I watched this DVD last night – a concert that happened in Denver last year with three of my favourite guitarists, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. I probably have 8 or so albums by the three of them combined, and they’re all amazing shredmonsters. I even confess to my Yngwie-worship on my home page. You can catch a little bit of the magic here. Consider this a sort-of-review, just because it was fun.
Satch looks like the uncoolest grandpa around, with his orange-lenses glasses, jeans and t-shirt and the dorkiest quasi-bucket hat I’ve ever seen, but plays like the legend he is. His songs have a huge range and are very melodic, and his technical prowess is amazing. He also has the restraint not to just shred all over everything.
Steve Vai used to look like a really evil/cool young rock god – especially in the suspect but fun Ralph Macchio (!) movie Crossroads. Now he looks like that cool and rather handsome longhaired university professor with the tiny glasses, and wears rather flamboyant silky shirts in stylish prints. He was a student of Satriani’s at one stage.
Suzie always teases me when I play guitar for my ‘guitar face’ – the tendency to purse the lips and raise the eyebrows in perfect harmony with every string-bend. Mine has nothing on Steve’s! His face is all over the map from pursed lips to a wide open snarl, and looks like it does more work than his fingers.
He starts out on a triple-necked guitar (12-string, 6-string and fretless 6-string) and, with the help of a delay pedal, credibly plays all three necks at once. The cynic in me knows it’s gimmicky, but the geek in me enjoys it anyway. Steve also does a lot more (enjoyable) messing about, doing dueling guitars type stuff with some of his backing guitarists and with bassist Billy Sheehan and guitar/keyboard player Tony MacAlpine (also legends). At one point these three and one other guitarist are all playing side by side, each doing the left hand playing on the neck of another guitar, if you can imagine that. His songs are great too, with a real range from the beautiful and ethereal to the all out boogie stompers.
Then Yngwie comes out, and he’s just too rawk for words: black leather pants, cowboy boots, black velvet shirt open down the front, lots of big, long hair – and a chubby face and serious beergut! He does high kicks over the audience, spins his guitar around his neck, plays it with his teeth, switches it for a disposable one which he smashes to pieces… He comes out to the mic and yells “Do you know what time it is? It’s time to rock!” It could be a joke or a cliche, but his playing just transforms it into a definite moment for raising the horns and yelling. His ‘neo-classical’ riffs are just astonishing, and his whole playing style just blows me away. It’s not all about speed, but his speed is blistering, and the playing is incredibly melodic and well articulated at that speed. His longtime keyboardist Jens Johannson plays as fast and as well as him, and their duels are just amazing. I have to say, Yngwie’s was the set I enjoyed the most by far.
Which made it triply frustrating that some truly craptastic mixing on the final 3-song jam with all 3 guitarists completely buried Yngwie’s guitar so that you could barely hear him at all. Arrgghh.
All in all, definitely an evening well spent for the guitar freak – but that last little fault made me glad I rented the DVD rather than bought it.