It seems ages ago that I went to my last gig (The Eels, September 7th), but due to my hearing problems I had to take it easy and will have to for now. It meant I missed out on some fantastic gigs, which wasn’t very much fun, but then.. I only have one set of ears, so I better take it easy on them.
But although the doctor said I shouldn’t strain my ears with loud sounds, he didn’t say I wasn’t allowed to hear anything at all, so after nearly two months without gigs, climbing the walls and going completely nuts on seeing gigs go by that I had my heart set on, I decided that a little music should be possible and Steve Vai playing with the North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NNO) was an opportunity I did not want to miss.
I was very happy to see that a photography-pass was easily arranged. When I got to the venue -about an hour before the doors would open- the queue was already nearly outside the building. Busy evening. I got the photo-pass and joined the queue. Eventually the doors opened and the guards told me the usual: photography only the first three songs and no flash. I had my plans built around that. Two songs in the front, getting shots of Steve Vai and Steve + some of the orchestra and than the last song further back in the audience getting shots of the orchestra. But then the bad news hit. The photographers were informed that we would only get 5 minutes for photography. Later that was changed to 7 minutes. Oh well, I’d just have to focus on Steve Vai then.
Then the orchestra settled in and after that Steve Vai entered the stage. The first two/three minutes were spent with Steve conducting the orchestra (with his back to us) and also conducting the audience. Then he started playing with the orchestra and the song was over before I knew it. Darn… not many usable shots then. But when it’s over, it’s over.
I seated myself on the stairs back in the hall as all seats were sold out. So I managed to take in the rest of the first set without worrying about photography. It was fantastic. An impressive rhythm section with three of four extensive drumkits on various places on stage, a violin section, a cello section, horn section and what not. And Steve Vai in the midst of it all centre stage. Musically Steve is, I guess, the most logical choice. Like his once tutor Frank Zappa, Steve is a master in freaky rock music, permanent member of the G3 (Guitar Greatest) tours and played with so many artists besides having an impressive career of his own. But -also like Zappa- Steve is also keenly interested in orchestration and classical music. Both have written classical scores. Steve is also no stranger to playing with orchestra as he already played (and recorded) with the Dutch Metropole Orchestra back in 2007 (album: Sound Theory).
Now Steve Vai is back and this time with the NNO orchestra, for the Steve Vai Festival (four days in total). I attended the concert on Friday October 22nd. It started with three pieces played by Steve Vai. Opening with ‘Kill The Guy With The Ball’ with orchestra, then ‘The Murder’ played solo and then ‘Salamanders In The Sun’ with orchestra again. It was incredible, magical almost. A great blend between the electrical guitar and a full orchestra.
After that Steve left the stage and the full orchestra did the the same. The stage was reorganised and a piano was moved to the front of the stage. Mike Keneally was introduced to the audience. He rewrote some songs by Steve Vai for piano. While the idea may be interesting, I found the actual performance somewhat lacking substance. For me it just didn’t work on piano.
There was more after that. A performance of Yusperof on electric violin and another piece by Steve Vai and orchestra and then a full set of Steve Vai and orchestra after the break, but I left during Mike Keneally’s set to see another gig in Groningen. I was very much impressed by the combination of Steve Vai and the NNO, I just wish I’d have had a little more time for a more varied set of photos
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