Virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai performs at F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre on July 30
From a press release:
A virtuoso guitarist, visionary composer, and consummate producer who has sculpted musical sound with infinite creativity and technical mastery for over 40 years, Vai has awed fans of all genres with his exceptional guitar skills and musicianship for decades. At age 12, he started taking guitar lessons from Joe Satriani. At 18, he began his professional music career transcribing for, and then playing with, Frank Zappa. More than three decades, over 15 million in album sales, and three Grammy Awards later, the 62-year-old New York native has proven himself, in his own right, to be one of music’s true originals.
Vai’s work has been recognized with a long list of awards and honors, including over 15 from Guitar Player magazine alone. His accomplishments have earned him honorary doctorates from Berklee College of Music and Musicians Institute. The 2016 Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductee was voted the 10th “Greatest Guitarist” by Guitar World magazine and consistently lands among the best in various lists of the top guitarists of all time.
He has toured the world as a solo artist, as a member of G3, and with Frank Zappa, David Lee Roth (just after Roth left Van Halen), Alcatrazz, and Whitesnake at the peak of their popularity. His full discography encompasses more than 60 albums, including many with Zappa and others from stints with Roth and Whitesnake, as well as live releases, collaborations, compilations, and orchestral works.
Doors at the Kirby Center (71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre) open at 6:30 p.m., and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Tickets, which are $39.50, $49.50, $59.50, $69.50, and $89.50, plus applicable fees, go on sale this Friday, June 2 at noon at the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and ticketmaster.com, and by phone at 570-826-1100. A Kirby Member pre-sale begins Thursday, June 1 at 10 a.m.
VIP packages are available online only. The “Meet & Greet EVO Experience” is $269.50, plus fees, and includes one premium ticket, a meet and greet and photo with Steve Vai, an invitation to a special pre-show conversation and Q&A with Vai, soundcheck viewing access, one commemorative VIP laminate, and VIP venue entry. The “Full on EVO Experience” is $389.50, plus fees, and includes one premium first row ticket, a meet and greet and photo with Vai, an invitation to a special pre-show conversation and Q&A with Vai, soundcheck viewing access, guided tour of Vai’s instruments and gear, one commemorative VIP laminate, and VIP venue entry.
In 2012, the TEC Foundation honored Vai with the prestigious Les Paul Award, created in 1991 to salute those who have set the highest standard of excellence in the creative application of technology. Past winners of the Les Paul Award include Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan, and Bob Clearmountain. In bestowing it on him, TEC noted, “Steve Vai’s sheer breathtaking facility on the guitar is acclaimed in the rock world and beyond. … Vai has dedicated his talents to creatively advance the language of music. While many artists fit easily into a single category, Steve Vai remains unclassifiable. He is a musical alchemist of the highest order.”
Other highlights of his career include his groundbreaking 1990 album “Passion and Warfare” and 2007’s “Sound Theories Vol. 1 & 2,” performed with the Netherlands’ Metropole Orkest. His other orchestral compositions include “The Middle of Everywhere,” which had its world premiere in 2011 with the Noord Nederlands Orkest. The orchestra’s director Marcel Mandos said, “Steve Vai’s music can easily compete with that of famous contemporary composers.”
As an accomplished audio producer, Vai has written, produced, and engineered all of his solo albums and released many via Favored Nations Entertainment, his own independent record label that has also released over 70 albums by legendary musicians such as Tommy Emmanuel, Steve Lukather, Eric Johnson, Billy Sheehan, Larry Carlton, and many more. For Vai, virtuosity and versatility are not mutually exclusive. He has created music for blockbuster films, bestselling video games, national sports franchises, and corporate brand initiatives.
In 2012, he embarked on an epic three-year tour spanning 253 engagements (including shows, concerts with various orchestras, and master classes) in 52 countries in support of his 16th solo album release, the critically acclaimed “The Story of Light.” Upon signing a multi-recording agreement with Sony Music Entertainment and Legacy Recordings in 2015, he released “Stillness in Motion – Vai Live in L.A.,” a two-CD set and two-DVD set, internationally. The multi-album deal marked an SME homecoming for Vai, who set the gold and platinum standard for instrumental rock music across a series of albums released through Relativity and Epic Records, from the game-changing “Passion and Warfare” (his second album and first major label release) through “Sound Theories Vol. 1 & 2.”
