Steve Vai helped Ibanez design a seven  string guitar. Like the wizardry he performs with only six isn’t mind blowing enough.
The consummate shredder rolled into Greensburg, PA’s historic Palace Theater last Thursday and put on a 2 ½ hour pyrotechnic clinic showcasing his blazing speed, delicate textures and ear splitting decibel levels. Vai’s shows are unburdened by traditional elements such as vocals and lyrics. Like his albums, they are almost completely instrumental in scope. There are few demarcation lines between songs, just an organic flow. He is touring behind his new release “The Story of Light.” It is the second part of a trilogy that began with 2005’s “Real Illusions: Reflections.” The album is part of a narrative arc, much like the show itself. From start to finish, the concert is one cohesive piece, massive and orchestral in scope. It is far from the traditional linear listening experience defined by distinctive melodies, lyrics and abrupt cues. Instead, he changes pace and mood by painting various textures, literally speaking through the instrument. He unleashed his firepower from the opening note of “Racing the World” and kept the pedal to the metal for the next 150 minutes as his signature Ibanez axes, EVO and FLO, ground out the majority of the 23-song set.  In lieu of the two electric violinists from his last band, he now employs electric harpist Deborah  Henson-Conant. Her 18 lb. instrument is equipped with all the effects of an electric guitar (plus L.E.D. lights)and it wields nearly as much power. 34-year old Jeremy Colson is an artful and aggressive drummer  in the same vein as Copeland and Peart. He gracefully transitions from standard beats into downright funky at different points in the show while the star flexes his dance muscles and jokes with the crowd. Colson is allotted several minutes for a seat rattling solo that is both powerfully and deftly performed.


Tender Surrender is always a highlight. Its hypnotic opening chords lull the audience  before Vai resumes blazing the frets.


John the Revelator, performed on the album with The Voice finalist Beverly McClellan, features a powerful gospel chorus, and was another standout.


The latter part of the show features a randomly picked audience member who comes on stage to “compose” a song with Vai serving as the arranger . The lyrics typically consist of the person’s name, occupation and hometown set to on the spot improvisation by all band members.


When all is said and done, a Vai show is an all-encompassing experience that incorporates elements of spirituality and  mysticism, right down to the spotlight set in the eyeball of the face on the backdrop. The audience is along for the ride on Vai’s continual search for truth and meaning.

For more visit: http://www.vai.com/