at Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, Norway, October 9, 2005

STEVE VAI (Live at Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo, Norway, October 9, 2005)
Photo: Per Olav Heimstad

Rockefeller Music Hall was completely packed this Sunday evening when guitar legend extraordinaire Steve Vai came to perform his first concert in Norway for a long time. The crowd sported some of the compulsory pairings of respectably dressed dads accompanying underage wannabe shredders with the beginnings of Metal haircut and worn-out black T-shirts — then some chubby, pale, 30-somethings who quit shredding when they enrolled in the university — then some more jazzy-looking guys in for the bass-solo and the acoustic part — and the Norwegian shred scene was also present in the shape of Tore Østby (Conception, Ark), Jørn Viggo Lofstad (Pagan’s Mind) and Marcus Silver (Griffin).

The support act, Eric Sardinas –- who actually got almost louder crowd cheering than Vai at some occasions –- also had his part of the crowd. Presumably he was the reason for the considerable amount of bikers and rockabilly guys present. Sardinas definitely delivered the goods too, he blasted through a very entertaining Blues/Rock set, highlighted by his phenomenal bluesy voice, slide guitar with a Bud bottle used as a slide, and a drummer – arguably a Patrick Catcher or something – who delivered a performance of true thunder and groove.

Steve Vai and his extraordinarily competent band, complete with Billy Sheehan on bass, Tony MacAlpine on harmony guitars/keyboards, Dave Weiner on rhythm guitars/electric sitar, and Jeremy Colson on drums/percussion/floor/walls/whatever. The extreme skill of these five musicians was both the biggest pro and the biggest con concerning this performance. On one hand, they were able to deliver a show almost unparalleled in Rock ‘n’ Roll both in terms of technical skill and sheer enjoyment of playing –- very few have put down more hours into practicing their instrument than someone like Vai or Sheehan, and thus it is probably as enjoyable for them to show off what skills they’ve aquired. On the other hand, like it was to some extent this evening, the musicianship morphs into a sheer orgy of instrumentalism, and just becomes a bit too much for all but the most hardcore guitar geeks. It’s not that they show off all the time –- no one can ever accuse these players (although former Malmsteen rip off MacAlpine has a rather dark past in that aspect) of being unemotional widdlers, show-offs, or something similar, it’s just that it becomes “too much” from time to time. When the clock passes 10-15 minutes without a single spoken word and a single step outside the world of the Lydian mode –- like it did in the middle of the first set –- the players have come dangerously close to an overload of musical wizardry. This comment is also, to some extent, a criticism of the set list –- short, catchy songs like “Juice,” “The Attitude Song,” or (in a dream world) “Shy Boy” could have helped break things up a bit.

Things got considerably better after the acoustic set, though, when songs like a very good version of “I’m the Hell Outta Here” and the downright incredible set of encores – “Liberty,” the Zappa classic “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama,” and “For The Love Of God” shined like pearls on a (guitar-) string. Other highlights were “The Audience Is Listening,” “Whispering A Prayer,” and the very cool “Building a Church,” from Vai’s latest studio effort “Real Illusions: Reflections.”

The acoustic set could have been shortened down a little, though, and it also had too much of a jam-session feel to it than an organized concert. Drummer Colson –- otherwise an excellent musician –- also displayed a shortage in jazzy feel here as he got a bit too straight and rockish during the more flowing parts. Together with MacAlpine and Weiner having a terrible, buzzy, distorted sound –- a bit of a trademark, it seems –- was that Vai’s clean sound was way to processed and harsh in the beginning … these are about the only complaints one can find concerning the musical side of the evening. The section where they were switching instruments/playing on each other’s necks more than made up for this, though.

Vai was in great spirits throughout, giving the lively crowd exactly what they wanted in terms of weird, semi-geeky humor, pre-produced jokes, and the trademark “a day in the life of Jeremy Colson” story, this time being about Colsons adventures in Eric Sardinas’ touring bus. (“Where exotic dance clubs have two or sometimes three X’es (like in a XXX-show), Eric Sardinas’ touring bus has nothing less than 7 X’es!”).

All in all, a relatively cozy evening, which would have been truly great if shortened down from its almost 3 hours of playing time. Still, every guitarist (or bassist) on the planet should check out Steve Vai live. Despite the minor criticisms, this is pretty impressive stuff.


Glorious Steve
The Audience Is Listening
Building a Church
Crying Machine
K’M Pee Du Wee
Dave Weiner solo spot
The Reaper
Whispering A Prayer
Freak Show Excess
Tony MacAlpine solo spot


Melissa’s Garden
Rescue Me
Boy Girl Song
Red Bull
Call It Sleep
Pusa Road
Jeremy Colson solo spot


Midway Creatures
Billy Sheehan solo spot
I’m Becoming
Lotus Feet
I’m The Hell Outta Here


My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama
For The Love Of God


  • Torgeir P. Krokfjord

    Torgeir was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. After hearing Malmsteen's "Vengeance" on a guitar mag CD at the age of 12 or 13, he began doing hopeless interpretations of Yngwie licks and it just took off from there. After shorter stints at other zines he was snatched to Metal Express Radio in 2003. Alongside Yngwie, Savatage, WASP, Symphony X, Blind Guardian, Emperor, Arch Enemy, In Flames, Opeth, Motörhead, Manowar, and Queensrÿche are a quick list of musical faves. Torgeir is also guitarist in the Heavy/Prog/Thrash outfit Sarpedon.

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