performs on May 14, 2008, at Stanley Center for the Arts in Utica, New York.

I had the pleasure of seeing B.B. King at least twice, and it was amazing each time. The first time was with my mom, who took our family to see him at the Orpheum. I was blown away. I saw the late legend again years later, and though the set hadn’t changed much, neither had King’s formidable skills.

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy

Buddy Guy performs with Quinn Sullivan at the Red Sky Music Festival near TD Ameritrade Park on July 21, 2011. 

One of the best guitarists ever, Guy was phenomenal to watch. A king of guitar tricks, Guy likes to throw his guitar behind his head, play with his teeth and all that. And it’s incredible. If you haven’t yet seen him, you have a chance Aug. 28 at Ralston Arena.

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson performs at Slowdown on Jan. 29.

Go turn on “Cliffs of Dover.” I’ll wait here till you’re done. It’s Johnson’s most famous song, and for good reason. It’s basically one melody that he solos on and around for four straight minutes. I finally got to see Johnson earlier this year, and I’ll never forget it. He deserves a spot on the list of the best-ever.

Angus Young

Angus Young

AC/DC's Angus Young performs during a concert for SARS relief at Downsview Park in Toronto on July 30, 2003.

Dressed like a schoolboy, fluttering across the stage, pounding out line after line, Angus Young is the king of riffs. They may not use a variety of chords or techniques or tones, but AC/DC’s riffs are instantly recognizable and utterly rock ’n’ roll. The one time I saw them was one of the loudest concerts I’ve ever heard.

Brian May

Brian May

Adam Lambert dances as one of the original members of Queen, guitarist Brian May, looks on. They played to a crowd at CenturyLink Center Omaha on July 8, 2017.

With respect to the rest of Queen and replacement singer Adam Lambert, the shaggy-haired guitarist was the No. 1 thing I was excited about both times I saw the band. Thankfully, May’s emotive playing was center stage during those shows. It was a treat.

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr

Johnny Marr performs at the Waiting Room Lounge on April 22, 2013.

The guitarist from The Smiths is still jamming. Seeing him at Slowdown back in 2013 was a treat. Marr isn’t much for wild solos, but that’s fine by me. He’s a master at creating textures and riffs and the like. More please.

Kirk Hammett

Metallica

Kirk Hammett performs with Metallica at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sept. 6, 2018.

Metallica’s long been one of my favorite bands. And both times I’ve seen the band, Hammett solidified himself among my favorite guitarists. The dude can shred.

Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley

American country music singer-songwriter Brad Paisley performs at Pinnacle Bank Arena on April 26, 2018.

He’s a master at novelty country songs. But Paisley’s true talent lies, for me, in his guitar playing. (I still think his best record is his guitar album, “Play.”) I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve seen the country star, but I’ll always go back to see him tear apart those paisley-patterned guitars. He plays lead in his own band. He’s impressive without being overindulgent. He can play anything. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent

St. Vincent, left, and Dua Lipa perform a medley at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10 in Los Angeles.

It might not be apparent on the indie rocker’s albums, but St. Vincent (real name Annie Clark) can absolutely shred. She is a goddess, and her domain is shredding. When you see her live, she’ll take songs you know and punctuate them with brutal solos.

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Raitt performs at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Feb. 20.

The two times I’ve seen Bonnie Raitt have been absolutely mesmerizing. Come for the hit songs (“Something to Talk About” or “Angel from Montgomery”), but stay for the masterful blues guitar work.

The Edge

The Edge

The Edge performs with U2 live at the CenturyLink Center on May 19, 2018, in Omaha.

Some show their guitar talent with solos and intricate riffs. U2’s guitarist shows his prowess with what he can make a guitar sound like. The Edge can certainly play, but he uses effects and different styles to great effect. Nobody sounds like The Edge.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell performs with his band, The 400 Unit, at The Waiting Room Outdoors on Aug. 4.

I just saw him again last week, and it was another amazing experience. Isbell’s known as a gifted songwriter and passionate singer, which imbue his country songs with all the more realism and soul. But then there’s his guitar skills, which will knock you flat.

Vince Gill

Vince Gill

Vince Gill performs at the Holland Performing Arts Center on April 9, 2017.

He was a guitar player for other people before he ever was famous in his own right. And Vince Gill makes everything seem absolutely effortless. I was lucky enough to have front-row seats to his last performance in Omaha, and his fingers danced up and down that fretboard all night. It kills me that he’s also a talented singer and a helluva songwriter. No wonder he has 21 Grammys.

Reporter - Entertainment/music/concert

Kevin Coffey covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally cover other entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @owhmusicguy. Phone: 402-444-1557.

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.