Nuno Bettencourt says most guitarists “could not in their lifetime” play with Rihanna – even Slash

The Extreme rocker attributes the difficulty of the gig to the variety of Rihanna’s musical styles.

Playing guitar for pop icon Rihanna is by no means an easy gig, says Extreme rocker Nuno Bettencourt, who’s performed with the star’s live band on every one of her world tours since 2009.

In a recent interview with Planet Rock, the guitarist claims that a majority of the electric guitar players he looks up to – even Slash – would not be able handle a set with RiRi given the demands of the gig.

“When somebody like Rihanna reaches out to you to perform everybody thinks ‘oh, that’s cute. It’s a pop artist, whatever,’” Bettencourt says. “Let me tell you something, what I had to do night after night… put on a reggae hat [for one song] with a reggae feel, and go into R&B, then go into some punk rock and pop rock that she did, and then club tracks. All sorts of [things], all those different feels.”

“I’m sorry, most of the guitar players who I admire could not in their lifetime play that gig,” he adds. “I mean that in the most complimentary way possible.”

“Slash is one of the greatest rock guitar players of all time but I guarantee – and he’d be the first to tell you – that if he jumps up and he’s got to play a clean intro to Rude Boy from Rihanna, it ain’t happening.”

Rihanna and Nuno Bettencourt
Image: Associated Press / Alamy

Bettencourt continues: “I believe that if I wasn’t that diverse musically and accept everything I grew up on, there’s no way that I would have been in these rooms. And also being open, being an open musician in the sense of ‘up for anything.’”

In other news, the Nuno Bettencourt opined that rock fans of today are not starved for guitar playing but for “the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll”.

Addressing the attention and praise awarded to Extreme’s recent single Rise – and in particular, his lead guitar parts – Bettencourt says, “I think what really got people excited, was that they weren’t only seeing a guitar player and a solo they liked, they were seeing a guitar solo in a song with arrangements and harmonies and a band and chemistry, a video where a band was passionate, and fire.”

“What has been missing is not just the guitar playing, or not even the guitar playing. I think it’s mostly the mythology of rock ‘n’ roll. You know what I mean?”

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