:: Part 3 of 3 ::
I came back from Nonantola, arrived in Padova (where I live) and found that it was really cold here. Funny how the weather can change from town to town. Today Jeremy had to spend some time at the dentist and we were told that he may not have been able to be at soundcheck. Luckily enough, he was able to be there and the guys started to joke about this thing, even suggesting the changing of the names of some of the songs in the setlist. The funniest one that I remember was "Cavity Storm". Despite what he had went through, Jeremy played the whole show as energetically as he always does. He's a good soldier.
The venue was the same one that Steve played last year, which was surprising to me. Probably not the best move from a management/booking point of view. Even more surprising was that instead of standing general admission tickets, this time it had numbered seats. Like I said before for the Florence show, I really prefer to stand, even if I have to arrive early at the venue. Sure, having your own seat is great, because it allows you to come in right before the show starts, but come on… this is not a formal classical music concert. If you want the people in the audience to interact and be animated, you can't have them quietly sit down. Last year, at the same venue, there was a large standing area in front of the stage, and then there were seat areas in the back and sides. That was better, and I remember the audience was *very* responsive. Anyway yes, this time at first people were not as reactive as I had hoped, but then they gradually warmed up, and by the end of the show many of them were standing in front of the stage.
The sound was good, maybe at times I could hear Philip a little too much, but by the end of the show everything was quite good. Also, today was Chris Huber's birthday. For those who don't know, he's Jeremy's drum tech and the voice of "The Beast". He came out and everybody sang Happy Birthday, that was a good moment. The Build Me a Song section of this show was probably the funniest among all three nights. I couldn't help but think where do these people who get onstage come from? The guy who had to sing a melody for Steve was the funniest I've ever seen. The first groove that they came up with was very reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, so Steve started to sing the first few notes of it - not as high as Plant, obviously! But then that was replaced with something else, of course. I like how the band can take a pedestrian idea and turn it into something interesting. I also love Steve's speech at the end of the show, I find it very moving.
Of the three concerts that Steve played in Italy this time, all things considered, the one in Florence was probably the best. Having said that, I believe that, speaking in general, this show is the best that Steve has ever come up with. The guys in the band are so connected with each other that it's amazing, and to me Steve is really getting closer and closer to every note that he plays. If you come to one of these shows, you don't miss the old days, so to speak. At least for me, it is so. Another thing that I cherish about these few days is that I got to hang out with some friends that, over time, I became really fond of. That's one of the good things that Steve is indirectly able to make happen, and that I'm really grateful for. After this tour, Steve won't come back with a show for quite some time, which is one of the reasons why I went to these three shows in Italy. For those of you who are still not sure about going to one of the shows, go! Ultimately, there are no adequate words for describing how good it is to be there, so you have to trust the good reviews on this and go.
In conclusion, I'll take the opportunity to say thank you to everybody (band, crew members, assistants, etc.) that is on this tour, making this wonderful thing happen. Then I want to say the biggest Thank You that I'm capable of to Steve (if he ever reads this) for the time spent with us during these few days, for his kind words, for everything that he does and, most importantly, for being who he is. See you next time.
I enjoyed reading your reviews:) Having seen the show last week I would like to add my own observations and a bit of constructive criticism if anyone cares to read:))
I saw Steve last year in November (Vienna show) and last week again. Before that back in 1996-the last show of the US Fire Garden tour (this exact show actually! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yY3NyOv9KVo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OchCnWil61A
) and then in 2005 on the RI tour. Now I really enjoyed these two shows on the Story of Light tour very much. The band is incredibly tight and they obviously know the music to the last detail, the shows are long and diverse and quite entertaining. I brought people to the show that had never heard Steve's music and they really enjoyed the show as well, which is a great thing.
Having said that I'm fairly certain that I will never enjoy a Vai show more than the 1996 gig. It was just a full on wild, rock show back then, it's the kind of show I enjoy the most and as far I'm concerned Steve was at his best. It did have a lot to do with that particular period of time but there was also just something about those shows, the band and the music at the time that was just "magic". I can't help but feel that the combination of Mike Keneally, Mike Mangini and Philip Bynoe was simply as great as could be and was the perfect fit for Steve's music. The whole experience back then just resonated with me on every level. Too bad I couldn't catch Steve on the Ultra Zone tour as it was the last time he had that lineup together.
Now, obviously 17 years later I don't expect to see the same show or the same band for that matter but I do feel that these recent shows I saw are quite different in certain aspects.
The main difference I feel is that the recent shows are very "rehearsed" IMO, if you know what I mean. Having seen 2 shows 10 months apart they were practically identical...maybe except for the acoustic rendition of The Moon and I (which was really quite nice, although I do miss the great solo section) and the new song about love (which was very interesting). I totally get why that is, as it probably makes a whole lot of things run much more smoothly on the tour, but I do think that it takes away a bit of the spontaneity from the shows. The second time around I basically knew what was coming next. Really the only other sections where the shows are different are the few improvisational parts in a few of the songs. The setlist doesn't change 98% of the time, as far as I'm aware.
I also think that the music is now more specific than it used to be. It's the obvious evolution in Steve's composing and playing, which is now more "sonic" (a lot of sound manipulation throughout.) and more exotic sounding where before it was just more balls out rock. I miss things/songs like the Crossroads duel, There's a Fire in the House, The Attitude Song, Greasy Kids Stuff, Aching Hunger, Erotic Nightmares, I Would Love To, Little Alligator or Call it Sleep in the set.
Also, I could do without the whole light-laser-suit spectacle. I feel it's a bit unnecessary. I does make for a nice visual aspect but IMO the music suffers as a result. Both times I saw the Ultra Zone played, it was hard to tell what Steve was playing as the guitar was buried behind the backing tracks in the mix and also in a wall of smoke:). It also seemed like the momentum was somewhat lost after this song in the set. Not complaining, just the way I feel.
Now these are all only very small personal gripes I have that do not at all diminish the greatness of the shows because they are quite excellent overall, it's just a few points I wanted to raise. The first Vai show I saw simply raised the bar too high for all future gigs for me. I'm totally grateful that Steve is still out there giving it his all every night and taking part of the EVO experience recently only made me more grateful that artists like him still exist in this day and age. I hope he keeps on going for years to come.