Steve Vai lets his guitar do the talking

Vai stopped at the Birchmere outside DC on his Inviolate Tour.

Guitar god Steve Vai took the legendary stage at Birchmere Tuesday night (Oct 25th) and played nonstop for 25 minutes before stopping to welcome the crowd.

The 3x Grammy winner plowed through 20 of his instrumental rock hits. They ran the gambit of feeling from heavy headbangers, to sexy and contemplative. There was even a majestic vibe on penultimate song “Liberty.” During this number, imagery of DC scrolled in the background to make this the perfect song for him to play in the DMV.

Vai (prounced like V”eye,” which is helpfully indicated by his hieroglyphic-inspired logo) opened the show with his beloved “BO” guitar with blue LED fret inlays. This was followed by the appearance of one of his white iconic “FLO” guitars.

Draped in a flowing green over shirt, Vai shredded for two hours and ten minutes. He rarely stopped to address the crowd. Rather, he let his guitar handy work do the talking. A light show — one perhaps a bit too grand for the built-in intimacy of the Birchmere but likely queued for his theater shows — accompanied every beat with dazzling precision.

Vai himself seemed to emote on every note. He was not just playing a guitar. That instrument is a part of his body. He let the wind of a small fan blow through his hair as he let the songs flow from his soul. Often, he would watch his own playing with such intensity, the audience was drawn to watching his fingers fly. At the end of each song, he’d point upward and look out, as if saying “wait,” only to add another layer of complexity as the song climaxed.

Watching Steve Vai is nearly indescribable. His is a playing style so far and away unmatched, one has to ask if this is not otherworldly. At one point, he replaced his band mates entirely with just 1 instrument. He decimated the crowd with a triple necked guitar/rhythm guitar/bass combination. One would think the roof were about to have a hole burned in it from the sound that came out of that beast.

He is currently touring in support of his new album, Inviolate, which was released in January. Just when it seems Steve Vai has done everything humanly (and super-humanly) possible with a guitar, he unlocks more.

Matt Bailey
Matt Bailey

Matt Bailey is podcast producer and writer located in the Northeast. Since 2013, Bailey has produced more than 160 episodes of his own online radio show, Talk For Two. In 2016 alone, he interviewed Kevin Bacon, Crystal Gayle, Bob Barker, and Gilbert Gottfried, among several other stars. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, his focus is Broadway, country music and concert reviews.