Live Gig Report and Photos by: Robert Cavuoto
If you want blazing guitar pyrotechnics, blues bravado, and star wattage all on the same stage in one night, look no further than the G3 Tour with Joe Satriani, Phil Collen [Def Leppard] and John Petrucci [Dream Theater]. In past years Joe has invited countless gifted guitarists to join him on stage for the G3 Tour, and this year there is no shortage of talented guitarists. The tour will take Joe and the boys on a 25-date trek across the U.S. and Canada from January 11th to February 25th. Tonight’s show was at the New Jersey Performing Art Center in Newark, NJ.
Phil Collen opened the show performing six songs in his set. The first was a classic jazz-rock-fusion song called “Quadrant Four” from the early ‘70s played at a smoldering speed. Phil followed it up “Yo 2 Joe;” a song he wrote for Joe Satriani which is very reminiscent of Joe’s style of playing. Joining Phil for three Delta Deep songs were fellow bandmates Forrest Robinson on drums and a barefoot Debbi Blackwell-Cook on vocals. Together they performed; “Burnt Sally,” “Mistreated” and “Down in the Delta.” These songs can also be heard live on the band’s stellar new CD/DVD called East Coast Live which was just released on January 26th.
Before the show, I asked Phil what he has learned from watching and performing with Joe every night, “I’m getting so much out of it. When we get off stage after a show, we talk about the evening and how things went. It’s quite exciting because we are all inspired by each other’s playing, and it’s not about showing off. ”
Up next was John Petrucci who was accompanied by his fellow Dream Theater bandmate Mike Mangini on drums. The two were in lockstep and instinctively knew each other’s mannerisms which brought the songs to life. John performed for about 40 minutes and within that time tore through a series of six songs that ranged from the soulfulness of “Damage Control” to the earthshaking of “Wrath of Amazon” to the credibility in “The Happy Song.” All of his songs were based in metal with extremely melodic grooves coupled with leads which had progressive structures. Each song was a highly technical composition. It is well known that John approaches songwriting from a lyrist point of view and is always thinking about the melody similar to a vocal line.
I had a chance to ask John at what point in his career did he begin to realize his style was truly unique? He replied, “When you start to get positive feedback from other players it makes you think that it is coming together. For me, the first time I started hearing comments like that was after Images and Words was released. It seemed like there was a jump stylistically from there. It wasn’t anything I picked up on; it was the comments that I received from other people and players.”
Guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani closed the show with his 55-minute set. During his performance he made his guitar scream in a haze of monstrous solos. It was awe-inspiring to witness all his masterful and complex guitar techniques in person. His playing style stretches the boundaries of rock, jazz, progressive, and blues …sometimes achieved all in the same song.
Throughout the show, Joe assaults his Ibanez JS signature series guitars in ways that most people would never think possible and even played with his teeth. [a dentist’s dream patient]. He utilized various guitar effects that changed the guitar’s sound, helped shape its tone, and bent the pitch. He brought in a nice mix of songs including “Thunder,” Satch Boogie,” “Superfunky,’ and the jewel in his crown “Summer Song.” Having just released a new CD this past January 12th called What Happens Next, Joe performed two new songs from it; “Catbot” and “Cherry Blossom.” “Catbot” has a unique sound to help visualize a cat strutting down the street and speaking in a digitized voice. To get that digitized cat voice on CD, Joe used a Rectify plugin which destroys the sound of the guitar. He masterfully executed that exact sound live bringing the story of the cat to life!
For the encore, the three guitarists met on stage for the ultimate G3 Jam. To the surprise of the audience, the guys were joined by Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple for two ferocious versions of “Highway Star.” Glenn is in his own realm of excellence. He has more energy, charisma, and vocal strength than any young bands he has inspired and influenced. At times Joe and Phil looked like they were in awe of Glenn’s vocal abilities as well as sharing the stage with him. Glenn stayed on stage for two additional songs and was joined by Debbi for Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious,” and a bluesy jam of “Goin Down” by the Alabama State Troupers. The surprises kept coming as Alex Skolnick of Testament joined the jam for their last two songs.
Tonight each guitarist took the audience over the musical edge with their innovative playing. The common thread running through all of these player’s performances regardless of their individual techniques or style was the passion and emotion applied to the songs. As artists, they have honed and mastered their craft and delivered it to us, the fans, with heart and soul.