Review: Steve Vai at Perth Concert Hall
Steve Vai at Perth Concert Hall
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Legendary guitar shredder Steve Vai brought his Inviolate World Tour to Perth Concert Hall on Saturday night.
Widely recognised as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Vai is a three-time Grammy Award winner and fifteen-time nominee. After starting his music career as a teenager in the late 1970s as a transcriptionist and then guitarist for Frank Zappa, Vai has gone on to release nine studio albums, eight live albums, and feature on countless more. After releasing his new record, Inviolate, early last year and touring it across half the world, it was finally time for Perth fans to catch the maestro live.
With a career that spans over four decades, Vai attracted a crowd of all ages, each in high spirits and eagerly awaiting his arrival. When Vai and his band thundered onto the stage and launched into the set, it already felt worth the wait. He thanked everyone for coming down and encouraged them to leave their worries at the door. “Let’s leave everything else outside," he said. “Leave your job outside. Leave the politics outside. Tonight, let’s just celebrate live music together." It summed up the reason everyone was here. Yes, to witness a master of the craft, but also for some good old-fashioned escapism.
Vai has a lot of his tricks in his kit bag, and seemed to pull a new one out every song or so. Whether it was manipulating the guitar’s pitch with the whammy bar, or kneeling down to shift it with pedals, playing one-handed (a technique he mastered while recovering from surgery on his right hand), or his lightning fast-finger tapping, he kept the audience wanting more.
As expected, Vai’s go-to guitar throughout the night was his signature Ibanez GEM range (the pointy one with the handle on it). These were dished out throughout the set in an assortment of colours as Vai explored a range of tones and styles. After the uplifting Tender Surrender, Vai blazed through a cluster of slick riffs and glam-metal squeals before dialling things down with a chimey chorus tone, casting a spell with awry minor chords.
Deeper into the set, Vai acknowledged the special significance of the show for the band as the last date of a tour leg that started way back in May 2022. Vai also reflected on the fact that October marked 43 years that he’d been touring, gesturing towards a fan near the front, saying “I’ve got shoes older than you." You couldn’t help feeling Vai and band were going to leave nothing in the tank on the night, and you’d be right!
Vai’s live band were absolute fire. Bassist Philip Bynoe was absolutely stomping, finding notes within notes and matching Vai’s intensity throughout (at one point hilariously impersonating Vai’s guitar playing with his bass when Vai was briefly off stage). Drummer Jeremy ‘The Animal’ Colson, who Vai said had a penchant for Wim Hof-inspired ice baths, looked like he was having as much fun as anyone there on the night and never missed a beat!
The strapping young lad on guitar was Dante Frisiello, who, it must be said, sported an impressive physique and didn’t mind showing it, flexing to the crowd at Vai’s request. Vai would often wonder across the stage to spar with Frisiello during the set, with the two guitarists trying to ‘one-up’ each other with call and response riffs. The young lad didn’t have all the tricks that Vai had, but he in no way embarrassed himself either. In fact, the whole band slotted into their roles exceptionally well, but much like the audience, they never forgot who the star of the show was!
Late in the set came the moment many were waiting for. The darkened stage lit up to reveal, draped in cloth, the unmistakeable shape of the famed three-neck guitar ‘The Hydra.’ While Vai couldn’t move about the stage with the massive machine like he could with the other guitars, it was mesmerising to see his fingers dance and slide from one neck to the other like some otherworldly music-making machine.
Vai then touched on his newest album, Inviolate, saying he was hoping to create a kind of ‘greenish’ blues with the record, which he demonstrated on the aptly titled Greenish Blues. He then brought out the slide for a song, building to a massive climax and jubilant cheers from the crowd.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, Vai introduced a member of his road crew, Danny G, to the front. Vai recounted his surprise when he discovered the crew member was an accomplished opera singer and gave him the mic for the final number, Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba. So that was how the show, and the Australian leg of the tour finished, with the glorious voice of Danny G rising to the roof of the Concert Hall above Vai’s absurdly fast riffage and shrieks of delight from the audience.
Armed with a killer band, a career-spanning set and enough skills to pay the bills of a small country, Steve Vai owned the occasion at Perth Concert Hall and sent everyone home on a high.
Photos by Anthony Jackson