Steve Vai – Live In Vancouver: Sept. 16, 2007

Steve Vai
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The Commodore Ballroom
Vancouver, BC  Canada


***Live Review & All Photos By Lord of The Wasteland

There is one thing that Steve Vai can never be accused of and that is being boring.  With a new band lineup from his last visit to Vancouver in 2005 (read review HERE), Vai played for two and a half hours keeping the sold-out crowd of nearly one thousand captivated the entire time with tracks culled from 1990’s brilliant PASSION AND WARFARE through to his latest release, SOUND THEORIES VOL. I & II.  The silly faces, amusing stage banter and absolutely incredible musicianship made for yet another entertaining evening of guitar-based virtuosity hosted by Steve Vai.

Boasting a backing band consisting of guitarist/keyboardist Tony MacAlpine and bassist Billy Sheehan in 2005, the marquee star power has certainly diminished this time around but for all the history those names bring, Vai’s new lineup is no less talented.  In his eighth year as part of Vai’s band, guitarist Dave Weiner and longtime drummer Jeremy Colson are now joined by bassist Bryan Beller and a pair of violinists—Ann Marie Calhoun and Alex DePue—who add such a unique element to Vai’s music that they seem like they should have always been there.  Calhoun, a former teacher who also played with Jethro Tull (Vai joked that he stole her from that band and now “Ian Anderson wants to kick my ass”), is as graceful and beautiful as she is talented, adding keyboards and backing vocals to the mix.  DePue came outfitted with what appeared to be an electric fiddle shaped like a Flying V guitar strapped to his shoulders and he made it howl like nobody’s business. 

Vai, of course, was armed with an enormous arsenal of guitars and his pedal rig looked like the console of a 747 jet with buttons and switches everywhere.  Besides his undisputed six-string skills, Vai also knows how to give his fans a show.  His frequently-mocked, over-the-top facial gestures are just one component but he doesn’t just play the guitar, he becomes one with the instrument.  Whether playing with his tongue on “For The Love of God,” engaging in a dance before playing it with his feet on “The Murder” or just plain assailing the guitar on “Tender Surrender” and “The Audience Is Listening,” Vai is the consummate showman.  Vai allowed the violinists to share the spotlight, as well, by going head-to-head on “Answers” and “The Crying Machine” but the highlight was Calhoun and DePue dueling on an extended violin solo that encapsulated not only the obvious classical pieces but also mind-blowing speed and flawless precision where they basically shredded.  “Freak Show Excess” lived up to its name as all musicians were going full bore in a jaw-dropping display that even Vai admitted beforehand is “hard to play.”  A three-song acoustic set consisting of “All About Eve,” “The Beast of Love” and “Angel Food” saw Vai unplug and even tease the crowd with the first few bars of “Damn Good” from 1988’s SKYSCRAPER, recorded during his time with David Lee Roth.  Colson appeared with a monstrous portable drumkit festooned with skulls and red rope lighting that he wore over his shoulders for “The Beast of Love” that evoked some humorous banter with Vai wondering aloud how much he had to pay for this thing.   Other funny moments included Vai’s self-effacing remark to introduce “Firewall” about the accompanying lyrics being those of a “tortured artist” and when he forgot to plug in his guitar for “Tender Surrender” but was quickly rescued by an astute roadie.  While his singing still is not his strong suit, Vai’s impeccable playing on “Whispering A Prayer” nearly brought the house down in an emotional rollercoaster ride.  It is moments like this that one must stand back in awe at what a truly moving artist and musician Steve Vai is.

Now We Run
Building The Church
Tender Surrender
~Band Intro~
The Crying Machine
~Dave’s Solo~
I’m Becoming
Die To Live
Freak Show Excess
~Violin Solo~
All About Eve
The Beast of Love
Angel Food
~Drum Solo~
The Audience Is Listening
The Murder
Whispering A Prayer
Taurus Bulba
For The Love of God


A new band and a lot of different songs in the set kept things interesting for fans taking in Steve Vai’s latest Vancouver appearance but what remains a real draw to his live shows is the always dazzling presentation of musical skill and show business flair.  That is what has made Steve Vai such a big draw over the years through Alcatrazz, Whitesnake, David Lee Roth, Frank Zappa and his own solo ventures.  He may be approaching fifty but Vai still has plenty of sizzle left in those lethal hands and his passion for performing appears to burn as hot as ever, too.

***Thanks to Ryan at Live Nation for the press pass.

Steve Vai—Official Site



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