They say good things come in threes. In the case of the G3 tour, GREAT things come in threes. This years tour featured previous G3 alumni Joe Satriani and John Petrucci along with Def Leppard’s Phil Collen. Though I thought, along with many others that Mr. Collen was on odd choice for the tour. I found that he actually added a wonderful flavor to the night. I was able to catch the tour’s stop in Newark, NJ recently at the BEAUTIFUL NJ Performing Arts Center. I have to say honestly, this is a wonderful venue. The staff was top notch, the seats were amazingly comfortable and the acoustics were just perfect for what was to come.
Phil Collen was first up on the bill. He greeted the crowd and kicked into a wonderful blues lick. Now a lot of people were a bit “curious” as to his being on the bill since he is best known as one of the guitarists for the legendary rock band Def Leppard. But his guitar skills were what was being shown tonight. And he brought them, in full. Kicking off his set with his cover of Billy Cobham’s “Quadrant 4” helped emphasize that the night was going to be fun. After this was “Yo 2 Joe”, Phil’s nod to G3 founder and leader Joe Satriani. Debbie Blackwell-Cook was introduced to the crowd and thus began the REAL blues portion of Mr Collen’s set. “Bless These Blues” and “Burnt Sally” were next on the hit list. These are cuts from Delta Deep, Phil Collen’s blues group. If you haven’t checked them out yet, you should. Debbie Blackwell-Cook used her instrument of voice to delve deep, delta deep if you will into some deep south blues. There was even a little game of musical “HORSE” if you will, between Phil, bassist Craig Martini, and Debbie Blackwell-Cook where Phil and Craig were trading licks while Debbie would replicate the same lick with her voice. They finished off their set with “Mistreated” by Deep Purple and “Down in the Delta”.
Next up was John Petrucci, guitarist for the legendary progressive rock band Dream Theater. As he walked onto the stage he was met by thunderous applause. Kicking off his instrumental set with “Wrath of the Amazons” his take on the Wonder Woman theme song then going into a few songs from his album “Suspended Animation” including “Jaws of Life”, Damage Control and “Glassgow Kiss”. He also gave the crowd two songs only for the G3 set- The Happy Song and Glassy-Eyed Zombies. As his set went on the intensity seemed to grow. Performing with him this time was bassist Dave LaRue along side with the man introduced as his “paisan” Mike Mangini on drums. Being a huge Dream Theater fan it was wonderful to see and hear Petrucci plain letting it rip. It is just amazing to see and here how he flawlessly makes the guitar just wail. The sheer heaviness of his set was what almost surprised me. LaRue’s thunderous basslines along with Mangini’s almost inhuman drum attack added an element to the already dark and heavy setlist. The NJPAC’s acoustics seemed to further resonate the low end of the set almost pounding it into you, while the higher register notes seemed to make you feel like you were floating on air.
When Joe Satriani finally took the stage, the crowd erupted as if they were finally seeing a long lost friend. Kicking into the first few notes of “Energy” you knew what to expect, perfection. For the past 3 decades Joe has been leaving crowds in awe of his expert guitar skills. Tonight was just another night for the teacher of some of the best guitarists out there. With the set list filled mostly with songs from his newest release, What Happens Next, the crowd cheered and watched for the next hour as our musical journey went on and on.From “Satch Boogie’, with the video screen in back showing the music video filmed 30 years earlier for the same song, to “Cherry Blossoms”, to “Thunder High on the Mountain”, to “Circles”, Joe kept the crowd wanting more. And even when playing “Always With Me, Always With You”, the audience and the musician were one. I’m pretty sure the entire crowd has played that song at least once along with Satch at home by the way people were smiling and their heads were bopping along. And lest I forget the band that was backing up Satriani, the formidable Mike Keneally on guitar and keyboards, bassist Bryan Beller and Joe Travers on drums, who even got to have his own solo spot on this evening meant for six-string savagery. His set finished out with “Summer Song” off The Extremist, again with the music video playing on the big screen behind him.
Then it was the time everyone was waiting for….the G3 Jam. And on a night like this one, where three of the worlds best guitarists’ abilities are on full display for all to see and here for the past few hours it was made even better with some special guests. Glen Hughes of Deep Purple and Black Country Communion fame came out to sing “Highway Star”. It seemed a bit ironic since at one point years ago Satch was asked to step in for Deep Purple to fill in for Richie Blackmore and was booed- this was NOT that night. In fact Joe introduced one of his former students Testament’s Alex Skolnick to the stage announcing “I’ve known this guy since he was about THIS high”. Both he and singer Debbie Blackwell-Cook also came out to help with a stirring rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” followed by an amazing version of The Alabama State Troupers “Going Down” to end the night’s festivities.
Review and photos by Bryan Bardes