TVD Live Shots: G3 featuring Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, and Phil Collen at the Warner Theatre, 2/14

My introduction to guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani would be his 1987 album, Surfing with the Alien. One could never forget that vivid album art featuring Marvel Comics’ Silver Surfer on the front against that stunning red background. Inside, the record’s sleeve was adorned with the artwork of yet another Marvel character, Galactus—a Silver Surfer foe and planet devourer—also from the Fantastic Four comics series. 

Obviously, Surfing with the Alien was not just about the artwork. The album marked the second and then most notable studio effort by Satriani and helped cement his position as one of the greatest guitar soloists of our time. The album is ranked #4 in Ultimate Guitar’s “Top Rated Instrumental Albums of All Time” and it’s one of the best-selling instrumental works to date, boasting two of Satriani’s fifteen Grammy award nominations over his career. The album is truly masterful and it’s nearly impossible to speak of Joe Satriani without bringing it into the conversation.

On tour with his annual G3 guitar excursion, Joe Satriani enlisted the help of two larger than life names in rock and metal for his 2018 lineup, Phil Collen (of Def Leppard) and John Petrucci (of Dream Theater). For this year’s DC stop, the host was the beautiful Warner Theatre.

Since its inception in 1995, the G3 tour has featured some of the most well-respected guitarists in the business and has taken to the road almost annually. While one could assume that the G3 tour would be an evening of all out guitar shredding and a complete solo-speed fest, they’d only be half correct. It is true that showing off their various talents as axe-men is certainly the fun part of the show, but when performing their own songs, it’s exceptional to me to hear the tone of their amps, the sustain of their instruments, and the pure craftsmanship of their songwriting. The G3 tour allows guitarists to do this—and it’s an experience all its own.

G3 is made up of four parts. All three artists play sets with a full band, one after the other with Satriani as the headliner. Then to cap the night off there’s a encore-like finale where all three guitarists play together for one grand, final moment.

The first up was Phil Collen. I’ve always been a big fan of Collen’s speed and progressive playing. His set was certainly the most straight forward and bluesy of the night. His feel and purist Brit-rock guitar style gives a comforting feeling all round as everything’s right where it should be. Complaining of mild laryngitis from the night before, Collen really didn’t speak much aside from a few introductions for his band, Delta Deep, whose soulful lead singer, Debbi Blackwell lead the charge. Collen’s soaring guitar leads were classic, on time, and agile.

John Pettrucci was next and his set featured bassist Dave LaRue and Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini. Certainly the most metal sounding act of the night, Petrucci made sure to throw in some more melodic selections including “The Happy Song,” what he called a G3 exclusive. Watching Petrucci’s mastery of his instrument is amazing. His explosive two-handed picking style in combination with his throaty rhythms literally feels like your mind is taking a journey through space. It’s a pure experience and Petrucci’s sense of timing and metal proficiency is thrilling to watch.

Joe Satriani finished off the night with a wide array of moods among a set that spanned his entire catalog. His band featured veteran bass player Bryan Beller, the incredible Mike Keneally on guitar and keys, and the speedy Joe Travers drums. What is amazing about Satriani’s playing overall, is that his melodies can stretch over countless bars of music and somehow still make sense. His guitar tone and stage sound were clean and perfectly sustained.

He would often crank up the gain for a few chord progressions, then go right back to soaring solos. There was never a dull moment through his set. And while it’s impossible to perceive limits when thinking about Satriani’s technique, timing, and shear musical ability, all things point to his tenacious dedication to his beautifully written melodies. They are the backbone of his songs, and what keeps them memorable and human. It’s nice to know that one of the most technically advanced guitar players on the planet can keep the feeling in his riffs—and Satriani is all feeling.




Quadrant 4 – (Billy Cobham cover)
Yo 2 Joe
Bless These Blues
Burnt Sally
Down in the Delta

Wrath of the Amazons
Jaws of Life
The Happy Song
Damage Control
Glassy-Eyed Zombies
Glasgow Kiss

Satch Boogie
Cherry Blossoms
Thunder High on the Mountain
Super Funky Badass
Always With Me, Always With You
Summer Song

Highway Star (Deep Purple cover)
Superstition (Stevie Wonder cover)
Going Down (The Alabama State Troopers cover)

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