G3 Featuring Joe Satriani,
John Petrucci & Phil Collen

January 19, 2018
Orpheum Theatre
Los Angeles, CA

Review by Shawn Perry
Photos by Ronnie Lyon & Charlie Steffens

Now in its 23rd year, G3 is for lovers of guitars, guitarists and balls-to-the-wall shredding. It's certainly not a show for the faint of heart, ukulele enthusiasts, or stamp collectors. After winning the world over with Surfing With The Alien, Joe Satriani saw a hole to fill, and once he stumbled upon the idea of inviting other razor-sharp silver stringers up for a bash or two across the old fretboard, G3 was born and is still going strong. With a new album to promote, Satriani decided to mount another G3 tour for 2018 with Dream Theater's John Petrucci and Def Leppard's Phil Collen in tow. The eighth date of the five-month US and European tour landed in Los Angeles, and based on the turn of events, it may go down as one of the highlights of the entire run.

Phil Collen and his band Delta Deep opened the night with a 30-minute set. Collen is not the kind of guitarist you'd think would be able to keep up, but he quickly put that assumption to rest the minute he took the stage and let his fingers fly across the fingerboard. Bassist Craig Martini and drummer Forrest Robinson provided the foundation throughout, while singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook joined in once the pace slowed and the band settled into a blues groove.

What an unexpected surprise it was when Collen and Blackwell-Cook took turns on the verses of Deep Purple's "Mistreated." After announcing it was Def Leppard Day because the band's catalog was now available to stream on Spotify and Amazon Music, Collen sprung another whopper on the audience when he brought out Def Leppard band mate Vivian Campbell out and they performed a short medley of "Love Bites" and "Hysteria." Collen sang as well as ripped through a few titillating dual leads with Campbell. There would be more surprises as the night went on.

John Petrucci, a veteran of past G3 tours, turned in a somewhat dark and heavy set with bassist Dave LaRue and Dream Theater drummer Michael Mangini in his corner. There is no question that a guitarist of Petrucci's caliber belongs on a tour like this. His muscular leads and overall mastery of the instrument took front and center stage for nearly an hour as the audience sat enraptured and in awe.

"This is the most fun a guitar player can ever have," Petrucci remarked after unleashing an intense double serving of the main theme of Hans Zimmer's "Wonder Woman" and his own "Jaws Of Life." To lighten the mood and play something "happier," the guitarist launched into "Cloud Ten," and indulged the already bug-eyed crowd with some upbeat, fluid leads and tapping. A roving video on the backdrop showing various interiors and old furniture definitely had more than a few pondering the meaning of it all.

The sonic fireworks continued as Petrucci fired off "Damage Control," the second of three numbers he played from his one and only solo album, 2005's Suspended Animation. Things got a little scary during "Glassy-Eyed Zombies," which Petrucci apparently wrote specifically for G3 live performances. How appropriate. Finishing off with the Scottish-flavored "Glasgow Kiss," the guitarist and his rhythm section (who each took solos of their own) exceeded expectations of what you would want to see and hear at a G3 show.

At this point, with everyone's head spinning from the guitar madness of the last two hours, anticipation for Joe Satriani was at a fever pitch. Once he came up and blasted through a 10-song mix of new and favorite instrumentals, there was little question as to why G3 is Satch's baby. The and general ambiance the man and his band — second guitarist and keyboardist Mike Keneally, bassist Brian Beller and drummer Joe Travers — proffered had the audience savoring each and every note.

It began with Satriani satiating everyone's appetite with "Energy" and "Catbot," two numbers from his 2018, rock-based release What Happens Next. It's always a brave move to open with new, relatively unknown material, but the reaction spigot from the get-go never seemed to simmer down. Of course, when he put the pedal down on "Satch Boogie," pandemonium ensued and the ever-expressive face, hands and body of Joe Satriani switched into overdrive. The Ray Ban wraparounds gripping Satch's bopping head only accentuate the suave, all-out coolness of how he handles his instrument.

Rolling out "Cherry Blossoms," another one from What Happens Next, underscored the guitarist's high standards he continues to instill on his newer recordings — an admirable feat when you consider that so many of his peers lean heavily on past glories and have pretty much abandoned the record-making side of the game. With 16 albums to pick songs from, Satriani had no problem filling the set with a wide variety of shredders and mood-setters.

Adding five new ones to the list, plus recent numbers like "Cataclysmic" from 2015's Shockwave Supernova, shows the guitarist is as inclined to play more recent material as he is to play the "hits" of his career. Of course, Satriani wasn't about to disappoint those craving to hear his classic pieces, so in addition to "Satch Boogie," he obliged with crowd-pleasers like "Always With Me, Always With You" and "Circles," both standout tracks from Surfing With The Alien.

One other notable aspect of Satriani's shows is that he generously shares the spotlight with the other players in his band, giving each plenty of space to dazzle and astound the devoted. Keneally, whom Satriani refers to as "G4" and spent time with Frank Zappa in the late 80s, complements the music with pulverizing lead spots of his own, as well as suspending the melodies with an assortment of well-placed keyboard parts.

Beller, who's logged studio and stage time with both Satriani and Keneally, kept it low and grounded, but stepped up on a couple of occasions for a little random bass slapping. Travers, the newest member of Satriani's band, firmly established himself as a tub pounder with dexterity and finesse to spare. A Berklee College of Music graduate and another Zappa insider (he's played drums with Dweezil and oversees the Frank Zappa music library as the official "vaultmeister"), the man fit like a glove with the rest of the lineup.

It was just before 10:30 when the famous G3 jam got underway. Aside from inviting Phil Collen and John Petrucci back to the stage, Satriani welcomed the bass player and drummer he used for What Happens Next — Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Glenn Hughes and Chad Smith. Hughes, who earned his stripes with Deep Purple in the 70s before becoming the Voice of Rock for numerous collaborations with everyone from Black Sabbath to his own Black Country Communion, let Beller stay on bass and grabbed the microphone to lead the troupe through powerful runs through three fail-safe standards — Don Nix's "Going Down," Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," and Deep Purple's "Highway Star."

At 66, Hughes and his supernatural vocal range left audience members as dazed and confused as they were when Satriani, Petrucci and Collen stepped up to exchange guitar licks. Smith, a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers for 30 years and a band mate of Satriani's in the supergroup Chickenfoot, got his kicks in on "Highway Star" before the whole shooting match was brought to a close. Even Vivian Campbell returned to make the night an all-star event for the books. Needless to say, at 11:00 when all the players took their final bows and waved their farewells, there wasn't a soul inside the Orpheum who didn't feel the pinch of stimulation and excitement by an evening of magnificent, mind-blowing musicianship.

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