'Serious guitar music geeks' gather at casino
Guitar hero Steve Vai hypnotizes Chandler audience

Steve Vai CD

Entering through the large glass-and-gold chrome doors at Wild Horse Pass Casino is very daunting to me.  I am immediately hit by the brightness of flashing prismatic lights above the rows of slot machines. So much color in the huge high ceiled, ornately decorated room. Totally lost and overwhelmed in this vast room, I ask the serious looking female guard directions to the theater.  The concert hall will not be hard to find but walking through a smoky room full of zombie like people with glazed-over eyes, sitting mesmerized by slot machines frightens me. The only time a customer moves or show signs of life is when the portable drink cart comes by. I walk by tables where games I have never played are in process while the players sit there intently. The only positive thing about wandering through this maze of daze is hearing Led Zeppelin over their excellent sound system.
Thankfully, there is no smoking in the casino’s small theater where rock guitar virtuoso, Steve Vai is to play. He is a highly rated and respected guitarist who played with Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth of Van Halen and Whitesnake.) The show is in an intimate setting, and before the concert begins the audience stands, waiting at the bar or the at merchandise table. I wait 20 minutes to make my purchases, a Steve Vai photo and a CD/DVD, “The Story of Life,” that are both autographed. The predominately male audience contains many devoted Vai fans as most of them buy multiple items like t-shirts, music books, CDs and photos.

After an hour wait, Vai appears on stage to an enthusiastic audience, and to my surprise everyone stays seated since at most concerts I attend, the audience stands for every song. Everyone listens attentively and I enjoy sitting, relaxing and watching an artist perform without distractions. Vai will play for just under three hours, and although the show is vocal-less with the exception of two songs, I stay interested. Although a perfect guitar technician, he is very much the showman. When he says he will attempt to sing one of his songs, I learn he is not much of a singer while his vocals distract from his intricate compositions and skilled playing. He throws himself so much into his music that he moves as a graceful dance and makes faces while he performs. The thin dark haired Vai dresses very much the rock star and changes outfits four times, favoring bright multi-colored shirts, embroidered and patterned pants and hats. During the funky song, “Ultra Zone,” he comes out onto a blackened stage in an outfit and helmet that is covered with lights and with lights on his fingers. The effect is dazzling. He renders guitar tricks such as playing behind his head and blowing on the strings while never missing a note. “Weeping China Doll” from the new CD stands out for its complex structure and its combination of a beautiful melody with mournful notes.
Vai is personable and talks regularly to the audience and makes jokes. Near the end of the show he calls two volunteers up to the stage. He asks them to each hum an original tune and then he turns their tunes into a musical composition right on the spot.
The three hours pass quickly and the concert is almost over. The audience stands for the encore and everyone gathers in the pit to get a closer look at this extraordinary musician. He plays one of his most well known and complex songs, “For the Love of God,” and it as beautiful live as the recorded version.  Before exiting, he walks around the stage shaking hands while talking to excited members of the audience. It was worth navigating the unknown waters of the casino to witness Vai’s performance.

Email Puma Press at pumapress@paradisevalley.edu

Puma PVCC Home PagePress Editor BlogsPVCC Event CalendarPuma Press YouTubePVCTV Videos pumapress@pvmail.maricopa.edu Slideshows Editor's Profiles  
Follow @pumapress