Honestly, I think the issue is just the sign of the times. What made Hendrix, Page, Van Halen, Clapton, Rhoads, etc, so god-like was the combination of cult-like loyalty and icon-like mystery. It was as much about the playing as it was about the status they had. If you wanted to hear Jimi play you had 2 choices…….buy the annual album to listen to one version of the song over 200 times or wait patiently go see him in concert (and Jimi died early, so even that was a limited run).
Now, I can go on youtube and watch any of my favorite guitar players play their masterpiece 50 different times from different concerts, talk shows and award shows. The hyped, “bigger than life” rush of seeing Jimi perform “Are You Experienced” or VH “Eruption” was something that was limited. Before the advent of technology (including the reissue rush of the late 80s), if you were lucky, you may only get to hear a different version of “Crazy Train” performed by Rhoads himself 2 or 3 times in your (and his) life. It was a f*cking epic event to hear Page play “Kasmir”. Now, you can see 40 different versions while working at your desk on a Tuesday afternoon.
As cool as Richards, Young, Frehley, Cobain, Slash, etc were, they were exalted due to the mystery surrounding the person AND the playing.
Yes, to different people the playing has stood the test of time, but clearly as you look back you realize these guys were as much “Rock Gods” as they were “Guitar Gods”.
And remember, we didn’t know HOW these guys did it. We didn’t have pics of the pedalboards on the internet or video lessons on Youtube. Hell, now you have Clapton, Jimis or Satriani’s own pedal that has all the sounds they ues(d) included. I think even the guy from Stain’d has his own pedal…..
I honestly think there are plenty of players doing cool, technically interesting stuff and pushing the tone envelope now, too. I think we are just underwhelmed by the saturation of these guys as compared to the earlier guys. The increased accessibility of guitar player’s music has made many grow indifferent.
When Michael Jackson died, I thought about the fact that mainstream music had lost one of it’s four last icons, with the Prince, Bruce and Madonna being the other three. They were/are icons because they started their popularity in a time when music was epic. Yes, Michael, was popular before it, but when Thriller was released, we didn’t know much about it before it came out and then bam….Epic! Moonwalking on live TV…..Epic! Prince…Purple Rain and the movie…Epic! Bruce…..Born In The USA….Epic! Madonna…..Like A Prayer and performing Like A Virgin while writhing on the floor…both Epic! Not saying these are their best works, but they had that air of just smashing society over the head SUDDENLY. We don’t have that anymore…..we see pics of guys walking out of the studio with their wives or get leaked tracks of the album or six months of talk show promotion before the album comes out.
It is just not the same any more.
So to answer your question....Who Is the Hendrix or Van Halen of the 2000's? NOBODY.