Vai, Steve & Metropole Orkest (June 2004)

Date of Performance: May 24, 2004
Venue: Paradiso, Amsterdam, NL

Steve Vai & Metropole Orkest perform "The Aching Hunger"

Composer: Steve Vai
Conductor: Dick Bakker
Organizer: Co de Kloet/NPS
Location: Paradiso, Amsterdam
Date: 24th May 2004

Steve Vai (Photo: © John Bollenberg)No doubt a lot of Steve Vai fans will be very disappointed to know that the "Aching Hunger" concerts, which he performed live with a 53-piece orchestra (at least that's how many musicians I counted), will never be performed again other than the one night in Groningen, Holland on May 22nd, and both dates at the well-known Paradiso in Amsterdam on May 23rd and 24th. I witnessed the show on the 24th, a day that also marked my birthday! With three kisses from Pia Vai, no doubt this day would definitely be one to remember. Add to that the wonderful warmth and friendliness of Steve Vai himself, and yours truly surely was in for a treat.

The orchestra at the Vai concert (Photo: © John Bollenberg)The interview (which will be published in Progression magazine) got postponed a little as the orchestra still had little bits and pieces they wanted to rehearse. However, it was OK for me to sit in during the rehearsals, which for a tiny part also included Steve. Vai then went to one of the vans outside, which were equipped to record the entire event. In fact, all three of the dates were recorded, to be released on CD a little later. Sadly no cameras were present so don't expect a DVD of this unique situation. No doubt an opportunity missed as Paradiso is a great location. However, due to the size of the orchestra, about 2/3 of the venue was now reserved to the orchestra, so in the end only 800 people could get in. Needless to say these shows were sold out in a flash!

Steve Vai (Photo: ©John Bollenberg)At 8:30 p.m., Vai friend and supporter Co de Kloet took to the stage explaining to people what this evening was all about. He also told everyone present that Steve would be back next year for the second part, as Steve had written in excess of two hours of brand new material. In the end, "The Aching Hunger" comprises well-known Vai compositions but re-arranged for orchestra, whilst the concert took off with a good 45 minutes of pure genius without the help of Steve Vai. Then Steve did the first part of "Kill The Guy With The Ball" with the orchestra before he introduced a fifteen minute intermission. During the second part it was Vai as we like him best, doing extremely difficult things on his guitar, yet with the slightest of ease. Steve Vai plays with his teeth! while Dick Bakker looks on (photo: © John Bollenberg)Conductor Dick Backer's eyes almost popped out when he saw Steve play the guitar with his tongue! In fact, the Metropole Orkest is not a real classical orchestra. It's better to see this band as kind of a big band with strings. For the occasion, a real band, with extra guitar, bass, drums and keyboards, was injected within the orchestra, whilst no fewer than three percussionists added a lot of spice. Every single member of the orchestra looked like they were having a field day. But it was mainly Steve Vai who had the best days of his life, hearing the orchestra play what he heard in his head for so long now. A dream come true for everyone involved!

Here's what was played that night on May 24th :

Steve Vai's sheet music (photo: ©John Bollenberg)1) HELIOS & VESTA (this was the 25 minutes plus part which also contained the outrageous violin solo next to a lot of percussion. This composition also contained some references towards other Vai compositions such as "Whispering A Prayer," "Incantation, " whilst also "Bangkok" got involved)
6) KILL THE GUY WITH THE BALL - PART ONE (which is where Vai joined the orchestra for the first time)

15 min intermission

9) LOTUS FEET (this is a beautiful ballad that Steve wrote and orchestrated for the Sound Current concert in Syracuse. It has never been released.)
10) LIBERTY (this was one of the highlights for the many Vai addicts. It's a song from his Passion & Warfare album whilst the director fronted his orchestra with the words "heads up")
12) BALLERINA 12/24 (here Steve had the privilege to watch and listen to the harp and piano from the comfort of his little chair on stage)
13) FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (surely his best known work had to be included in the set as well)

Here the actual concert stopped, and as it was the last of the three performances, Vai had some presents to give away. Vai with De Cloet (left) and Bakker, presenting his guitars to each (photo: © John Bollenberg)His blue Ibanez was given to conductor Dick Bakker. His blue Jem was given to his friend Co de Kloet. A little jar of homemade Firegarden Honey was presented to the girl who delivered this insane violin solo. Meanwhile everyone had left the stage and Steve came back on for the only encore, but as he had given away the guitar that he needed, Vai improvised a little as an interim-conductor interacting with the orchestra. Finally Co brought the blue Jem back and the final chords of the evening resonated with:


Steve Vai and the orchestra thanked the audience and left the stage. During the aftershow all of the musicians involved in this project met for a final drink together. All of them spoke highly of Steve both as a musician and as a person. Few of these musicians knew Vai before they embarked on this project, but the Metropole Orkest, who has also worked with Pat Metheny and Herbie Hancock to name but two, from now on for sure know who the hell Steve Vai is! As a farewell gift, they presented Vai with a book destined to give Steve a better insight into the life of the Dutch people. No doubt this will help him a great deal as indeed he promises to be back soon to deliver the second part of this great venture.

In September NPS radio will broadcast some, if not all, of these special concerts. So do visit on a regular basis to know more (sorry the site is in Dutch only!) [and this content appears no longer available -ed. 2015]; however I'm sure that also will undoubtedly inform you about this as well. [though not any more -ed. 2015]

Steve Vai with John Bollenberg (photo: ©John Bollenberg)
Steve Vai with John Bollenberg
(photo: © John Bollenberg)

Added: June 7th 2004
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg
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