House of Blues (Dallas, TX)
– Words by Austin Reed / Photos by James Villa –
After watching guitar legend Steve Vai perform Friday night at House of Blues, I am compelled to take this review in several different directions. For example,
- He is gaunt. Steve Vai looks to weigh below 100 pounds, and he just so happens to have chosen a profession that expounds dramatically upon how bony and lanky his arms and fingers are. His cascading jawline is as rigid and angular as ever I’ve seen, and his skeletal figure bends and sways in ways that can only be described as, “severe,” though I’m sure that’s only because he’s throwing around about 70 fewer pounds than an average man his age. Nevertheless, it’s a detail worth mentioning about Steve Vai, because it no doubt plays into the fact that
- His demeanor is incredibly unorthodox. His eyes are open, and then his eyes are shut. Sometimes he winks at no one in particular. He tongues at every note he plays as if they are stuck in his teeth. He nods and shakes his head zealously and with zero pattern. He executes facial expressions that should be reserved for librarians reading aloud to kindergartners, as if after 34 years of performing, he’s just as surprised by his virtuosity as we are. On the whole, watching Steve Vai play guitar is almost as entertaining as listening to Steve Vai play guitar.
- He has one of the most diverse and harlequin fan bases I have ever witnessed. As I rounded the corner on the House of Blues floor a few yards shy of the stage, I saw a husband and wife with their two children standing not too far behind three guys with fully gauged ear piercings and Steve Vai t-shirts on. By the bar, I noticed a guy who was dressed like Ryan Cabrera purchasing drinks for a girl who looked like Dita Von Teese. But no matter how far-reaching the crowd was, they all seemed to share this universalized understanding of what makes Steve Vai so great. And that’s what this review is going to be about.
There’s very little to be said about meteoric musical talent. It exists, and we know it exists because there’s also very little to be done to contain it. But the concept of musical segmentation doesn’t really hold much weight until you witness meteoric musical talent, at which point you realize the difference between good music and truly great music. Artists like Steve Vai are around to remind us what the best sounds like.
Friday night at the House of Blues, Steve Vai’s Story of Light Tour electrified a near-capacity crowd with a 23-song set of crowd favorites, both old and new. Accompanied by a three-piece band and one off-center microphone, Vai went to work almost immediately, kicking off the set with, “Racing the World,” a Dick-Dale-for-the-modern-era groove from his most recent full-length, The Story of Light. “Racing The World,” was the perfect metronome for the rest of the evening—the set ebbed and flowed with soaring highs and composed lows, including an acoustic interlude midway through the first set by rhythm guitarist Dave Weiner. After a short break, Vai performed a seven-song acoustic set, providing a stunning lead-in to the five-song electric encore.
Steve Vai is notorious for crafting and curating some of the more aggressively complex lead guitar riffs in the history of rock and roll. His portfolio is a mile-long laundry list of the industry’s most notably ferocious performing acts (Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake, to name a few). His collarbone is pierced, for God’s sake. But Friday night’s performance proved effortlessly that brilliant music, no matter what it looks like, is a gift worth receiving whenever possible.