Guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson are busy making their way across the US and Canada on a hot double bill of guitar mayhem. Sea of Tranquility's Mike Blackburn caught the Massey Hall show in Toronto, Canada on April 12 2006, and Ken Pierce was on hand for the Nokia Theatre gig in New York City's Times Square on the following night, April the 13th.
Read on for Mike and Ken's full reviews of the two shows!
Mike Blackburn: Last time I saw Joe (G3 2003 with Vai and YJM), it was getting near the end of that tour and Joe was obviously tired, maybe even sick. Compounding that was the fact that for some reason his sound never really came together until a few songs into his abbreviated set that night. No such problems this time out! Joe was in absolute top form! Unfettered of the additional responsibilities that come along with a G3 type venture and with an excellent new release (Super Colossal) under his belt, Joe was at his peak in terms of sound and performance. He said "I think this is like the 16th time we've played here… it is almost like home!" He looked very comfortable and happy indeed. Joe seems to be at a very good place and time in his life right now as he approaches the big 5-0, his new music and his stage persona and delivery are peppy, playful, upbeat and almost downright joyous. When Joe strapped on the Super Colossal guitar (CD cover painting on the body) he joked "When they painted this Super Colossal guitar they didn't realize I'd be picking my nose!" "Maybe the joke is on me!"
The set was, as expected, loaded with songs from Super Colossal which is not a bad thing at all! These new tunes sound great live with the wonderful backing of Galen Hensen on second guitar, new bass lord Dave LaRue and in particular the spot on drumming of Jeff Campitelli. Jeff was fantastic on the night, easily recreating the Simon Phillips grooves from the new CD. The rest of the songs selected provided a nice mix from the back catalogue. The overall sound was superb. Every nuance of Joe's repertoire was easily heard and recognizable in the context of the song. Great pain has been taken in rehearsal, particularly on the new tunes, to provide an accurate re-creation of the studio tone. That is not to say Joe did not rock out! He took extended solos on many of his older tunes, and also in particular on "One Robot's Dream" with its groove tailor-made for a fusioney fretwork excursion. As is usually the case unfortunately, the Toronto crowd was a little laid back and I am sure this will not be the crowd remembered by the band for best "Crowd Chant" during the encore. Either most there did not know the tune or it was just another case of old conservative Toronto attitude. Joe rocked, and he and the band deserved better audience participation for sure.
Opener Eric Johnson walked on stage in getup that had 'accountant's night out on the town" written all over it. He played a very workmanlike set with his young band mates but struggled with sound balance, mikes cutting out and even some missed notes here and there for much of the night. It was still a very good performance but not close in any way to the legendary and incendiary performance Eric once gave at the famed El Mocombo club several years back. That El Mo show, or even the Austin City Limits concerts will be how I choose to remember Eric in concert. Alex Lifeson was on Eric's special guest list but I did not see him in the audience. Hmmm that could have made for a cool jam huh?
Eric Johnson Set List
My Back Pages
Love or Confusion
May This Be Love (Jimi Hendrix)
Good to Me
Morning Sun? (a new tune?)
Intro to Cliffs of Dover
Cliffs of Dover
Joe Satriani Set List
Flying In A Blue Dream
Just Like Lightnin'
One Robot's Dream
A Cool New Way
The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing
The Meaning of Love
Made Of Tears
Always With Me Always With You
Surfing With the Alien
Crowd Chant -encore
Summer Song -encore
Ken Pierce: I have to start this off by stressing that I am a drummer, and while some of my reviews readers already have determined this; it bears mentioning again especially since I was going to be reviewing Joe Satriani in concert. "Satch", as all of his fans refer to him is pretty much one of the best guitar players in the business and he is the mastermind behind the G3 Tour that often finds him alongside Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen as well as many other talented players. Tonight's show would not be a G3 performance and instead be billed as "The Super Colossal Tour" (the name bears the same moniker as his new album). Joining Joe and his band this time would be another amazing guitarist the one and only Eric Johnson. Johnson music leans more to the bluesy side and this is very apparent on his most recent release Bloom. The Nokia Theatre would be the perfect setting for this concert because while it seems a great room for Metal bands there is an acoustic perfection to be enjoyed when attending a show like this. While Johnson would play a wide assortment of songs during his hour long set, his most memorable number would come from his earlier album as he closed with "Cliffs Of Dover". Instrumental guitar displays seldom keep me entertained for very long but I have to say when you watch Satriani play he makes it look so fluid and simple. It is not the case of course as he is ripping the strings to their capacity and making every guitarist in the audience drop their jaw in amazement or sending them home to review their tablature books.
Joe's band would also be a very tight unit with drummer Jeff Campitelli doing some serious time-keeping, and holding his own against some of the material recorded by Simon Phillips (a powerhouse player in his own right). Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse Band) would be holding it together on bass alongside a surprising second guitarist Galen Hensen. Satch would perform a very solid set and since this was my first time I found myself mesmerized by his level of playing ability. It was indeed a treat to find myself in the photo pit to shoot some stills as he wailed on the axe. Watching him during these first three songs I have to admit that it seems like Joe is watching us as much as we are watching him. He also seems to be enjoying himself in the most genuine of fashions.
I admit I was surprised that Johnson did not come out and do any sort of jam with him, but I guess it was not entirely necessary since he had a full set of his own. That's more a G3 thing as I understand. One of the added treats would be the chance to win a one of a kind Ibanez guitar with the proceeds going to charity. Satriani would play this guitar at one point during the show, and that made winning the item more interesting since you knew he actually performed on it. This was a great time for the sold-out house which as you can imagine was a lot of guitar players or musicians on the whole. I'm glad I finally got to see him and actually prefer this to the talked about G3 since in this setting you get a longer Satriani set list. Never a bad thing when you consider the overall appeal and difference in his songs, they are a lot easy to enjoy than others of this type and Joe surely gives you his all on every single one of them.
Dave LaRue and Galen Hensen
Photos by Ken Pierce
(Click here to read our review of the CD Super Colossal)
Official Web site: www.joesatriani.com