To commemorate the 25th anniversary of “Passion and Warfare” – highly regarded as one of the greatest instrumental rock guitar recordings of all time – Vai released the album “Modern Primitive” with “Passion and Warfare: 25th Anniversary Edition” in 2016. The recordings, which included previously unreleased material, were celebrated by a special 100+ date world tour in which he performed the entire “Passion and Warfare” record live from top to bottom for the first time. Having conquered Europe and the United States, the third leg of the Passion and Warfare 25th Anniversary Tour came to South America, Mexico, and Puerto Rico in 2017.
In addition to his solo tour work, he is known for his creative live performances with orchestras around the world and for projects such as Vai Academy (his yearly guitar camp), “Alien Guitar Secrets” master classes, and Generation Axe, a unique combination of five fiercely talented guitar players (including Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, Nuno Bettencourt, and Tosin Abasi) in which he currently tours internationally.
Vai’s signature instruments include the Ibanez JEM guitar, which he designed in 1985 with first-of-its-kind features, including the floating tremolo and the monkey grip. The JEM is now one of the longest-running, most successful signature series guitars in history and, for over a decade, its sister model, the RG, is second in worldwide sales only to the Fender Stratocaster. Also for Ibanez, he designed “The Universe,” the first commercial seven-string electric guitar. This instrument inspired a revolutionary metal subculture that started in the mid-’90s. Among his many other innovative collaborations with equipment manufacturers, he designed the Steve Vai Legacy V3 series of all-tube amplifiers with Carvin Corporation.
In the film realm, his credits include executive producer for the acclaimed 2008 Hank Garland biopic “Crazy,” in which he also appears as Hank Williams. In the 1986 movie “Crossroads,” inspired by the legend of blues icon Robert Johnson, Vai appears as Jack Butler, “the devil’s guitarist,” and collaborated with Ry Cooder on the music scenes.
In 1998, he established the Make a Noise Foundation with Ruta Sepetys to provide instruments and music education to young musicians without means. “Music educates the whole person as an integrated individual. It educates the mind, the senses, and the emotions,” Vai said. “Those interested in music should not have to sacrifice their ability to develop important skills and express emotions due to limited financial resources.”
He is dedicated to sharing his knowledge on musical and non-musical subjects. In 2019, he released his first book, “Vaideology: Basic Music Theory for Guitar Players,” which proved to be an overwhelming success. He organizes an almost yearly “camp” called Vai Academy where he and other industry professionals share their knowledge.
In 2020 during the pandemic, Vai hosted “Alien Guitar Secrets,” webcast series where he delved into various aspects of guitar playing. He then launched a second series called “Under It All,” where he explored more esoteric concepts, and his own Patreon where a true potpourri of subjects are discussed – musical lessons, guitar techniques, stories from the past, riffs, naked tracks, and more.
“I don’t sit around and say, ‘OK, what can I do now that pushes the boundaries?” Vai explained about his approach to the guitar. “What I do say to myself is, ‘OK, Vai, what are you going to do now that’s going to interest you, that’s going to fascinate you, and that’s different than anything you’ve done before?”
The answer to that question comes in the form of Vai’s newest and 10th solo album, 2022’s “Inviolate,” a nine-song opus that does indeed push the boundaries of instrumental guitar music. This time out, he quite literally invented not just a new guitar, but also a new guitar-playing technique.
“An inviolate inspiration is one that comes to you completely pure,” Vai described. “It appears almost in its completeness, and there’s a recognition of it as being right for you – perfectly right for you. There’s no excuses in it. There’s no fantasy in it. There’s just a recognition of ‘yes.’ And then you capture that in a way that’s authentic to your unique creativity. Hopefully, that’s what I’ve done with this record.”
The F.M. Kirby Center is a historic Art Deco/Moderne-style performing arts center located in downtown Wilkes-Barre. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.