Steve Vai

Guitarist Steve Vai Bends Ears and Strings at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, Georgia, Sunday, October 16, 2022

 

Located in the eclectic downtown Atlanta neighborhood of Little Five Points, the Variety Playhouse welcomed guitar virtuoso Steve Vai to town on Sunday night. Erected in 1940, this converted World War II era movie theater is one of the more intimate and charming musical venues around town, with a posted capacity of 1,000. The main seating area has theater-style chairs, and while I have been at shows where the front area of the stage (which is only about four feet tall) remained as general admission space, Vai’s show was sold as reserved seating which allowed for great audience viewing down in front.

Out on the road supporting his latest release Inviolate, Vai had a previously unannounced opener appear in Grammy Award-winning producer, engineer and performer Larry Mitchell from Opelika, Alabama. Mitchell warmed up the early crowd as a solo artist, playing his Knaggs guitar to a backing track. Having toured the world supporting well-known artists including Tracy Chapman, Billy Squier and Ric Ocasek, Mitchell’s skill and talent is unquestionable. I loved the groove and tone of his guitar playing, and at one point a fan next to me even made the comment that Mitchell had a bit of a King’s X vibe to him. Mitchell will be out on the road with Vai for the next six tour dates, ending with the Charlotte, North Carolina, show on Sunday, October 23rd.

 

 

 

Vai, backed by Philip Bynoe (bass), Jeremy Colson (drums), and Dave Weiner (guitar/keyboards), took the smoke-filled stage at precisely 8:00pm to the opening tune of “Avalancha” from Inviolate. Unlike when you see Vai perform on the Generation Axe tour among other great guitarists, his solo show is really just a special opportunity to focus and absorb his mastery in person. Vai plays with such grace that his fingers seemingly just dance up and down the fret board, producing both melodic and demonic tones on command. For as talented as he is, Vai seemingly just takes all the adulation and audience affection in an ego-free stride, even joking at one point that he “heard Jeff Beck was just in town” and that “his (Vai’s) jack inputs closed up because Jeff is ‘the chosen one'”.

Following a Colson drum solo, where he absolutely killed the skins, the band powered through my favorite part of the night, starting with the unveiling of The Hydra guitar. This nearly 30-pound beast featuring three necks (7 and 12-string guitars, and a 4-string 3/4 scale length bass) was placed on a stand with a weight bag for Vai to play the jaw-dropping “Teeth of the Hydra.” Just watch the video below; writing about it wouldn’t do the performance justice.

The band wrapped up their main setlist with back-to-back tracks from the 1990 Passion and Warfare release, “Liberty” and “For the Love of God,” followed by an encore performance of “Taurus Bulba” from Vai’s 2009 release, Where the Wild Things Are. Capping off the two-hour-plus concert, Vai spent the finale walking back and forth across the stage, leaning down at times both to allow fans to press his whammy bar and to ask them to take guitar picks off his headstock tape as souvenirs.

Vai and team continue on to Clearwater, Florida, on Tuesday, October 18th, and journey on across the country through December 3rd, where the Inviolate tour will wrap up at The Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

 

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

 

 

Setlist:

1.) Avalancha
2.) Giant Balls of Gold
3.) Little Pretty
4.) Tender Surrender
5.) Lights Are On
6.) Candle Power

Dave Weiner solo

7.) Building the Church
8.) Greenish Blues
9.) Bad Horsie
10.) I’m Becoming
11.) Whispering a Prayer
12.) Dyin’ Day

Jeremy Colson drum solo

13.) Teeth of the Hydra
14.) Zeus in Chains
15.) Liberty
16.) For the Love of God

Encore

17.) Taurus Bulba

 

 

 

 

 

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Elliott is a music photographer covering shows in the Atlanta, Georgia and the surrounding area. The highlight of his photography career was back in the early 90s, selling Neil Diamond the rights to his negatives from a show and purchasing a set of tires for his 1979 280ZX during college with the money.

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