Steve Vai - Rock Café, Tallinn, Estonia, 25.10.2012
|Event:||Steve Vai: European Tour 2012|
Steve Vai - Rock Café, Tallinn, Estonia, 25.10.2012 by Ivor (40)
When I got to the venue, the show was on and I had no rewind button. Damn real life! The blues-rock coming from the stage was accompanied by powerful female vocals and a groovy acoustic guitar. I guess a lot like something you would have heard about 60 years back in the southern US. The time-trip had begun.
The woman with one of those exceptionally powerful and variable vocal skills was Beverly McClellan and between the songs we got to know she was from southern US - Florida to be exact. I found myself thinking: "That figures." The topic of her origins came up because she mentioned seeing snow here in Tallinn. It turned out that Florida was mostly lacking that specific feature (you don't say). It's a pity that the gig wasn't on the next day - Friday. The real shocker arrived in the form of a blizzard straight from snowy hell. The sucker slowed the city down to a snail-pace and Estonia's Internet footprint doubled with all the pictures and videos people uploaded of the crazy traffic.
But back in the Rock Café, Beverly called the sound technician to sit with her on the stage. She had heard him play by accident and ever since then she jammed a couple of songs on the stage with him. The feeling on the stage was great and it transferred over to the crowd. Usually I can't be bothered to listen to blues, but the atmosphere and the performers were just right, so I had no objections. More like cheers and respect for the performers.
She finished the warm-up set with a cover of Radiohead's "Creep" and left us all with a really warm feeling inside. A friend of mine bought her two albums immediately - that's the kind of temperature I'm talking about. Still, I resisted the urge rather easily as I knew I liked my blues-rock only live and rare, not burned on a laser oven on to the round platter.
Research afterwards revealed that Beverly sang also on the only song I had heard from the new Steve Vai album - "John the Revelator", but not during the Tallinn' gig. That was weird, since the woman was right there with them, but fine in the sense that it left more room for the classic Vai masterpieces.
The main act entered almost immediately (to my mind) after the warm-up, which took me by surprise because I was just contemplating getting a glassful of something cold to pour down my quite warmed up throat. No such luck as the stage was stormed by a lady with a fraking LED-covered harp - of all the things, accompanied by a significant whiff of stage smoke. That is not to say that also the bass, drums and rhythm guitar didn't take their positions in front of the eager crowd, but really - harp in a rock show - that was a first one for me.
The tension was prepared for the guitar wizard, not to say guizard to make a dramatic entrance. Already teasing us from the backstage with some preliminary screaming strings, finally the master of the six-string enters to relieve us of our everyday problems and fill our whole attention span with great showmanship. Truly Mr Vai is a music act you must see, not only hear. The man has a love affair on the stage with his guitar - it's mesmerizing and hilarious at the same time.
The first song was a kind of a Steve Vai equivalent of a boring song, but even that was filled with above average "guitarsmenship." What made it boring was the constant school-band rhythm in the back. I was thinking "oh gods, not the mild boring Vai". Occasionally Mr Vai has this terrible habit of making up insanely boring songs. Actually one might even begin to suspect he does it on purpose, simply to frak with us. On the other hand it might very well be only me. Comment and give me your opinions.
Fortunately the first song was an anomaly by a long shot and the second was blowing my mind. "Velorum" is also from the latest album and it kicks off with really bad-ass riffs and develops to a cool rhythm exercise in the middle that made me notice how Jeremy Colson was really beating the hell out of the drums. Even during the breaks between the songs the guy is in constant motion.
After a couple of introductory exercises for guitar virtuosos the man speaks his first words to welcome and to express his happiness for being back here the second time. I don't remember what was the problem, but I couldn't make it to the show last time Mr Vai was in town 7 years ago. I'm so glad I got the chance to redeem myself.
During the first break we are also introduced to the great band:
- Deborah Henson-Conant on harp
- Philip Bynoe on pro- and contra-bass
- Dave Weiner on the rhythm guitar and keyboards
- Jeremy Colson on drums
And on we move to one of my favorite Vai-tunes, "Building a Church". During that time the main man has acquired a blue laser guitar that projects fret markers as a constellation on the ceiling. The main reason being probably just because he can. Anyway, nice gadget, man. Can I get that with Android and play it using Bluetooth?
