In the 19th century, the violin world was dominated by virtuosi. The overwhelming impact Paganini made on anyone who attended his concerts, convinced many violin students to follow his style. The trend crossed the strict domain of the instrument and more and more pianists tried to reach a certain level of virtuosity that will fascinate audiences.
It took about 100 years before violinists and pianists became musicians. In the 20th century, a long line of musicians started to think and feel what they were playing and serve the music. By that time, the fact that a violinist would be technically competent was implied.
The rock guitar stage nowadays looks more like the violin world in the 19th century. Most of the guitar-oriented albums sound as if the featured guitarist is doing his home-work. People crowd the concert halls to see (and maybe listen) the guitar virtuoso of the day. As Yngwie Malmsteen put it: "There will always be a large audience interested in virtuosity".
But there are still a few guitarists that reached that superior stage where great technique serves music. Among them: Mike Keneally , Jeff Beck , Adrian Belew , Robert Fripp , Eddie van Halen , Ritchie Blackmore and Gary Moore . If you want to listen to real music and great guitarists, try this short list.