Few things in this life bring as much pleasure as watching or hearing Steve Vai play guitar. Now, with this two-disc DVD set, fans (and new initiates) are invited to do both. Recorded in London during a Red-Alert European tour in Fall 2001, Live At The Astoria London shows, once more, Vai's continued growth as both a performer and composer,the heights of his originality, the depths of his genius and, perhaps above all, his absolute and infinite passion for music.
An ace band, including Virgil Donati (Planet X, drums), Billy Sheehan (Talas, Mr. Big, David Lee Roth, bass), Tony MacAlpine (Planet X, guitar/keyboards) and Dave Weiner (guitar), matches the master's devotion, not just following him through pieces such as "Erotic Nightmares," "Giant Balls Of Gold" and "The Animal," but joining him, but meeting him measure-for-measure, note-for-note with unfathomable accuracy. Each member's willingness to bend to the whims of the music, to walk through fire (as they do on the aforementioned "Erotic Nightmares") or weep ("For The Love Of God") proves as admirable as Vai's courage in leading them through such glorious peril.
But even more remarkable is how quickly and deeply the music seeps into the listener/viewer's soul, whether through a tender rendition of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" (one of two Jimi covers here) or an unabashed ear bashing such as occurs in the ultimate encore piece, "The Attitude Song" (featuring Eric Sardinas). Of course no post-Alive In An Ultra World Vai concert would be complete without "Whispering A Prayer" in which the extraterrestrial axeman opens his soul to listeners, baring it with a clarity of expression that rivals that found in Jeff Beck's version of "Cause We've Ended As Lovers" and John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."
Not that this show is all highfalutin, though. Just as there's time for a hundred decisions and revisions and the bending and breaking of you and me, there's time for SV to go a little nuts as he does on the tale of the misbehavin' equine ("Bad Horsie"). There, he doesn't so much play music as poke and prod it, push and shove it, this and that it, in and out of dimension or the next it, here and there it and everywhere it, slowly gliding Most Patient Viewer/Listener to insanity or ecstasy or inecstasy. And how Most Patient Viewer/Listener does love it.
Fabulous solo performances from Donati and MacAlpine bend us back a little, as do the stellar pieces that Sheehan (Talas' "Shy Boy" and his own "Chameleon") and Wiener whip out on unsuspecting listeners. All of these ins-and-outs are chronicled in a commentary track featuring all members of the band save Donati. (Many of the verbal riffs are almost as entertaining as the musical ones.)
Disc two provides viewers with an inside look at Vai's world, featuring Weiner giving the audience a tour of the backstage area, Sheehan getting a lesson from his bass tech and an interview with über guitar tech Thomas Nordegg. Rehearsal footage, including "Giant Balls Of Gold" and "Erotic Nightmares" seals the deal, perhaps a little too soon for Vaihards, but soon enough to keep the mystery and magic alive.
Disc One: Live Performance
1. Shy Boy
2. Giant Balls Of Gold
3. Erotic Nightmares
4. Blood & Glory
5. Dave's Party Piece
6. Blue Powder
7. Crying Machine
8. The Animal
10. Tony MacAlpine Keyboard Solo
11. Bad Horsie
13. Down Deep Into The Pain
15. Little Wing
16. Whispering A Prayer
18. Virgil Donati Drum Solo
20. For The Love Of God
22. The Attitude Song
Disc Two: Bonus Features:
1. Dave's Super-informative Tour
2. Billy's Tofu Jack Russell Terrier
3. Steve's Needs
4. Billy's Bass Lesson
7. Thomas Nordegg Interview
8. Thomas' Guitar Lesson
9. LA Rehearsals
10. LA Rehearsals: Giant Balls Of Gold
11. LA Rehearsals: Erotic Nightmares
Plus: Vai Discography and Band Biographies
NTSC, Dolby 5.1 Surround Sound
Approximate Running Time: Four hours, including over two hours of live performance