Last night at the Hard Rock Rocksino at Northfield the sky cleared and three mystical creatures – all armed with a guitar and a ridiculous amount of talent – appeared to a large mass of music-loving devotees.
Joe Satriani, Phil Collen, and John Petrucci should be household names if you’re a fan of guitar rock. Satriani, considered by most to be the most proficient player alive started the G3 tour over 20 years ago as a showcase for not only his unique guitar styling’s but also of two special guests who get the chance to share their talents with the crowd. This year Phil Collen – of Def Leppard fame was granted a coveted spot – as was John Petrucci from Dream Theater. John is no stranger to G3 and like his tour mates, worthy of the distinction that comes from being involved in this tour.
I have never attended a G3 show before so was unsure of the structure of having three heavyweight ax men on the stage. I was quickly educated by some fellow concertgoers on how the evening was going to transpire. Each guitarist performs their own personal set – for this show it was Phil Collen first – followed by John Petrucci and then Satriani finishes the bill. After that – all three come on stage for what is known as “The Jam”. Armed with this newfound knowledge, I felt prepared for what I was about to behold. Holy Crap was I in for some surprises.
Phil Collen hit the stage like a steamroller – lightning fast and with a technical precision that I for some reason did not expect from him. Given the gig that has made him famous – I guess I was expecting a more pop/rock sound – heavy riffs, catchy, upbeat – you know Photograph, Pour Some Sugar On Me – that kind of stuff. Wrong – this man played a set of blues-inspired, face-melting tunes that wowed the crowd. The only person on this ticket to use a vocalist – Debbi Blackwell-Cook stole the hearts of the audience with her amazing vocal performance. Turns out that Collen has had this side project – titled Delta Deep since 2015. His set showcased their music. The standout – in my opinion – was their rendition of Deep Purple’s Mistreated, which showed off some of Collen’s vocal chops. A solid half hour or so of metal infused blues – the crowd was so into it and more could have been played but – there were other Gods behind stage and it was time for this one to take his leave, at least for now.
An impressively quick set change – and with an oddly hypnotic blue glare – a driving, piecing bass line – John Petrucci appears on stage and dives head first into Wrath of the Amazons – from the wildly popular Wonder Woman film. With pictures projected behind him – the presentation took on a very encompassing, multi-media bend that was nothing short of fantastic. John was the performer I was least familiar with but his technique and stage presence quickly won me over and his presentation of The Happy Song was a real show highlight for me. He explained that the song is not available on any record and is only performed at his G3 shows – worth the price of the ticket to experience that one in and of itself. An amazing set by an extraordinary talent. Like Collen before him – six songs and done – time for another set change and the man that puts it all together.
With little warning and a blast of sound that literally stopped your breath – Joe Satriani blew onto stage. With a sound so sharp and so precise – it literally cut through the air – Joe launched into Energy and the crowd erupted. What followed was a ten-song showcase of some of the best guitar work I have ever witnessed live. Satriani puts on a clinic of different styles, techniques, and sounds and he loves every second of it – as do the followers crowded in front of him. I watched him perform maneuvers and create music that I have never heard or seen done live before. You could feel that you were in the presence of something special, almost otherworldly.
Talent of this depth is not normal and to be able to experience it first hand – it makes you appreciate that such things can exist.
Shredding through songs from throughout his career – Catbot, Cherry Blossoms and Always With Me, Always With You were pure excellence.
Then, then…Collen and Petrucci came back out and the trio somehow managed to ratchet things up a few notches and the three of them threw out the stops and wailed, literally wailed through three covers that tore the house down. The Deep Purple classic Highway Star kicked off “The Jam” followed by a cover of Stevie Wonders Superstition and then a blistering finale with I’m Going Down.
Debbi Blackwell-Cook returned to the stage to add the vocal flair for this “Jam” and it was the perfect way to end this evening of guitar-fueled craziness. Our G3 guitarists certainly saved the best for last as they traded riffs and solos – smiling and challenging each other and all in attendance got to enjoy the fruits of that exercise. As I mentioned at the start of this review – this had been my first G3 experience but it will certainly not be my last.