Guitar virtuoso and composer Steve Vai blasted into New Jersey with a sense of purpose and fury to perform for this sold out crowd at the Mayo Performing Arts Center, on September 8, 2012.
His mission, to illuminate the audience about his 16th solo CD, The Story of Light, as well as dazzle all the guitar teachers and their students in attendance (as he fondly joked) with guitar skills from another planet. After watching tonight’s performance, some will go home to practice while others will sell their guitar.
His latest CD, The Story of Light is the second installment in a trilogy. The story begins with his 2005 studio release, Real Illusions: Reflections and follows a man driven mad by grief, intertwining tragedy, revelation, enlightenment, and redemption. A future third installment will unravel the mysteries of the first two CDs and reveal the truths that swirl in both.
Whether the crowd of guitar enthusiasts knew Steve’s legacy from his days with Frank Zappa, Dave Lee Roth, Whitesnake, or his extensive body of solo work, they were all there to see this influential guitarist in action. You may know his songs or watched him perform on DVD but it doesn’t do justice to seeing him live. It was awe-inspiring to witness his complex guitar techniques coupled with pure emotion driven playing for 2 ½ hours. Vai’s playing style stretches the boundaries of rock, jazz, progressive and blues; and sometimes all in the same song.
Throughout the show, Vai assaulted his Ibanez JEM guitars, affectionately dubbed EVO and FLO III, in ways that most people would never think possible bending pitches with his fingers as well as incorporating various guitar effects that changed the guitar’s sound. One of Vai’s special tricks is evoking the sound of the human voice on the guitar like he did on the intro of David Lee Roth’s hit, Yankee Rose. Though he didn’t play that song, he did the trick in other songs to get a laugh out of the audience.
Vai’s set included seven songs from the new CD, an acoustic set and a song writing “improv” class with special guest writer, Eddie Trunk of “That Metal Show”. Trunk laid down the beats through a microphone and Vai composed a new masterpiece live in front of the audience in a matter of minutes. Members of Sevendust also joined Steve on stage tonight to help out the song writing class.
Vai’s backing band was sensational with Phillip Bynoe on both the six string bass as well as stand up bass, Dave Weiner on guitar, Jeremy Coson on drums and “strap on drums”, and new edition to the line-up Deborah Henson-Conant, on the electric “strap on” hip-harp. Yes you do detect a running theme to the show! If you didn’t think a harp could rock out, you haven’t seen Henson-Conant and Vai dueling it out!
Highlights of the show included Vai’s opening song and a personal favorite from his new CD, Racing the World, a fast paced rock tune injected with a Satriani influence, Gravity Storm, with its Hendrix vibe and deep guitar pull downs, and his newest delta blues scorcher, John the Revelator. Other crowd favorites included his classic hits; Whispering a Prayer, The Audience is Listening and For the Love of God.
The Story of Light tour with Vai, wings its way through the US, Canada and Europe this Fall; do yourself a favor and check out a true guitar genius and legend for an entertaining and illuminating experience.