Amid a world of sculptors and craftsmen, exists but a select few who possess the gift to create a true masterpiece. These are the originators whom with meticulous resolve can command a brushstroke to create a Mona Lisa or summon a hammer and chisel to sculpt a Venus di Milo. Even today’s groundbreakers and innovators push limits and extend boundaries to allow their vision to become a new reality. Resonating through our current music industry, however, are scores of ‘songsmiths’ whom may aptly put lyrics to music, but every so often, an artist emerges with the passion and determination to shape not only a sound, but influence a generation to come.
Steve Vai, a modern-day musical visionary, loomed upon Michigan’s Royal Oak Music Theatre confirming what few musicians dare to boast – a complete mastery of their instrument. Lurking in the shadows and masked in billowing fog, the first ear-piercing note resonated through the hall as the familiar tone of his signature series Ibanez Gem gave way to his slithery entrance. Opening with “Racing the World” and “Velorum” from newly released “The Story of Light”, Vai wasted little time revealing his gift and passion for performing. With melodious lines embellished by grimacing facial expressions and contorting hand gestures, he used his body to enhance what he was feeling through his music.
Guitar wizardry dominated most of the night with techniques ranging from 8-finger tapping and swept arpeggio-picking to brilliant guitar effects and incredible tremolo embellishments. However, accompanying Vai that evening was an equally impressive group of highly talented musicians in their own right. The addition of Grammy-nominated Deborah Henson-Conant on electric harp proved once again his vision for creating experimental music. “I don’t like to put up parameters to what should and shouldn’t be done”, Vai stated in our recent interview. “I’m always looking for something left of center, but that works.”
From his desire to connect with fans on a more intimate level, grew the idea for creating the EVO Experience which is an intriguing addition to this year’s tour. Here, prior to each performance, intrigued fans are offered the chance to not only take part in a Meet & Greet, but also a Q & A session followed by the band’s sound check for that evening. Vai states, “I really enjoy that part of the day and I can talk about more personal things. It’s also a great opportunity to hear what people are thinking”.
With well over two hours of an assault on your ribcage, the set-list`s thundering anthems spanned Vai`s epic collection of musical masterpieces. Shifting from electric to acoustic instrumentation from time to time broke up the evening well. With band members receiving each a solo opportunity to shine on their respective instruments, Vai brilliantly selected his most diverse material to share with his audience. His fusion number ``Tender Surrender`` complimented the beautifully acoustic ``Sisters``, which in turn set us up for the epic ``For the Love of God`` from the critically acclaimed album Passion and Warfare.
Witnessing a Steve Vai performance live, however, is really about an opportunity to experience and feel his music. It is a reason to be present with one another and share in a musical moment that in the words of Vai himself is ``...not better or worse than others, just different``.
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