25th April 2018
A life’s ambition was fulfilled tonight as I finally got the opportunity to witness one of live music greatest and enduring travelling shows. The epicentre of guitar virtuosity that is the G3 rocked into Hammersmith for a special evening of the finest six sting exponents in the world. The three guitarists on show tonight each have their own style and history, performing in some of the biggest bands in the world.
Uli Jon Roth
Out first was the eccentric psychedelic melody maker of former Scorpions fame, Uli Jon Roth. His aging hippy vibe shone through his bandana and long flowing white hair, waving his super cool custom guitar with style and flare. His playing style was certainly the most expansive of the night, combining progressive ventures with hook heavy melodies that ran though the heart of his songs. Some could be seen as generic AOR, but they had a technical difficulty which way exceeds the ordinary. He has a real feel for emotion and impressive string bends, letting the guitar flow as an extension of his soul. An assured performance from a wizard who took us on a spaced out journey of melodic phasing.
John Petrucci is much more likely to be found flexing his guitar chops in the giant progressive metal band Dream Theatre. Giant band, Giant man. Super buff with muscles upon muscles and a lusciously incongruous dwarf-ish beard. He was so broad that by contrast it made the guitar he was playing look like a kids toy in comparison. Appearances aside, this was much more of a metal performance with more fuzz, more overdrive and more speed. In fact the shredding was sublime and lightning fast mostly without losing focus on a unifying melodic theme. Less progressive than you’d imagine he played the part of a guitar virtuoso with his tight playing and dizzying picking. It was heavy, loud, brash and wrecked havok but he still retained that accessibly with the guitar loving crowd that made this a success.
With all the variety on show, there is only one monolith that stands unchanged across the G3 franchise, its creator and headline act the one and only Joe Satriani. Strutting on stage with his trademark sunglasses (indoors!), shiny guitar and shiny head, the godfather of guitar virtuosity was ready to upstage all who came before. And that’s exactly what he did. He was able to marry the evocative sweeping atmospheres of Roth and the shredtastic heavy metal of Petrucci often within the same song. His stage presence was probably the greatest differentiator as he actively boogies and bops whilst still retaining perfect precision on the fretboard. You feel he’s having the time of his life on stage which makes everything more engaging.
Having recently released his 16th album What Happens Next, these songs took most attention. But far from a drag, these were really good! From the damn funkiness of “Catbot” to the warm loveliness of “Cherry Blossoms”, right up to the exhilarating “Energy”. These slotted in nicely among a subset of his classic jams “Satch Boogie”, “Summer Song” and the unspoken love song “Always With Me, Circles Always With You.
The G3 Jam
As Joe picked his final string, as most G3 vets would know…that is merely the beginning. Joe then invited his tour mates back on stage for “The G3 Jam”. Oh yeah! All 3 virtuoso’s on stage playing extended cover versions of classic rock songs. Tonight it was the turn of Led Zep’s The Immigrant Song and my personal highlight, Deep Purple’s Highway Star. They each played off each other’s energy and thrived in outdoing each other in a titanic guitar battle. It was simply incredible to witness the inherent connection they each had in combining their individual styles with so much grace and ease. Man they rocked!
So tonight was a truly magnificent showcase of the finest guitar playing. I can also safely say this was not a gig. Rather a concert. A show where the onlookers where here to appreciate the music, the craft and the legends who graced the stage. Far more than the usual collective gig consciousness and associated antics. I do feel a little more grown-up tonight, and all the better for witnessing a trio of wonderful performances.