We get to the Clearchannel Pavilion about halfway thru the first set, Why? Well because the whole world other than Sonoma sucks for traffic and I truly didn’t think it would take 1 hr 50 minutes to get there.. but it did..The weather is nice tho. So we get in, grab a beer and head down to the seats.. not bad either.. they must have released these seats at the last minute or something as I can’t believe no one got these before I did, as all the seats are full and spilling onto the lawn…. only 5 days before the gig.. we’re 3 rows back in the permanent seats on the left side.. 30-40 feet from the stage. We see Yngwie (heron referred to as ‘Vay’) and my friends.. this guy is huge.. I mean Elvis size.. Jeff Carr.. we have nothing to worry about..but Vay still must think he weighs 130 lbs, as he is in tight leather pants and has his shirt all the way open.. just hangin gut.. But he is shredding.. He has 5 Marshall stacks with 2 heads and is using them all..even the bass player is playing thru Marshalls.. Vay is doing all the classic vay tunes.. swingin his guitar around.. only to be stopped by his gut.. he must have done more rock positions that night than I have ever done in my life..even rips the strings off one of his Strats in the middle of a tremolo solo. He is truly one of the fastest players I’ve ever seen and his arpeggio sweeps are second to none.. he is actually better now than he was when he was younger.. He was singing a tune and the mic quit.. I was ready for him to start kicking stuff but he seemed to mellow in his old age.. Susan liked him but thought he was too much of a poser.. he did pose quite a bit..he ended with a medley of tunes from the first 3 albums.. very nice set.. well what we saw anyway..so we go up and get a beer.
We’re up top and Vai comes on.. I have 1 Vai CD and I’ve only always thought he was OK.. wasn’t quite into some of the weirdness..so we go downstairs skeptically… Oh My God…. this guy proceeds to put on the most intense emotional guitar performance I have ever seen in my life. If you own a Vai CD and have never seen him live, don’t listen to it again until you do. Words just can’t describe the feeling this guy puts out and the sounds that he gets out of his guitar.. The guy sitting next to me has seen Jeff Beck 6 times and said that he had never seen anything like this.. On top of that he’s got Billy Sheehan on bass, Tony Macalpine on rhythm and some young protege on guitar as well. They’re playing thru Legacy cabs and Vai’s gear is off to the side so I couldn’t see his whole rig..He uses his guitar with the handle on the top for most of the set. They do a whole all 4 players playing each others guitar thing and Vai does shred and he does the usual arpeggios, although after Vay you have heard all the arpeggio sweeps you need to. The fast playing and shredding were not the best part of his show.. the emotion he puts into his playing was unbelievable.. He ends the show with a version of ‘For the love of god’ that is just blistering.. gave me the kind of chills up my spine like the first time you heard Freebird live.. he was absolutely unreal..Susan had never even heard of Vai before this.,. but she is now a big fan….so we go up and get a beer.
Joe’s up next and having just seen him 2 weeks ago at B. R. Cohn with the Doobie Brothers, I figure I had seen most of the show.. no way..completely different set.. same guys.. Joe is playing thru 3 Peavy triple XXX’ amps and using a variety of Ibanez hot rods. This is obviously Joe’s gig.. he has only his gear on the back line and all the lights known to man. He comes out and does everything note for note.. feedback, tremolo sweeps absolutely precise.. and almost snickering knowing full well that no one else can do it like him. He plays a version of ‘The Crush of Love’ off the first album.. let me tell you.. this guy has at least a 7 fret reach.. his hands or fingers must be huge..If you’ve ever heard that song there’s that long run in the middle of the song that must consist of 200 notes and he does it.. note for note.. I was laughing at the end as I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.. Joe really does kick ass.. Susan liked him best.. in her words .. ” He just came out in jeans and a T-shirt and kicked ass.. no posing..”.. and that he did.
Then it was time to bring everyone else out. That is when cultures collided. They start with a version of Neil Youngs ‘Keep on rockin in the free world’. ..picture this… Satriani, Vai and Vay jamming to a Neil Young tune.. I didn’t know how to react.. so I just sang along.. then they start with some other covers with massive guitar solos, call and response routines etc.. They bring out Neil Schon.. now they’ve got 5 lead guitar players on stage and about the time they launch into La Grange I figure it was time to mosey and get a jump on the traffic as, truly, Southbound has done better versions.. turned out to be the right move as it was the last song and we got out of the lot no problem. .. time home: 55 minutes.