You know you are in for an electrifying performance when this virtuoso comes to town.
The legendary Steve Vai is welcomed to Vancouver to a SOLD OUT show at the steaming hot Rickshaw Theatre tonight. No support acts in tow with him, which was fine by us, as we could not wait for him any longer to hit the stage.
The three-time Grammy award winner (Fifteen times nominated!) has been a pro guitarist for MANY MANY bands since about 1978. He has been with the likes of Frank Zappa, Alcatrazz, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake to name a few as well as a tonne of others. Not to mention other projects like his unforgettable performance as “Jack Butler” in the 1986 film Crossroads when he “Cut heads” with Eugene Martone played by Ralph Macchio. I watched that movie the night before to get myself in the mood for this show! Steve has 10 solo albums (+another called Vai/Gash just released) in the discography, with the newest called Inviolate released in 2022 which we will hear a lot of tonight.
It’s not just him playing, he has a touring band with him consisting of Phillip Brynoe (bass), Jeremy Colson (drums) and Dante Frisiello (guitar/keyboard). All VERY competent players I might add.
The 62 yr old Vai starts the night with a rocker from Inviolate called “Avalancha” which is basically an avalanche of notes and chords that crush you. The drums are on a drum riser and there is a large screen with some colourful animations to add to the mood of the songs. He definitely has the swagger and magical playing we were expecting as he shredded through “Giant Balls of Gold”. My lord, what sustain he has on that guitar! I noticed he uses a wired cord on the guitar, and not wireless. He probably doesn’t want any latency at all in the signal path.
He can play anything which is proven this night with songs such as “Little Pretty”, “Tender Surrender” which go from soft to absolute manic fretwork in a hurry. He does like to use the Whammy pedal too, like in “The Lights are On” and not afraid to get on the pedal board and twist the dials to make some absolute obscene sounds on his Ibanez guitar.
With the song “Incantation”, during that long slow main riff he does, he has his 3 techs come out on guitars and play that riff along with him. Thereafter, bass player Phillip Brynoe gets his turn with an incredible bass solo. This has to be the best bass solo I have ever seen, this guy is absolute FIRE on bass. Rarely do we see bass player solos, so this was nice to see. All players in the band do get a solo besides Phillip, with the “Beast” Jermey Colson adding abit of a Caribbean flavor to his drum solo and young hotshot Dante Frisiello shredding like no tomorrow on his axe.
Song 10 we got “Building the Church”, another ridiculous display of his solo mastery featuring some cool tap work and tremolo bar abuse while his band is playing in a loop. That Whammy pedal was on full bore near the end much to the delight of the mostly ‘generation X’ filled Rickshaw Theatre. He did play with us a few riffs of David Lee Roth’s “Yankee Rose” where he made that guitar talk and the audience “whoop whoop” back as he did it.
Song 12 “Bad Horsie” is one of my favorites of the night. Its a heavier bluesy instrumental that encompasses a lot of cleaver motion on the wah pedal. The intro to the song featured some film of Crossroads, with Scratch (the devil) and Eugene (Macchio). It’s no wonder there is a “Bad Horsie” wah pedal at music stores which is based off this song.
He is not afraid to throw in something a little slow either like “I’m Becoming” or thereafter “Whispering a Prayer” which emphasizes the elasticity and broadness of his guitar skills and tones achieved over the years. Dante gets on the acoustic guitar along with Steve on his electric with “Dyin’ Day” from Fire Garden (1996).
“Teeth of the Hydra” is the most unforgettable experience of tonight’s show by far. Steve has this monstrosity of a instrument called the “Hydra” which is a one-bodied, two head stocked contraption that has a 7 string, 12 string, 4 string bass, harp strings, all kinds of pickups, mounted on a steel stand with steam punk like motif. He plays this throughout the song, talk about over the top! There were a lot of cell phones up at this point filming this beast.
Songs 19 & 20 were “Liberty” and “For the Love of God” from his highly praised album Passion and Warfare album from 1990. “For the Love of God” had some opera live vocals from Danny G, he received some good crowd reaction from that one.
The show ended with an encore of “Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba” which really is a mish mash song of just about everything we heard tonight.
After close to 20 some songs and solos, you can’t leave this show but being exhausted by the musical wizardry of Steve Vai. The guy proves time and again that he is among the best in the world on the instrument and if you want a complete showcase of what an electric guitar can do, witnessing his playing will definitely take you to another stratosphere.