Steve Vai recalled the first concert he ever played at the age of 13, and how he was physically sick before the show.

The guitar icon began feeling increasingly anxious as the days ticked down to his first appearance with his school band Circus.

“I remember that I enjoyed playing guitar in the privacy of my own little bedroom, and I loved creating fantasies about being a future rock star,” Vai told MusicRadar in a new interview. “I was a rumor in my own room and a legend in my mind. When the reality that we actually had a gig set in, I started to become petrified. I found myself so completely anxiety-ridden that it got to the point where, two or three days before the show, I couldn’t sleep.”

He recalled feeling “so nervous” during the sound check before the show – even before everything started to go wrong. “I was practicing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ and the strap broke on my guitar … it started to fall and I went down with the guitar as well. My knee hit the wah-wah and turned it on in the treble position. As I went down, the speaker was parallel with my ear and the guitar fed back this piercing pitch that went right into my ear and I virtually fainted. It twisted my eyeballs. I remember coming to and trying to say the words, ‘Help me, help me … ’ and everything became surreal and weird. I finally walked offstage and threw up.”

But Vai’s anxiety was soon wiped out. “Then the lights went down and the oddest thing happened,” he said. “When I walked on stage to do the gig, put the guitar on and started playing, there was this feeling that came over me and the best way to describe it is ‘home’. I felt completely relaxed, confident and on a high. Before that, I felt I loved playing the guitar but I’m never going to play live again. … The moment I got onto the stage and started playing, I discovered this is my natural state of being.”



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