Guitar virtuoso Steve Vai dealt with a nagging shoulder injury for nearly four years before having surgery in early 2021.
The procedure repaired three of his tendons. Vai felt the surgery put him in a good place to hit the road in early 2022 for a North American tour that superseded a world tour.
However, it wasn’t meant to be, as Vai ruptured another tendon and required another surgery.
Although Vai was initially disappointed to postpone the first leg of the tour to the fall 2022, he squeaked through his European jaunt without incident. He says he feels confident heading into his long-awaited North American run.
“When you’re onstage, everything changes I slipped into my conventional performance mode, and I just started doing things I shouldn’t have been doing and I had to tone it down,” he says.
Vai noticed during his initial run in Europe that he concentrated harder on shredding the strings as opposed to galivanting around the stage, which was different for the veteran string plucker.
“One of the things I discovered on the last tour was, as a musician, you’re concerned about where you’re heading with your physical abilities because virtuoso-style musicians can be confronted with issues the older that they get, much like athletes,” Vai says.
Because of this, Vai says his shows are toned down.
“The shows are a little more refined than my past shows, where I used to do like three-and-a-half, four-hour shows where I would change my clothes and incorporate elements of theater into the show,” Vai says. “But on my previous tour, I limited (the show) to two hours just to see what it would be like, and I felt nice.”
Although Vai’s show will be more condensed, he says he feels that fans will still enjoy the intimate show, especially at the Celebrity Theatre — the same venue he played at during his first tour with Frank Zappa in 1980.
“For those that follow what I do and like what I do, I think they’re going to be pretty excited because with my last record, ‘Inviolate,’ it was all just in-your-face melody, and melody is king,” Vai says. “If you have melody, you can seduce people that don’t know who you are, don’t care who you are and don’t even really like what you do. But if it has a melody that they can resonate with, that’s usually the thing that is the most touching.”
Though Vai plans to melodiously float his way into the hearts of the entire audience, guitar gear heads can rejoice, as Vai plans to bring up to 10 guitars on tour. He teases that, if his shoulder can withstand it, he could bring a guitar that was famously used to record the tune “Teeth of the Hydra.”
“I still have to bring probably about 10 (guitars), because if I go out there and I do a song that requires a seven-string guitar, I have to bring a spare, and if I do a song that has acoustic, I have to bring two, etc.,” Vai says.
In addition to the excitement of shredding on myriad guitars, Vai is thrilled to play his most recent record, “Inviolate,” which hit the airwaves in January.
“It always feels good when you’re playing fresh material from your newest record, and I’ve been noticing that there are certain songs, like ‘Little Pretty’ and ‘Zeus in Chains,’ from the record that the fans are loving that have gotten great reactions,” he says.
Whether fans go to hear Vai solo his way through his latest tracks or classics, Vai hopes that the audience harmonizes over a shared enjoyment of jamming to his melodies.
“Different people take away different things from my show. Some people take away the enjoyment of hearing the melodies; some people love the fascination of just the way my fingers move; and some people like the music, the band, and the energy of going out and seeing a live show,” he says.
Steve Vai: Inviolate Tour
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, October 2
WHERE: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix
COST: Tickets start at $40
INFO: celebritytheatre.com, vai.com