Very dramatic entry, opened the set of an extroverted showman, from the off we were being entertained by a band of three top-notch professional musicians then to complete the quartet Steve Vai the talented mega-guitarist. Steve Vai is all about the music and is less reliant on the backdrop of video images than fellow Ibanez guitarist Joe Satriani. There is no argument that Steve Vai is a real genius on the guitar using a plethora of guitars across the two and three-quarter hour set.
He ensured that the changes were for a musical purpose every guitar had a different sound creating a variation in tonal textures and style from heavy rock, grungy rock and then a gentler tone and throughout it was the melodic major line that was important and lead the rest of the band as they filled in the gaps creating a swirl of sound that rose up to the rafters and across the tiers of seating in St David’s Hall.
He uses every bit of the guitar demanding every inch of the instrument to bend under his will creating squeals and chords whether playing up the neck with both hands reminiscent of Joe Satrinai, using his tongue, teeth and playing with one hand the guitar is an integral part of Steve Vai’s whole persona. Thus the guitar moaned, squealed, talked and interacted at an electric level, there was no need for vocals this was complete musical communication the audience’s reaction said it all they were rapturous.
This was not an egocentric set all about Vai, his interaction with the band was open and honest this was a quartet of musicians who enjoyed the music they were playing and each other’s skills. This was demonstrated by a blistering bass solo by Philip using all of his six strings to brilliant effect creating the full gamut of sounds including a strong, loud and awesome funky interlude. Steve also interacted with the audience building an atmosphere, creating humour and a feeling of bonhomie, this was achieved by a microphone being bought into the stage and Steve directly talking to the audience, who interacted with him and took pleasure, if sitting in the front rows, from the number of plectrums he threw into the crowd. The use of keys played by Dave Weiner the second guitarist added yet another tonal layer to the aural experience that is Steve Vai.
Then Steve left the stage for the first time of the evening for a costume change and were treated to an acoustic interlude provided by Dave Weiner, which was full of vim and passion with swirls of Spanish Flamenco using 2 capa; Dave is a skilful guitarist who adds so much to the show whether playing electric or acoustic adding little riffs of pure pleasure.
The next part of the show was opened with ‘Weeping China Doll’ with thumping drums courtesy of Jeremy Colson, dramatic chords and loud feeling of despair. There was a brilliant moment of Phillip on the bass and Steve harmonising creating a deep raw demi-duet whilst the drumming and second guitar kept the who tune in the round so there was never a moment of self-indulgence.
Clangers came to town as Vai got the Cardiff audience to participate with noises that would have been at home with this popular show, but this was fun the audience was eating out of his hands, but there was still more surprises to come. The drummer went missing and Vai shouted for >him and with than he re-appeared with a mini-kit strapped on and came to the front, we were treated to some interesting drumming and interplay between Steve and Jeremy.
There was one vocal track Steve Vai’s ‘Rescue Me or Bury Me’; where sitting on a seat he sang for his supper in his own indomitable style this was sung as poetry, he is not a great singer but he knows how to perform and was accompanied by Philip Bynoe on a Piccolo Bass so another texture added for interest and our delight.
Cardiff, home to the Dr Who experience, was then treated to a monster shape that would have been at home with those exhibits as Steve Vai returned to a darken stage covered in laser lights that moved and changed colour as he played on entertaining the whole time the background of roving search-lights across and around the stage added to feeling that this was something from another time and place who had invaded our space with a wall-to-wall sound.
This was a dynamic show, Steve Vai was no static front-man but as he played the guitar he used the space on the stage dancing across and around generating energy, he never missed a beat, this was a show of electric music delivered at the highest level creating a stratosphere of sound that melded and blended and at times was contorted and forced into a melodic shape that created a wheel of musical colour with every shade incorporated into a complete organic musical fiesta.