Steve Vai

By Clare McCabe

Artist:  Steve Vai

Date / Venue:  Saturday July 20th, ASB Theatre - Aotea Centre, Auckland

An interesting crowd was gathered at the Aotea Centre on Saturday eagerly awaiting their guitar hero and his friends. Mostly male (obviously) with a few dads bringing their young sons which would have been an exciting first concert and even one particularly enthusiastic woman who managed to jump onstage twice during the evening (only to be escorted off by security).

No time (or need) for any support act and on comes the band with Mr Vai in the first of many costume changes. And here begins two and a half hours of guitar madness, along with a crazy drummer, Eddy-Grant channelling bass player, lots of guitar duels with Dave and an 18-year-old keyboardist on his first tour (no pressure).

Where do I start with the favourite bits. Steve was on fine form throughout the evening, very chatty and humorous and very proud of his other band members, allowing them plenty of time to show off their own talent. But let's be honest, it was Steve who everyone came to see - must say I was happy with being seated only a few rows back as you could watch him play UP-CLOSE which is where you really want to be at a Steve Vai concert. He has a great selection of guitars which he changed often between songs and two-hand tapping certainly looks easy when Steve is playing.

The man himself had several costume changes throughout the evening including a fabulous alien-type arrangement with light-up eyes, clothing and even laser-fingers - marvellous stuff. There were guitar duels between Steve and Dave Weiner, a drum/guitar duel with Jeremy Colson, who has obviously attended the Travis Barker school of drumming - wild and heavy and super fast. There was even a keyboard/guitar duel with the fabulous Michael Arrom.

There were also various solos (allowing for Steve's costume changes) from Dave, Jeremy and lastly from Michael. Then came a short acoustic set with Dave and Steve playing together (and a spot of singing by Steve) and Jeremy making a cameo appearance with his light-up mobile drumkit - too cool.

Great venue for this type of act to be honest - and fabulous light show and sound this evening.

I am not a huge fan of the normal setlist in reviews - and the fact that I do not own every Steve Vai album myself means I would be hard pushed to come up with every tune he played - though the two guys in front of me certainly seemed to know every one of them.

Audience participation was encouraged towards the end when two audience members (Daniella from Chile and Tony from Auckland) were invited up to help the band write a "new" song - which the band then enthusiastically jammed to.

This is one happy touring band - they work extremely well together and it must be great working for such a guitar hero and backing him up each night on tour - he is still so enthusiastic in his work, even after touring now for 33 years (his words).

Our job here is done, said Steve after his one-song encore for which everyone gave him a standing ovation. See you next time.

Indeed you will Mr Vai, indeed you will.