On the first night of November, in the wake of Halloween, fans lined the streets of New Haven, Connecticut, awaiting a unique performance from one of music’s most respected guitarists. His diverse musical career has led him to take on titles such as “virtuoso guitarist”, “visionary composer”, and “consummate producer”. His reputation precedes him. He is Steve Vai.
Steve Vai – College Street Music Hall
New Haven, Connecticut – 1 November 2022
Words and Photography: Shannon Wilk
The one and only artist taking the stage that night at the College Street Music Hall, Steve Vai and his band of talented guns for hire, stepped out onstage promptly at 8 PM. The set started with the band’s drummer Jeremy Colson pounding on the toms as Vai prowled from stage right.
The night kicked off with Avalancha, from the band’s 2022 release Inviolate. Unlike what I was expecting, this was not an ordinary rock n’ roll show by any means. The entire building was packed but all the patrons were sitting, mesmerized by the maestro on the stage before them.
With a variety of Ibanez guitars, Steve Vai moved his fingers along the fretboard with ease and grace. Between the slowest and fastest lines of musical poetry, the hall was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
After a few songs, Vai takes the mic and explains why this tour was postponed and tells a story of getting injured while making pizza. Sharing this story humanized this guitar god and gave the audience a moment to pick their jaws up off the floor.
The band takes it back to 1995 for Tender Surrender from the GRAMMY award-winning EP, Alien Love Secrets. Fast forwarding in time, we were back to Vai’s newer material with Lights Are On, released in 2016 and Candlepower from this year’s album.
Unlike most bands, not only was the set filled with instrumentals from Vai, but it also featured spotlight solos for each of the band members. Starting with a bass solo from Phillip Bynoe, followed by a guitar solo by David Weiner, and last but certainly not least, drummer Jeremy Colson with a ripping drum solo later on in the set.
Throughout his two-hour career-spanning set, Steve Vai rocked a collection of beautiful Ibanez guitars, but of course, the highlight was his brainchild, the Hydra. This mystical instrument features two guitar necks, one bass neck, and a variety of harp-like contraptions.
After more than three decades in the industry, 15 million album sales and three GRAMMYs, this is one of the most unique creations in Vai’s career. The night ended with a ripping performance of Fire Garden Suite I – Bull Whip.