STEVE VAI: The Circus, Helsinki 2012

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23’st October 2012

REVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA

Steve Vai is an extraordinary American guitarist who has sold over 15 million albums worldwide. The man started his career in the early ’80s in Frank Zappa’s band with whom he recorded and toured for two years. Vai began a solo career in 1983. To this date, he has released eight studio albums, several live releases, and played with several other bands, including David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. Steve Vai has often been called a man who set the standard for guitar virtuosity in the ’80s, and he has won three Grammy awards. The latest album, STORY OF LIGHT, was released through Vai’s own Favored Nations Records earlier this year, and the following tour now finally bring the man back to Finland after a seven-year break.

It does seem that there’s a lot of demand for Mr. Vai’s virtuosity since the show in Circus was instantly sold out. Here we are talking about 180 minutes of all instrumental show and playing, which is not the easiest to follow, so that’s not bad at all. As you might guess, the audience consisted mainly of young and also a bit older musicians who came to follow their idol’s antics. To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of instrumental albums. I’ve always been a fan of Steve Vai, but that’s mainly because of his past work with different bands in the ’80s. Alcatrazz’s DISTURBING THE PEACE was the very first album where I heard Steve’s unique playing. David Lee Roth’s EAT EM AND SMILE is still one of the best albums of its era. Vai and bassist Billy Sheehan are nothing but short of amazing on the album. Whitesnake’s SLIP OF THE TONGUE is another excellent release, and it does present a different, a bit more bluesy side of Steve’s playing. The funny part is that although I do own several of Vai’s solo albums, it’s probably just PASSION AND WARFARE, which I’m familiar with properly.

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Steve Vai took the stage at 09:00 PM and just unleashed his brilliance, and he was magnificent. The guy can play. He sometimes does bizarre things with the guitar, which he then transcends into his own unique thing, and that sounds just amazing. But it’s still not all about playing in Steve Vai’s show. Perhaps it’s the years spend with David Lee Roth which have taught Steve some tremendous entertaining skills, but the fact is that the show was splashy. Ever-changing clothes, especially “the Ultra Zone robot suit,” extreme facial expressions, and funny jokes proved Steve’s great sense of humor.

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The band must be mentioned here as well. The rhythm section bassist Philip Bynoe and drummer Jeremy Colson played really tight. Special mention goes to the drum solo part, including a portable drum kit with eloquent “skull”… The second guitarist Dave Weiner did strong work and got even to perform a song from his latest solo album on stage. The most exotic musician on stage was still the electronic harp player Deborah Hanson-Conant. I think I’m the only one who’s never seen such an instrument played live. To my surprise, she made the harp sound great, and it gave some great spicy taste for the sound complex there. Vocalist Beverly McClellan, who also was a support act for the show, did a guest appearance on “John the Revelator,” and she did a reliable and powerful job there as well.

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The setlist was built upon the latest release, STORY OF LIGHT, but musically the highlights were, for me, of course, the PASSION AND WARFARE songs. “The Audience Is Listening” and especially the mighty “For the Love of God” made everyone, including novices like me, more than happy. The acoustic part was also surprising and great to listen to. The section of “Built Me a Song,” where Steve picked up random people from the audience to help him to build and play a brand “new song” live on stage, was fun to follow, and the results were amazingly good. Almost a three-hour spectacle show was then closed with FIRE GARDEN track “Taurus Bulba.” The time had just flown and against all the expectations, and without knowing the majority of the songs. I enjoyed the show, and there was not a moment when the crowd was bored and not watching every single thing that was going on stage, and so did I. So there’s just one thing to say, go and catch Steve Vai’s show if you can. That’s definitely worth every penny!

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WWW.VAI.COM

SETLIST

Racing the World

Velorum

Building the Church

Tender Surrender

Gravity Storm

Weeping China Doll

John the Revelator (with Beverly McClellan)

The Moon and I

(Acoustic set)

The Animal

Whispering a Prayer

The Audience Is Listening

Rescue Me or Bury Me

Sisters

Pusa Road

Salamanders in the Sun

Angel Food

The Ultra Zone

Frank

Build Me a Song

For the Love of God

Taurus Bulba

MORE PICTURES FROM THE SHOW!

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