Photo by Larry DiMarzio

By Alex Gallagher | January 4, 2022

Steve Vai admits he did not have plans to return to the road when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

However, after a year away from the stage, the renowned shredder was ready to take his show back on the road.

“I was itching to get on tour,” he says. “Touring has so many advantages for me.”

His “Inviolate Tour” comes to the Celebrity Theatre on Sunday, January 30. Touring hasn’t always been easy for Vai, he confesses.

“When I started 41 years ago, we were doing tours where we flew every day including show days,” he says. “But once those days passed, I started to really enjoy touring.”

Vai enjoys touring because it allows him to see the world in a way others do not. It also calls for routine.

“Experiencing the great diversity of the world has really stimulated me tremendously,” he says. “When I travel the world, I really look at all of the great diversity, architecture, food and people.

“Oddly enough, I get a lot more time because I get into a routine where I will sleep as late as I want and I will either get on my bike or jog around rural areas to see how people live.”

After 15 to 20 years of touring, Vai recognized that a city isn’t just a destination. Phoenix, he says, is one of his favorites.

“It’s not the same city as the next city,” Vai says. “Each city offers a different kind of culture, history and collective sensibilities.

“I’ve always had a soft spot for Phoenix because when I first toured there with Frank (Zappa), we would play the Celebrity Theatre and it’s a fantastic theatre. Phoenix is a very still community that has little conflict in the air. It’s more centered.”

Regardless of the tour stop, the moment he hits the stage, Vai unleashes his full potential.

“I always approach every audience as if they’re there to have a good time and see me perform so I give them everything that I can,” he says.

He bonds with his guitar, which translates to the fans. He prefers to call his concerts an “experience.”

“I like delivering melodies that enchant the audience, gets them riled up or relaxes them,” Vai says. “Frankly, I like when the audience members feel like they’ve been taken to another dimension in what they’re seeing and hearing.”  

The setlist will combine songs from his upcoming record, “Inviolate,” which is due January 28, with tracks he has never played live and fan favorites.

“I’m trying to do all of the songs off the new record, but this is going to be a very long tour,” Vai says. “I’ll introduce new songs into the set so that we can really hone them.”

However, Vai is looking forward to playing the three singles he released in the past year and a half — “Candle Power,” “Knapsack” and “Little Pretty.” Vai performs “Knapsack” with only his left hand.

“For people who know what I do, there’s going to be stuff that they’re expecting and there’s going to be stuff that they’re not expecting,” Vai says. “They’re going to get the best of me.”

Vai does not take all the credit for putting on a good show. He’s proud of his touring band, which includes guitarist/keyboardist Dave Weiner, bassist Philip Bynoe and drummer Jeremy Colson.

“The audience can expect to see a great band,” Vai says. “We’ve been together for a couple of decades and we’re constantly in connection with each other.

“I like when people look at me performing and think, ‘What is that’ and ‘How is that happening,’” Vai says. “I’ve got some odd talent that I’ve honed my whole life and I’m here to show it to those who are interested in it.” 

Overall, Vai hopes to leave the audience pleased.

“I want the audience to leave feeling that they were fulfilled, that’s my job,” he says. “Everybody enjoys a show differently, so I don’t judge the audience. Everybody in the audience is my friend.” 

Steve Vai “Inviolate Tour”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 30

WHERE: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd Street, Phoenix

COST: Tickets start at $40