Last night Steve Vai and his band The Breed (Billy Sheehan, Tony MacAlpine, Dave Weiner, and Jeremy Colson) hit Chicago on the Real Illusions: Reflections tour.
This time around Steve put together a special package for his fans in which, for an extra fee, you were able to attend a meet and greet with him, where he would hold a Q&A session with you, and then you would attend the soundcheck before the concert. The package is called the EVO Premium Experience.
It was absolutely amazing.
The total number of people to purchase the package looked to be about 20-30. This made for a very intimate environment in which we could ask Steve questions and just sit and listen to him answer them. The whole discussion was fascinating, especially around one question asked about inspiration and how he comes up with the music he writes. Steve tried to explain the process, in which he visualizes the song in seconds, and in some cases it takes months to realize the original vision. Listening to him describe this process was incredible. You constantly wanted to pinch yourself to make sure you weren’t dreaming.
Steve is a very gracious host and consistently attempts to make eye contact with everyone he is talking to. The Q&A was extremely intimate and worth the extra money in and of itself.
As an added bonus, the people in the room now know the “secret” to the Secret Jewel Box box set we had bought in 2001 and have been collecting as the CD’s come out. I’ll leave that for you to figure out though.
Once the Q&A ended, we were escorted to the main stage where we were allowed to watch and take pictures of the soundcheck as it was happening. This included the whole band and was really cool to watch. I’ve never seen a soundcheck before and I was amazed at a lot of the things that go on during it. What is most amazing is that as Steve was on the stage, he was telling the sound guy the exact adjustments to make to the sound board. I guess that just shows the ear that the guy has.
When the soundcheck concluded, Steve signed autographs on guitars and CD’s. Jonna had bought a special copy of Ultra Zone for him to sign (pictured to the left), as our wedding song was “I’ll Be Around” from this CD. She told him this as he was signing it and he said she was the third person to tell him that they had used that song for their wedding.
Once the EVO portion of the day was over, we took a break, where we had to take the camera back to the car and wait until the concert started. The opening act was Eric Sardinas. I’m not a big fan, so I was rather impatient for the Vai band to get on the stage. Eric played for about 40 minutes and then the stage went dark as we waited for the band to come out.
The concert was incredible. They did a perfect mix of the material off of all of the albums (except Ultra Zone). The highlight of the show for me was finally being able to see “Whispering a Prayer” and “Lotus Feet” live. These beautiful songs are, in my opinion, the essence of Steve Vai as a musician and, after the experience yesterday, as a person as well. Being in the front row just capped off the experience.
I need to also add that the band that Steve has put together is the “Dream Team” of music. You couldn’t dream of a better band than the five guys that were running around that stage.
There are very few times in life when dreams come true. I have idolized Steve Vai since I was a sophmore in high school and had my first exposure to him through a release of “Blue Powder” in a Guitar Player Magazine insert. I have followed him through the David Lee Roth days, through Whitesnake, and through all of his solo albums. The thought of ever meeting him was one of those things that I never thought would have been possible.
Actually meeting him was surreal. Rather than having an image built up of someone and meeting them only to have the image crushed, Steve Vai lives up to the image. He is a very sweet, humble, down to earth guy who is extremely appreciative of his fans and recognizes the importance they hold for him in their lives. The importance of music in his life is also something you cannot walk away from him without seeing.
This experience is something I will never forget. I have now completed another one of those “things to do before I die” items on my list.
Thanks Steve, for the great memory.