Mailbag 34

>I have been a huge fan of yours since the Zappa days! I own the vinyl albums of PIL and ‘Disturbing The Peace’, and even took a chance on a record by an unknown guitarist based on your (pre-Roth) recommendation of his work (FYI – it was “Not Of This Earth” by Satch, the vinyl version).

I want to thank you for the immense enjoyment you have given me over the years, and am looking forward to your new boxed set.

I am including for your reading pleasure a review of the 10/26/1996 G3 concert. Please feel free to share it with other Vai-fanatics. Thank you!

Mark J. Rabuffo


G3 – Live in NYC

Saturday night, October 26, 1996. The biggest happening in New York City was not Game 6 of the World Series. The main event, at least for fans of guitar virtuosity, was occurring at The Beacon Theatre. The Big Three of instrumental guitar music were in town putting on a showcase not to be missed.

Steve Vai. Eric Johnson. Joe Satriani. The names conjure up images of high volume, fleet-fingered picking, mind-boggling two-handed tapping, and extreme whammy damage! And Saturday night’s show certainly lived up to its billing.

The opening of the show, however, was a solo acoustic set performed by Adrian Legg. He was a wonderful contrast to the electrified bands he preceded. Indeed, Mr. Leggs’ virtuosity was apparent immediately as he performed a number of compositions which thrilled the crowd. But, there was no doubt who we were there to see when the lights went out and the opening of Steve Vai’s “There’s a Fire in the House” began.

Steve Vai began this night of ruptured eardrums with a number of cuts from his recently released CD “Fire Garden”. It was obvious why he was chosen to start the show – his enthusiasm was infectious as he really worked the crowd into a frenzy. The highlight of Steve’s set was arguably his rendition of “For the Love of God”, which he opened by explaining how he first “heard” the song as a young man listening to headphones. Steve also sang “Little Alligator”, which sounded surprisingly good for a man not known for his vocal ability.

Steve’s band was hot! Especially Mike Keneally, on keyboards and second guitar. Just to hear my favorite Vai tune, “The Attitude Song”, performed by Vai and Keneally made my night! It was also quite humorous since they played the song while both wearing “Cat in the Hat” hats and running crazily across the stage. An excellent start to the evening. The only glitch was that Vai’s guitar was often too low in the mix, and was occasionally drowned out by the rhythm section.

After a quick set change (I was impressed by the speed of the changes between sets – each was about 10 minutes and went off like clockwork!), Eric Johnson came on and promptly had to stand up on stage to wait for the soundman to return and shut off the intermission music!

Eric was in stark contrast to Steve Vai as he was quite reserved onstage, sometimes even playing with his back to the audience. But if his stage demeanor was shy, his music stood tall. He played only one vocal tune, “Rock my Plimsoul”; the rest were instrumental offerings from his three CDs. I was happy about this since, as much as I love his voice, I agree with the late Frank Zappa’s immortal line “Shut up and play your guitar!”. This also stayed true to the spirit of the tour and allowed us to hear Eric really let loose. This was especially evident on his signature tune, “Cliffs of Dover”. He began all alone with very loose, sparse playing, eyes closed, occasionally teasing us with a few bars of the introduction, then eventually reaching a crescendo of 32nd notes amid thunderous applause.

After another quick set change, Satch came on. By this time, there was no one left in their seats. We were all standing, bopping with Joe. He looked very cool on stage, dressed in dark sunglasses and shaved head. He was obviously enjoying himself immensely as he did not look this loose when I last saw him perform. He also performed a stunning set of blistering instrumentals, at one point leaving the stage for Stu Hamm to showcase his bass vistuosity. And when Joe’s set ended, neither he nor his band left the stage.

The highlight of the show was the jamming at then end! Joe introduced Steve Vai, then Eric Johnson, then promptly went into Jeff Becks’ “Going Down”. WOW! This was followed up by Steve Vai and Mike Keneally singing Zappa’s “My Guitar Wants to Kill Yer Mama”. More cool jamming! Then, a rousing version of Hendrix’s “Red House”. It was almost too much to bear!

Mark J. Rabuffo