Following the completion we got back to the elevator music department of "Tender Surrender." Well, sorry, but that's the kind of love/hate relationship I have with Mr. Vai's music. That kind of schizophrenia continued throughout the whole performance as the groovy "Gravity Storm" is pure gold in a platinum bowl covered in a shower of diamonds. Man I've got to get my hands on the new album even if that is the only good song on that disc, and it obviously isn't.
Each of the members of the band also got to do a song or a solo on their own that added a nice contrast to the show. The unexpected bonus of Dave Weiner's acoustic guitar from his solo album, the magically delicate harp of Deborah Henson-Conant from her solo album, drum solo from Jeremy Colson, and a couple of short entries from Philip Bynoe.
The middle part of the gig was composed of an acoustic set, which was especially rewarding for the harp, otherwise overshadowed by more powerful instruments. I would especially like to mention "Whispering a Prayer", which on a harp sounded like a direct candidate for the next Disney movie score. Another nice instrumental by the contrabass in the end of the "Sisters" was cut short as the drummer was missing on the stage. Steve called out for Jeremy to come to the stage and stop sitting on the toilet backstage. Of course that was not the case. The guy had fitted himself with a portable drum-kit or as he said himself: "Well Steve, this is the part of the show I'd like to call 'Up from the behind with my strap-on'."
The strap-on drum-kit had a skull with integrated technical difficulties. The bonehead lit up after some tweaking by the technical crew and started talking some rubbish. After some yapping they actually managed to start a part of the "Fire Garden Suite" with these mobile drums. Everything is going mobile these days, right? I guess you have to keep up with the technology. I mean also the LED-covered and occasionally electrically distorted harp was a miniaturized variant of the usual big-ass instrument you might have seen.
It was a major disappointment for me that they had torn the fantastic epic "Bangkok" + "Fire Garden Suite" into pieces and played only a fraction of it. But I got distracted rather quickly with the Vaindroid that appeared on stage for "The Ultra Zone." It's a robot suit with blinking lights; a cliché, but still an extra visual aid on an already slightly over the top show. I loved it.
But the highlight of the show was yet to come. After "Frank", Steve selected a boy and a girl from the audience and wrote a song with their directions. First the boy had to sing the drums and guitars and the girl got the bass and harp. Because according to Mr Vai, all girls dream of becoming a harp player. According to my research that hypothesis is not at all that waterproof.
As it turned out, the writing of a song is rather easy if you have such excellent musicians in the band. It would be interesting to hear how other shows turned out during the tour. Thanks to the wonderful mobile technology we got a taste from the Helsinki show, shared by Steve Vai himself on his Facebook page.
After the encore we got another fourth of the "Fire Garden Suite" which was amazing, but the room had such a great energy that everyone was still asking for one more "Now We Run," "Firewall," or whatever your poison is.
To conclude, the show made me want to listen to the whole Steve Vai discography all over again and acquire The Story of Light ASAP. And also everyone still on the fence about going to the upcoming show in the venue near you - don't you be missing out on one of the great names of our times and probably one of the best entertainment performances this year. The wonderful madness, fun gadgets, dominating melody, and the great stage humor you don't want to miss! Also, it's a great value for your money because our show clocked over two and half hours, and that's not counting the warm-up.
Respect to the musicians and crew for making it a night to remember.
1. Racing the World (The Story of Light)
2. Velorum (The Story of Light)
3. Building a Church (Real Illusions: Reflections)
4. Tender Surrender (Alien Love Secrets)
5. Gravity Storm (The Story of Light)
6. Dave Weiner solo on acoustic guitar from his solo project
7. Weeping China Doll (The Story of Light)
8. The Moon and I (The Story of Light)
9. The Animal (Passion & Warfare)
10. Whispering a Prayer (The Infinite Steve Vai: An Anthology)
11. The Audience is Listening (Passion & Warfare)
12. Harp Solo by Deborah Henson-Conant
13. Rescue Me or Bury Me (Sex & Religion)
14. Sisters (Passion and Warfare)
15. Fire Garden Suite: Pusa Road (Fire Garden)
16. Drum Solo by Jeremy Colson
17. The Ultra Zone (The Ultra Zone)
18. Frank (The Ultra Zone)
19. Two people from the crowd and the band compose a song
20. For the Love of God (Passion & Warfare)
21. Fire Garden Suite: Taurus Bulba (Fire Garden)
Warm-up Beverly McClellan: http://beverlymcclellan.com
Steve Vai: http://www.vai.com
Venue, Rock Café, Tallinn: http://www.rockcafe.ee
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