Saturday 23rd October 2010

Joe Satriani.  It’s a name synonymous with all things guitar.  From his highly acclaimed 1987 album, Surfing with the Alien, to his more recent work in super group, Chickenfoot, Satriani is a Grammy award winning, mega superstar and is rock royalty himself.  I mean the guy taught Steve Vai how to play guitar!  So when I heard he was touring to promote his latest album, Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, it was a must-see on my gig list.

Opening for the Bald Widdler was a blues man, Simon McBride.  Also promoting a new album, McBride treated the audience with competent aping of such greats as Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour and Joe Bonamassa.  Don’t’ get me wrong.  It was still an enjoyable set and fascinating to see a ginger, Irish guy singing about the Mississippi Delta and the quintessential situation of dealing with the Devil at the crossroads.  Flanked by a bassist bringing some funk and drummer, McBride showed great momentum in sweeping solos and down and dirty vocals.

During the break, I scanned the Symphony Hall and was mystified by the spectrum of society that had turned out to see Satriani – long-haired metal heads, middle-class yuppies, students and the little old lady sitting next to me.  I was awestruck by the gravity of Satriani’s musical impact and this was even before he took the stage.

We didn’t have to wait long. Donning sunglasses, shiny head and endorsed Ibanez axe, Satriani nonchalantly strolled out and immediately started in with the chugging, Ice 9.  It was the perfect opening to a showcase in shredding.

Within a couple of songs, he was slowing it down a bit with 1991’s title track from Flying in a Blue Dream.  Watching Satriani, as a guitar player myself, was entrancing and it seemed he was in a trance himself.  One word to describe it was effortless.

Light Years Away followed from his new album.  The display behind the stage showed video footage of Satriani playing the song and I was amazed as I watched Satriani on screen and Satriani live playing the song in perfect unison.  He is just so polished and perfect.

A frantic light show and epileptic shock posing from Satch accompanied War.  Another new song, Premonition was preceded by a classic, Satch Boogie, which saw Satriani giving the crowd a cheeky, beaming smile as he slammed down the whammy bar and sent chills down my spine. Revelation, Pyrrhic Victoria, Crystal Planet and The Mystical Potato Head Groove carried on the epic performance.

Now for a comment about Satch’s band…bassist and rhythm guitarist seemed to have drawn the short straw.  At certain stages in the performance, they looked a bit bored.  But the pianist and drummer were much more focal instrumentation-wise and seemed more in tune with the pace and style of the show.

Satriani spoke sporadically about the origins of some of his songs.  One in particular that had me reeling with jealousy was Dream Song.  He told the crowd that he just woke up one day with this song in his head and he was compelled to just record it right then and there.  This guy is like a rock-n-roll Beethoven.

Flaying away flamenco style to Andalusia on an acoustic was soon replaced with pounding beatdowns, tapping and harmonics.  He even lifted his trusty electric to his lips to play with his teeth.  Now that’s rock-n-roll!

The set then took a much, more smoother, laid back pace with the bluesy Littleworth Lane, a couple of more newer songs and my personal favourite, Always With Me, Always With You.

Satch ended out the set on a high…singing Big Bad Moon.  The audience rose to their feet, crowds rushed the stage to take pictures and people were dancing in the aisles.  Whilst other reviews I had read about this tour wrote that Satriani didn’t play his number one popular track, Surfing with the Alien.  Such wasn’t the case with this gig, he re-appeared for an encore playing the epic song along with Crowd Chant.

Words by Juanita McGowen.

pictures provided by Mark Howell.


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