Steve Vai at the Ames Center
October 23, 2016
Photo's and Text by: Patrick Dunn
Astonished, mystified, awestruck, flabbergasted, perplexed … these words could be used to describe the expressions on the faces of thrilled Rockers as they exited the Ames Center in Burnsville, October 23rd. Guitar wizard Steve Vai took the capacity crowd on a ride so extreme the venue may need to consider installing seat belts before they let him back in the building. Speed limits were exceeded, sound barriers were broken and minds were surely blown during this 2+ hour celebration of the 25-Year Anniversary of Vai’s breakthrough album “Passion and Warfare”.
It was fascinating to witness how far out of the box Vai’s approach to his instrument has evolved, especially compared to other players we regard as masters of the art. He clearly has examined every inch of his signature series Ibanez and is able to extract a multitude of tones most will never discover. No switch, knob, bar, peg or pedal is off limits in the ultimate quest to deliver his musical message. There are also a variety of unorthodox techniques that he has developed and executes with great style, which has become an important facet of the expressive live persona he’s become known for.
For most bands, the trend of playing an entire album from start to finish may require brushing up on a few tracks that don’t normally make a set list. For Vai to accomplish this with “Passion and Warfare” is more like asking someone to recreate a Van Gogh in one sitting outside of an art studio. He even admitted songs like “Love Secret” were never intended to be performed live. This material requires a lot of musical ground to be covered, which allowed for a number of standout moments. “The Audience is Listening” rocked hard and simply was great fun. The slow build on “For the Love of God” created great energy and was flawless. Vai did also include some other material like “Bad Horsie”, which channeled his role as the devil’s guitar player in “Crossroads”. A creative use of video also allowed for a couple surprise guests to interact virtually, which was entertaining and created some additional excitement.
Fair to say this performance may not have suited the casual listener, but was second to none for any guitar enthusiast or practicing musician. The Ames Center provided a great room to experience this event and sounded fantastic all night long. The audience was engaged and represented the Twin Cities well, rising to their feet on several occasions to express recognition and approval of the artist's efforts.
Accomplished, proud, appreciated, thankful, genuine … these words could be used to describe Steve Vai’s reactions to his fans in Minnesota as he departed the stage Sunday evening.