Steve Vai Concert Review
2nd April 2005 Massey Hall Toronto, Canada

The music world has given us many great guitarists, but only a few that are outstanding over a prolonged period of time.

Steve Vai is such a guitarist.

Back in 1980, Steve commenced with the infamous Frank Zappa, and then came his solo debut album “Flex-Able” in 1984. He also spent some time with the David Lee Roth band and of course not to forget the commercially successful Whitesnake and his later solo albums like “Passion and Warfare”. (Full Discography here )

However this was not the only great figure of music we were going to see that evening as playing bass with Mr. Vai was also the legendary Billy Sheehan of Mr.Big fame (Who also played with Steve in the David Lee Roth band). Billy plays the bass like no other bass player and I would recommend any bass player to listen to his work and also his instructional videos. More info here

To make three we were also to witness the talented Eric Sardinas who opened the concert with his high energy Texas / Delta Blues. Eric played these on a resonator guitar, with a single cutaway onto which he had installed a humbucking pickup. For a few other songs he also used another non cutaway resonator that had a single-coil pickup.

Eric played and sung some parts of his songs completely unplugged to accent the roots of this instrument. He also played slide with a beer bottle, then walking around audience which bought the crowd to its feet.

After a brief interlude, we noticed that the theatre was filling up even more, with people even standing behind seats. The atmosphere was getting electric; one could almost cut through it with a knife, and then the lights dimmed, the crowd roared and Steve Vai came on stage!

He appeared dressed in an oriental costume with a double necked Ibanez guitar, with the bottom one been fretless, no doubt for slide without the slide! He also played his usual Ibanez signature models EVO and FLO.

Steve’s band consisted of the following musicians

Guitar, Vocals: Steve Vai

Bass, Vocals: Billy Sheehan

Guitar, Vocals and Keys: Tony MacAlpine

Guitar: Dave Weiner

Drums: Jeremy Colson

Steve played songs such as “Lotus Feet” and my personal favourite track “Building the Church” from his brand new album “Real Illusions: Reflections” and even a new unreleased song "I'm Becoming".

Die hard fans were not disappointed either, as he also played classics such as “The Audience Is Listening”, “For the love of God” with a new reworked flute intro and the crowd pleasing “Liberty” which starts with the spoken words “Hands Up!” These last two been played for the encore.

The acoustic set towards the middle of the show was a welcome breather, where Steve played his green Ibanez signature acoustic and also to enhance the sonic palette a coral sitar was used.

A special note must also be made for Billy Sheehan, who played his main Yamaha Attitude Ltd II Bass, on most songs, and also a special custom shop double neck Attitude Bass which seemed quite heavy as he kept shifting the strap from shoulder to shoulder sometimes even mid song !

I actually emailed Mr. Sheehan to ask about the reason for the double neck and this was his reply:

“The double neck bass is two different tunings---I thought that would be obvious, but I'm often asked about it. The lower is tuned B E A D, while the upper is standard E A D G.”

This presumably to retain the feel of four string bass with the versatility of a 5 string



The concert finished off, with a rendition of the Frank Zappa song "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama" which was full of energy, Steve also invited Eric Sardinas back on stage for this song.

A fantastic concert which no doubt left everyone in the audience wanting more, especially those playing the air guitar!

By Ernest H Slade