First Impressions of Steve Vai
I still remember back when I was a wee lad in guitar years. I remember the infatuation I had quickly developed for the instrument as I constantly pursued new guitarists who were capable of exponentially greater feats from the previous ones I’d found. This was an arduous process that took years (and it’s still quite the continuing process), but perhaps the most profound moment in time for me was when I’d come across Steve Vai. When reflecting on my past articles empirical evidence suggests that I like to remind the world on where I stand with Steve Vai.
To give a bit of back story I had just been getting into Joe Satriani and and Yngwie Malmsteen, and either my birthday or Christmas had stopped by for a quick visit when a friend presented to me the G3 Live in Denver DVD that featured Joe Satriani, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Steve Vai. The first two I’d heard before, the last I’d only heard the name, but had never seen or heard any of his stuff.
So when I popped the DVD in and the song “I Know You’re Here” started playing… God I still can’t think of the words to articulate how floored I was. I mean. Just watch.
Whenever my first impression of a guitarist like Vai is something like that I feel like I’ve won the lottery. It’s an excellent demonstration on just how far someone can take the instrument they play. Mind you it was also a good first impression on just how… eccentric his facial expressions can be.
When I solo over loop for a couple of minutes I start to get stale. When guitarists like Vai do it you really get the feeling that there’s a constant buildup to something greater. Considering that I can only imagine how many hours were cashed in over the one backing track
And what makes a performance like this really good is that each time you watch it you can see some other microscopic detail that you’d missed the first time around. I’ve probably watched this video more than any other and I still find little nuances from quick slides or how he scratches the low E string with his fingernail on the bottom neck to contrast the sustained higher notes (as heard around the 2:50 mark) or his unrelenting abuse of the whammy bar, or the sheer ridiculous technical prowess of the 3:30 segment followed by perhaps my favorite part of the song. The buildup that leads to 4:41 which releases the tension perfectly.
Then we have the second half of the song. After a solo like that as the intro the song changes tones and introduces the rest of the band as well as Vai’s vocal performance. At the time I’d only heard that he was an instrumental guitarist, so I was a bit surprised to hear him sing. And even more so to find that he’s actually not that bad. I mean, he’s no Bruce Dickenson, but he can carry a tune.