Steve Vai - Passion and Warfare 25th Anniversary Tour - Bristol O2 Academy 7 June 2016

I’ve a confession to make. Despite being blown away by Vai’s recorded work since I first heard him on PIL’s Album in 1986, he’d never quite cut-it the three times I’d seen him previously (with David Lee Roth and twice solo).
Unlike the live performances of other virtuosos - Van Halen, Malmsteen, Dimebag - Vai’s playing and music didn’t shine on stage: technical wizardry aside I found it sterile and unengaging.

Still, it’s not every day a living legend turns up at a 1,600 capacity club ten minutes walk from my front door so I toddled along with low expectations.

What followed was an overwhelming musical and visual spectacle. A relentlessly exciting, kinetic and entertaining three hours of jaw-dropping virtuosity and supreme rock showmanship delivered with wit, energy and an overriding sense of joy.

Opening with the ultra-detuned monster Bad Horsie it was obvious Vai was pulling out all the stops: laser beams, video projections and the loudest PA I’ve heard since Motorhead. The next three tunes - The Crying Machine, Gravity Storm, Whispering a Prayer - were enough to confirm his status as one of rock’s greatest guitarists; and then came the money shot: Passion and Warfare in its entirety and including video duets with Satriani and Petrucci.


We where then treated to a reminder that he was a teenage prodigy who went toe to toe with the great Zappa (Stevie’s Spanking), a light hearted bit of audience participation (Build Me a Song) and two more blistering displays of extreme rock virtuosity in Racing the World and Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba.

His band deserves a lot of credit: they are perhaps the best group he’s ever assembled and were perfect for his music, which is saying something considering the world class musicians he’s used in the past.
Jeremy Colson is that rare combination of technique, power, energy and dynamics only seen in the likes of Mikkey Dee and Neil Peart.
Dave Weiner - nailed every aspect of ‘human’ virtuoso guitar: shred, rhythm, acoustic, sitar. He would be a star in any rock band.
Philip Bynoe was perhaps the most impressive of the bunch: when faced with the sheer virtuosity of such a band it can be difficult for a bass player to make his mark and find space but he managed it with aplomb: he mined a rich vein of subsonic terror and breezed through the ‘fiddly bits’ like the tapped solo in Blue Powder.

And then there’s Mr. Vai. On this showing he proved to be a unique meta-talent who also knows his rock ‘n’ roll and how to put on a show. His inhuman command of his instrument was best illustrated by his moving between the various stage monitors to generate different harmonic distortion during Whispering a Prayer: when one of the monitors failed to feedback he didn’t hesitate and simply blew gently across the strings to coax the machines into producing a sound so sweet it had grown men misty eyed. In a world of uber-talented guitarists there can’t be many who not only play the stage as an instrument but also do it with just the power of their breath. 

If you get the chance to catch the great man live, grab it with both hands. You’ll thank yourself for years to come. 

 Setlist:
l  Bad Horsie (Crossroads intro. movie)
l  The Crying Machine
l  Gravity Storm
l  Whispering a Prayer

Passion and Warfare
l  Liberty (video from Guitar Legends Sevilla Expo ‘92 with Brian May)
l  Erotic Nightmares
l  The Animal
l  Answers (Joe Satriani video duet)
l  The Riddle
l  Ballerina 12/24
l  For the Love of God
l  The Audience Is Listening (John Petrucci video duet)
l  I Would Love To
l  Blue Powder
l  Greasy Kid’s Stuff
l  Alien Water Kiss
l  Sisters
l  Love Secrets

l  Stevie’s Spanking (with video of Vai & Zappa)
l  Build Me a Song
l  Racing the World
l  Fire Garden Suite IV – Taurus Bulba

Band:
Bass:              Philip Bynoe
Drums:           Jeremy Colson
Guitar:            Steve Vai
Guitar:            Dave Weiner

VM

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