So… When I heard the Steve Vai show in Napa, California had been rescheduled to early December, I knew I had to go. I have photographed him once before at a benefit show in Los Angeles for a couple of songs but, this was him doing his music. Man, I was sure glad I got the opportunity, given this was the next to the last show on the Inviolate tour.
As I made the 20 minute trip to the Uptown Theatre in Napa, California, I knew it was going to be an epic night. The Uptown Theatre was built in 1937 in downtown Napa and has hosted some of the finest musicians in the industry. Holding only 857 people and it being just shy of 100 feet from the last row to the stage, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. I fortunately, had the best seat in the house, behind my camera.
What can be said about Steve Vai that hasn’t already been said? This man is a juggernaut with a guitar. A phenom if you will. Right from the first notes of “Avalanachia”, the audience was captivated by his brilliance. With each song came a new guitar and more amazing riffs. When it was time for “Bad Horsie”, it was intro’d by a scene from the movie Crossroads with Ralph Macchio. After the intro, Vai broke in to the track and proved without a shadow of a doubt, that he was the true winner of the duel.
A couple of times during the night, he picked up the mic and said a few words. The first time explaining that he had tore his shoulder while, of all things, making pizza was the reason why the original show was canceled. Another time to introduce the band and crew and how thankful he was that he has had such a long relationship with his team.
The biggest highlight was what everyone was waiting for. The unveiling of “The Hydra” guitar for the song “Teeth of the Hydra”. This is a beast of a guitar sporting three-necks that host 7 and 12-string guitars; a 4-string ¾ scale length bass; 13 sympathetic harp strings; half-fretless necks; single-coil, humbucking, piezo, MIDI and sustainer pickups; floating and hardtail tremolo bridges and phase splitters. This has to be the most insane guitar ever created and takes a master to wield it. Vai did it with style and flair. And while that was the big moment, every song was a moment for this crowd. Each song ended in a standing ovation and rousing applause.
On “For the Love of God”, he had one lady from the front row stand up and approach the stage where she gave his guitar a kiss. Moments later he had another approach the stage where he had her strum the guitar. What a memory for a couple of fans! The show finished up with a one song encore in which he waled down the side steps and into the adoring crowd, making magic the entire time.
Steve Vai’s touring band
Steve Vai – guitars
Dave Weiner – guitar, keyboards
Phillip Bynoe – bass
Jeremy Colson – drums
Dante Frisiello – guitar tech, guitars
Dani Gonzalez Suarez – vocals, guitar, monitors
Follow Steve Vai on social media:
Photographer of about 10 years, I have been shooting concerts for about 8 of those years. I started to get serious about concert photography about 6 or 7 years ago and now try to shoot as many as I can. I shoot mostly rock but, have done some country and big band stuff. I love music and since I am nowhere close to being a musician, this is a way I can be a small part of what, in the words of Henry Rollins, “gets me through the highs, the lows and everything in between”.