Joe Satriani’s G3 tour kicked off Thursday night, January 11th at the Moore Theatre in Seattle. Since Satriani’s G3 tours began over twenty years ago, the legendary guitar player has invited two other highly regarded rock and blues style guitarists. This year’s lineup includes G3 veteran John Petrucci of Dream Theater and first-timer, Phil Collen of Def Leppard. Designed as a showcase for guitar solos and general ax wizardry, the Moore Theatre came alive with rake-picking arpeggios, flaming guitar solos, and whammy bar acrobatics.
Collen’s band was up first and consisted mostly of his blues-rock project, Delta Deep. Debbi Blackwell-Cook, Collen’s bandmate in Delta Deep and his wife’s Godmother, offered sultry African-American singing to the blues-soaked heavy rock riffs. The resulting sound was reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Memphis native Forrest Robinson, Delta Deep’s GRAMMY Award-winning drummer and Craig Martini backed the band.
“We’re gonna really slide it out with some blues,” Collen announced between songs. He played heavy blues numbers that sounded like George Thorogood, and the band was right behind him. A few songs in, Collen would play a blues lick, and Debbi would answer singing—a truly modern interpretation of the “call and answer” upon which blues was built. She kept up with him, exercising her wide vocal range until Phil hit her back with a wild guitar solo. “I’m gonna need some help,” she said, shaking her head. The band finished their killer set with Delta Deep’s “Mistreated” and “Down in the Delta.” Collen announced that Delta Deep’s new album East Coast Live drops on January 26th.
Just before Petrucci took the stage, the theatre went dark, and projections of astral images and mountain dreamscapes appeared on the movie screen. Deep bass penetrated the theater to set the tone. His personal emblem of a stylized “JP” appeared on the screen as he walked out on stage in the darkness to a cheering crowd. He then played “Wrath of the Amazons” and “Jaws of Life.”
Petrucci thanked Satriani and Collen, who he’d met just the night before. “He’s a great player,” Petrucci commented, adding “The G3 tour is a guitar player’s dream.”
Backed by Dave LaRue on bass and Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini on drums, Petrucci played the heaviest metal of the evening. After two songs, he announced, “Let’s depart from the dark and heavy and do something happy for a minute.” The happy song was, indeed, called “The Happy Song.” He also played “Glasgow Kiss” from his 2005 solo release, Suspended Animation, featuring fast, crisp, major chord progressions. Later he treated the crowd to the heavy metal riffs of “Glassy-Eyed Zombies” during a light show.
Satriani took the stage with a bright chrome-colored guitar, and the drum set was chrome to match, fitting the aesthetic of the album artwork for What Happens Next, which would be released soon after the show on January 12th. The next thing I knew, he was playing it with his teeth!
Satriani played several of his classic songs including “Satch Boogie,” “Always With Me, Always With You,” and “Surfing With the Alien,” which featured stunning animations of the Silver Surfer on the big screen catching intergalactic waves. During “Always With Me, Always With You” the crowd cheered when an image of a solar eclipse played on the screen. Satriani’s excitement, animation, and wild facial expressions engaged the crowd throughout his performance.
We were treated to “Cherry Blossoms,” one of the pre-released songs from What Happens Next, which features Japanese tonality. Satriani explained that it was a song about love gone wrong.
Brandishing a white guitar illustrated with stretched-out, bug-eyed alien-like creatures wearing glowing, red shirts, Satriani confessed that “I feel like if I start to play a note that’s a little bit off, these guys are looking at me like, ‘What are you doing?’” He then played “Super Funky Badass” from What Happens Next.
Once Satriani’s band finished their set, he invited Collen and Petrucci back on stage, commenting that Petrucci was right: G3 is the most fun a guitarist can have on tour. Listening to Satriani, Petrucci, and Collen on guitar together as they played Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” Stevie Wonder’s 1972 hit, “Superstition,” and “Going Down” was heaven. Blackwell-Cook in on vocals, and she brought the house down.
The three guitarists engaged in a solo-off, at various points throughout the three numbers they played together, each getting a few seconds to respond. All were having a blast. At some point, Satriani sampled “Voodoo Child,” a nod to the late, great Jimi Hendrix who typically gets an offering by musicians touring through his native Seattle.
Everyone lined up for a final bow, leaving the stage with no encore. After all, it had been about four hours of spine-tingling rock and blues. Satriani, along with his 2018 G3 lineup expressed a wide array of human emotions with their guitars and consistently moved the audience to a better place. Isn’t that what music is all about?