Watch Steve Vai nail Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin tracks with Living Colour during electrifying 2022 Rock In Rio set

Steve Vai and Vernon Reid
(Image credit: Mariano Regidor/Redferns / Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images)

By the time Living Colour concluded the seventh song of their Rock in Rio set earlier this month, it’s fair to say the crowd had already been generously treated to a stellar showing of Vernon Reid and co’s impressive chops.

For their remaining four songs though, the rock quartet managed to up the ante by inviting to the stage one Steve Vai, who joined Reid, Corey Glover, Will Calhoun and Doug Wimbish to close the set out in style.

Specifically, Vai played the six-string Swiss army knife for the evening, and was tasked with traversing the styles of both Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page as he helped Living Colour make their way through Led Zeppelin and Hendrix covers. Now, at long last, pro-shot footage from the event has been released online.

Introducing Vai to the stage, Reid announced, “And now, ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to bring out our very, very special guest. One of the greatest guitarists in the world, and our dear friend, Mr Steve Vai.”

After Vai was jokingly “hired” by Reid after nailing his on-stage audition – a lightning lick, followed by a whammy bar dive – the crew wasted no time in launching into a rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Rock and Roll as the crowd chanted Vai’s name.

Vai’s Onyx Black Ibanez PIA electric guitar was his weapon of choice for the evening, the humbucker of which admirably dished out Rock and Roll’s rollercoaster riffs and improvised licks.

The cover was injected with a healthy dosage of Vai spice, with the shred legend unleashing fury on his fretboard for a solo that politely let the crowd know what they were in for over the next few songs.

More of this spice was present for a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Crosstown Traffic – a throwback to Vai and Living Colour's first-ever performance together during an Experience Hendrix tour and a tribute to the late blues guitar icon, who would have turned 80 next year.

Sandwiched in between the two tracks was a live rendition of Living Colour’s own This is the Life, which saw Vai harness his expansive ambient techniques and double up with Reid for some formidable lead playing.

Vai then remained onstage for his fourth and Living Colour’s final song of the evening, their Grammy Award-winning track Cult of Personality.

At the time of his cameo, Vai wrote on Instagram, “So good to kick it with my Living Colour Brothers in Rio! The band was slammin’ and I wish we could have played all night! Thanks so much to the organizers of this historic brand and for the kind invite from them and the band.”

It was suitable warmup for Vai, who will be hitting the road for the next leg of his Inviolate tour later this month. For a full list of dates, head over to Vai's website.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.