Photos by Todd Radunsky
The Scene: Friday night was one of contrasts at Denver’s beautiful Boettcher Concert Hall as tuxedos sat next to tattoos, and the unmistakable sound of the electric guitar wove together seamlessly with the instruments of the Colorado Symphony. Unusual? Yes. But for a seasoned guitar virtuoso like Steve Vai, it’s just another night at the office.
Steve Vai: Vai, a three time Grammy award winner, took the stage front and center, for the Colorado Symphony’s “From Stravinsky to Vai” event and wow’d the crowd with his world class chops and technical prowess on the axe. Backed by about 75 orchestra members, Vai’s original compositions sounded superb.
The concert featured two sets. The first set was 5 pieces long with Vai sharing the stage with the symphony for the first two. The orchestra had the stage for the final 3 pieces in which they played delightful interpretations of Stravinsky’s “Song of the Nightingale” (excerpt) and “Symphony in Three Movements” (excerpt) as well as John Adam’s “Short Ride in a Fast Machine.”
Vai’s first appearance of the second set with the symphony brought something very interesting. Vai explained to the crowd that he was commissioned by the North Netherlands Orchestra to write a piece of music. He wanted to do something different…something meaningful. So he came up with the idea to play ONE note, for 17 minutes straight on his guitar, while the orchestra wove a musical blanket around that one note. Unusual? Yes. But for a genius musical mind like Steve Vai, it’s just another composition that is meaningful, thoughtful, and deep. Steve explained that the piece is a metaphorical one. The note he holds for 18 minutes represents our consciousness. Quiet. Peacful. Always there in the background of our mind and lives. Conversely, the orchestra plays around that one note. They represent the conscious mind. Our egos. The hustle and bustle of every day life. Constantly moving. Thinking. Flowing.
This was the first time that Via had played with an orchestra in the United States but I hope it’s not the last. It was a great musical learning experience. Between pieces, both Vai and Orchestra conductor Scott O’Neil were constantly pointing out the reasons behind the notes. Why the tempo was as it was, and what the essence of each piece was. Fabulous. Vai once again proved he can hold his own with the best musicians in the world. He is one of the all time greatest musicians both in terms of physical guitar playing, as well as composing music.