Watch Matteo Mancuso light up the Crossroads with an expert fingerstyle cover of Steve Vai guitar classic Eugene’s Trick Bag

Matteo Mancuso
(Image credit: Paolo Terlizzi / SixHats Studio)

Matteo Mancuso has announced that he will be one of the virtuoso instructors at the Vai Academy 7.0, and to celebrate the announcement the Sicilian maestro has performed a fingerstyle cover of Steve Vai's Paganini-inspired knuckle-twister, Eugene’s Trick Bag.

While Mancuso is certainly not the first to cover the track that Vai wrote for Ralph Macchio’s Eugene Butler to perform in the 1986 Walter Hill movie Crossroads, but he is one of the few who has really made it is his own, using his classically informed right-hand approach to articulate Vai’s arrangement.

Mancuso developed his fingerstyle technique from watching his father play, and he explained to MusicRadar earlier this year how it gives him a freedom when phrasing arpeggio's and skipping strings.

“I started to study a little bit of classical guitar because my father is a guitar player,” said Mancuso. “I always saw him playing classical guitar with fingers, and I just thought that every guitar was meant to be played like that – only with fingers. That’s why I started electric guitar like that.” 

“Alternate picking is easier to learn rather than fingerpicking on the same string, but actually fingerstyle, or fingerpicking in general, is more useful if you want to concentrate on arpeggios or string-skipping. It lets you have more freedom on this area of the guitar.

We don’t know yet if this will be on Mancuso’s syllabus when he rocks up at the Omni Championsgate Resort, in Orlando, Florida, when the Vai Academy 7.0 gets underway on 2 January 2024. But those who are looking to bring the New Year in with some serious guitar workshopping can expect “four days and nights of non-stop guitar”.

As the tag-line reads, this event welcomes “a new breed of virtuosity”, among which, Mancuso is arguably the most exciting. Few players have made such an impact in such a short space of time, with Mancuso’s debut album, The Journey, arriving on the back of wholehearted endorsements from Al Di Meola, Tosin Abasi, Joe Bonamassa and of course Vai himself.

Vai has amassed another formidable lineup for next year’s event, with his choice of artist representing the vanguard of guitar talent. 

“I am absolutely thrilled to announce that this year’s event is all about celebrating the young, cutting-edge guitarists who are pushing the boundaries and reinventing the instrument today,” said Vai. “I have a ton of respect by this new generation of players and am fascinated by their talent, technique, and creativity. It’s inspiring to witness the incredible potential and innovative spirit that these young guitarists possess.”

This year’s event is all about celebrating the young, cutting-edge guitarists who are pushing the boundaries and reinventing the instrument today

Steve Vai

Having invited Vai to guest on their latest album, it is only fitting that the enfants terribles of instrumental prog guitar, Tim Henson and Scott LePage of Polyphia, will be there. Mateus Asato will be there, fresh from releasing a signature Archetype VST plugin package with Neural DSP. Sarah Longfield, Yvette Young, Ichika Nito and Daniele Gottardo are also among the guests.

All are seriously gifted, and on hand to share some of their talents to guests. Players of all abilities are welcome. There is no competition at the Vai Academy, just an immersion in the instrument. The event takes place on 2-5 January 2024. See Vai Academy for ticket details.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.