Written By Braddon S. Williams

Steve Vai: Passion And Warfare

I have been playing guitar for almost 44 years, and although I can’t play everything, I can pretty much understand most things that I hear…and then there’s Steve Vai!

Mr. Vai has an approach to guitar (and music in general) that is so advanced, so creative, so ALIEN, that he seems to have come from another galaxy to unleash his vision upon us.

Vai’s masterpiece, Passion And Warfare (1990), is the holy grail for guitar nerds. Every song is packed full of loving detail, virtuoso feats of technical ability, melodies that seemingly defy human imagination, and always with the basic song clearly driving the project.

Vai is an artist who uses the studio itself as a musical instrument, knowing with no hesitation just how to realize the sounds in his head and heart.

The songs on Passion And Warfare are said to be based on a series of dreams Vai had when he was younger.

Vai was quoted as saying the album represents “Jimi Hendrix meets Jesus Christ at a party that Ben Hur threw for Mel Blanc.” Every song is excellent, but some are on a whole other level, including Blue Powder, Sisters, Erotic Nightmares, The Riddle, Answers, and the breathtaking tour-de-force For The Love Of God.

Steve Vai makes music that non-musicians can love, and musicians can worship.

https://youtu.be/Yw74sDWPH7U

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

Sex & Religion (1993) may not be the obvious choice for a Steve Vai album, but there is a method to my madness. Steve actually unleashed the genius of Devin Townsend to an unsuspecting world on this underappreciated release, not to mention the fact that Terry Bozzio played drums on it. The sheer amount of talent in those 3 monster musicians made for some intense jams, but the egos and personalities couldn’t be contained in a band for long. Fortunately for us music lovers, they did manage to put this one together before they imploded. Some of my highlights from Sex & Religion are In My Dreams With You, Dirty Black Hole, Here And Now, Down Deep Into The Pain, Pig, Survive, Rescue Me Or Bury Me, and the gorgeous Touching Tongues. It may not be Vai’s most important music, but it kick-started Hevy Devy’s career, and that is good enough for me!

Written By Braddon S. Williams

Influences And Recollections of a Musical Mind

On this date in history, 10/28/2016, I saw the guitar virtuoso Steve Vai at the prestigious Honeywell Center in downtown Wabash, IN, courtesy of Pulse Music! Words will not possibly do justice to the talent Mr. Vai possesses, but I must make an attempt. The show began with a video clip from the movie Crossroads (not the Britney Spears flick!) in which Steve portrayed the devil’s hired hand and head-cutter supreme, a little guy by the name of Jack Butler. Steve and the band rocked part of the famous guitar duel from the movie. In other video segments, Steve “jammed” with Brian May of Queen, Joe Satriani, John Petrucci of Dream Theater, and even the late, great Frank Zappa! Oh yes, and he also played his landmark cd “Passion and Warfare” in its entirety, commemorating that album’s 25th anniversary. Throughout the entire concert, Steve made the impossible possible, consistently pulling sounds out of his guitar that seemingly come from outer space and beyond. In a word, Extraordinary! I had first seen Vai live when he was a relatively unknown guitarist with Frank Zappa. I saw him twice with David Lee Roth and once again with Whitesnake. Earlier in 2016 I was fortunate to see Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abbasi join forces on the Generation Axe tour. After a 27 year wait, I got to witness one of the finest guitarists on the planet play twice, and both shows were truly legendary, like the man himself. I’m sure all the guitar players who were in attendance that night are feeling good knowing we witnessed a musical genius at the top of his game!

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

On This Date in History

17523666_743700019141112_823934873252152011_n

On this date in history, 4/26/2016, I was transported to Guitar Heaven! The Generation Axe tour took place at an incredible venue inside The Old National Centre in Indianapolis, the Murat Theatre.

17861947_748814181963029_5157689078307921060_nThis tour was orchestrated by Steve Vai, and featured Vai, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, Zakk Wylde, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi.

Each guitar god played an individual set, and played together in various configurations throughout the show.

All 5 began the concert playing “Foreplay” by Boston in a veritable fusillade of guitar pyrotechnics that hit like a ten ton hammer.

17523166_748416988669415_6828448629776624129_nAs soon as we had time to digest what had just knocked the collective wind out of us, Abasi was alone on stage with the backup band that played for all the featured artists. These guys were amazing, too…as they had to complement the varying styles of the principal players.

Abasi is the lead guitarist for Animals As Leaders, and his djent style of syncopated alternately crushing and soothing 8 string guitar wizardry was challenging but rewarding in its intensity. For his last song, Tosin was joined by Nuno Bettencourt on “Physical Education” and they managed to be complex and funky at the same time.

Nuno took the funk and ran with it, performing a medley of his best stuff from his Extreme days, and also throwing down some spicy acoustic playing. His last song was one of the highlights of the entire show for me. It is called “Sideways” by Citizen Cope, and featured Nuno and Zakk on tandem guitars and lead vocals. The song was mellow, full of passion and heart and made me long for a whole album and tour with these two amazing musicians.

17757384_748814275296353_8478806317146756870_nThe Zakk attack commenced immediately after, with the Wylde man demonstrating his dizzying speed and velocity on a trio of rock classics by Black Sabbath (N.I.B.), The Allman Brothers Band (Whipping Post), and Jimi Hendrix (Little Wing). The Viking biker ventured far into the crowd, getting up front and personal with many lucky audience members who got to see closeup views of his manic style.

18033257_750922301752217_1334904862003645433_nFor some reason, Zakk and Yngwie didn’t play together, but Mr. Malmsteen didn’t waste any time demonstrating his virtuosity on various Fender Stratocasters. Personally, I feel like some of his stage moves are a little unnecessary, but his playing is breathtaking and magnificent. When he played his signature song, “Black Star”, he was joined by Steve Vai, and the results were some of the most flawless playing I have ever heard. Vai took over from there, earning his top billing with a master class in guitar genius.

18010732_750560395121741_7948507229128577700_nSteve has such command of his instrument, and effortlessly lets his physical grace and charming personality shine through his signature unique style of songwriting.

After Vai’s set, all but Malmsteen combined for a crushing version of Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein”, and then Yngwie came out to sing and help the entire band lay down the ultimate “Highway Star” (Deep Purple) to close out this once in a lifetime assembly of guitar godliness…until the sequel…I hope!

Written By Braddon S. Williams aka The Concert Critic

Generation Axe – Foreplay

 

On This Date in History