This week in Trondheim, Norway, a cultural event with few peers was held. The conference gathers some of the most brilliant minds in the fields of science, multimedia, arts and more for a weekend full of lectures, exhibits and performances. It was already announced earlier this month that two of the greatest guitarists to wield the instrument, Devin Townsend and Steve Vai, would perform together on stage for the first time in 25 years. Turns out the festival had even more to offer, with rock vocalist Grace Potter and former Extreme lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt joining in for several songs throughout a pair of performances over the weekend.
First up was a show on June 20th, which featured Steve Vai with Trondheim Symphony Orchestra. Over the course of the set the legendary guitarist performed “Have I told You Lately” with Grace Potter, “Truth” with Townsend, “Liberty” with Townsend and Bettencourt. Vai also performed “For the Love of God” during the set.
Here is a rehearsal for the song “Truth,” which is a classic tune in Townsend’s repertoire, recently re-recorded for his latest album with the Devin Townsend Project.
And the real deal with Vai, Townsend and the orchestra ripping it up. Here they are playing “Truth” on June 20.
Here are the three guitar legends together on stage at once, performing the song “Liberty” from Vai’s second solo studio album, 1990’s Passion and Warfare. “Have I Told You Lately,” the song that was performed with Grace Potter, is also from that album.
Day two brought even more collaborations from the four musicians. First off was a full set from Vai with his current touring band. At the end of the performance, Bettencourt was back out on stage to perform “Midnight Express,” a 1995 track by his band Extreme and “More Than Words,” his band’s most distinct hit. Joining Vai and Bettencourt for one of the most famous power ballads of all time was Potter, who lent her impressive vocal work to the tune.
After finishing up the cover of “More Than Words,” Vai talked about Extreme (sort of out of nowhere) landing one of the most popular songs of the 80s. “When that song broke, it’s one of those things you can only hope to see happen” said Vai. “And it couldn’t have happened to a cooler guy.” Next up was a song with just Vai and Potter called “Stars.” This cut is from Grace Potter and the Nocturnals 2012 album The Lion the Beast the Beat. Before the group began performing the song, Potter addressed the crowd and said she chose the song “Because this is Starmus, why not reach into the deep space and ether of my songwriting skills and try to come up with something excellent,” though she added: “It’s also the only song that ever got played on the radio. So it works out great for everybody!”
Townsend came out on stage at this point to perform his own song “Supercrush” with Vai and Potter. After Vai introduced the guitar legend by saying “There’s probably been a lot of mad scientists to visit Starmus this year, but this man is the maddest scientist that our rock/metal music community knows. And, perhaps the most brilliant – one of my heroes.” Townsend greeted the enthusiastic crowd in a manner that perfectly fit Vai’s descrpition, questioning the crowd with a growl “Who here likes science, bitches?” He then took the time to talk with his counterpart: “It’s been 25 years buddy, how you feeling?”
“Supercrush” originally features the esteemed hard rock vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen. Because she was not all the way in Norway to join in on this once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Vai and Townsend, Potter admirably filled in. She admitted “this is going on the fly; we like this.” Despite any winging done on the part of the musicians, the track is performed flawlessly.
Then the trio continued with a classic song from Vai (the band, not the artist’s solo career), “Here and Now.” The song comes from the Vai record Sex and Religion from 1994, a record which featured vocals by Townsend well before he ever founded the groups that would bring him metal acclaim, Strapping Young Lad and Devin Townsend Project.
Then Bettencourt came back on stage to perform another Extreme song “Get The Funk Out.” Probably best known for the single that was released before Extreme took the world by storm with “More Than Words,” the recorded version of “Get The Funk Out” is known for featuring hard rock icon Pat Travers.
All in all, for fans of technical guitarists, the festival’s music portion truly earned the label “epic.”
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat