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Review by Greg Phillips. Photos by Jason Rosewarne

It had been ten long years since Steve Vai graced Australian stages, so it was no surprise to see a packed Melbourne’s Palais Theatre crowd eager to experience their virtuoso guitar hero and composer celebrating the release of his latest album Inviolate.

Teasing the audience from side stage, Vai offered a few cheeky alien-like guitar licks before strutting to the stage proper armed with his black Ibanez JEM “Bo” guitar to shred Avalancha with his band, which includes Dante Frisiello on guitar and keys, Jeremy Colson on drums and Philip Byrne on bass. Giant Balls of Gold follows with a large video screen portraying artistic clips relevant to the songs he’s performing.

With almost every new tune comes a change of guitar. On this tour he’s featuring a white JEM “Evo”, white JEM “Flo III”, green Ibanez “Candle”, black, mirror-like JEM “Bo”, Custom Zuess 7 string, and a gorgeous purple Ibanez Scofield “Little Pretty”

Vai is as close to Hendrix as we’ll ever see, producing astonishing, inventive  sounds as he becomes one with the guitar. He waves his arms like an albatross in a breeze, his face contorts while conjuring orchestral-like feedback. The control this guy has over his instrument has to be seen to be believed.

Candlepower from Inviolate sees Vai don his green Ibanez “Candle” model as he comes as close to a standard Strat sound as you’ll hear before warping and twisting it into his usual otherworldly tones.

Always the generous musician, Vai gives each band member their time in the spotlight. The multi-skilled Dante Frisiello is featured throughout the night and can shred with the best of them but his raw slide playing shows he ‘aint no Derek Trucks. The rhythm section of Jeremy Colson and Philip Byrne work damn hard, producing a huge sound between them.

The crowd cheers as the big screen reveals a young Ralph Macchio and Steve Vai in a scene from the legendary film Crossroads, known for its epic guitar battle, which then leads into Bad Horsie, a track his keenest fans know note for note.

Teeth of the Hydra finally brings forth the beast, the triple neck Hydra guitar which basically, the whole tour is built around. Vai thumbs bass notes on the bottom neck while navigating amazing solos on the top two in an extraordinary display of musicianship.

Promo pic

Vai introduces road crew member Danny G to the stage to lend his operatic vocal pipes to a very special version of For the Love of God. After two and a quarter hours, a herculean Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba ends a feast of unmatchable guitar playing.

After playing two shows in Perth this weekend, Steve Vai returns to America, where he’ll be reuniting with Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson for a G3 30th anniversary tour and  will follow up in March with a Satriani/Vai tour beginning in March. We can only hope that one of those tours make its way down here too.

Giant Balls of Gold
Little Pretty
Tender Surrender
Lights Are On
(Extended with Band Jam/Solos)
Guitar Solo
(“Dante Unchained”)
Building the Church
Greenish Blues
Crossroads Bad Horsie Intro
Bad Horsie
I’m Becoming
Whispering a Prayer
Drum Solo
Teeth of the Hydra
Zeus in Chains
For the Love of God

Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba

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