G3 – Eventim Apollo, London, UK (25th April 2018)

The G3 tour has for many years been a headline attraction for fans of instrumental guitar playing. On the 25th April, the brainchild of virtuoso Joe Satriani made a stop at London’s Eventim Apollo where he and two of his esteemed fellow axemen were to show off their chops in front of a crowd of guitar connoisseurs.

First up was Uli Jon Roth, most famous for his involvement in the early, and arguably best period of German stadium rockers Scorpions. Credited by many as a pioneer of neoclassical guitar playing in rock music, Jon Roth’s influence on many guitarists can still be felt. Uli’s set consisted mostly of songs from his time with Scorpions, playing classics such as ‘Fly to the Rainbow’ and ‘Sun In My Hand’, the latter of which was dedicated to Uli’s recently deceased brother Zeno, himself an accomplished guitarist.

Backed by a full band including two extra guitarists, one of whom was also on vocal duties, we were treated to richly arranged interpretations of the songs, complete with triple guitar harmonies. After early heavy metal classic ‘Sails of Charon’, Uli thanked the crowd and left the stage for the first, but not last time this evening.

Next up was one of the most frequent guests of the G3 tour – Dream Theater’s John Petrucci. The virtuoso was supported by fellow Dream Theater member Mike Mangini on drums, and accomplished session musician Dave Larue on bass, as the trio delivered a hard-hitting set of instrumental progressive metal. Both backing musicians were allowed plenty of space to shine, with Larue’s bass filling any gaps left by the lack of a rhythm guitar, while Mangini’s animated performance and smiles of pure joy during a satisfying drum beat were a pleasure to watch.

In addition to songs from Petrucci’s solo album Suspended Animation, he also presented two new songs, including the major-scale ‘The Happy Song’ whose main motif bears a striking resemblance to ‘Scotty Doesn’t Know’ from the cult film Eurotrip. After fan favourite ‘Glasgow Kiss’, Petrucci left the stage as we prepared for the man behind it all.

Joe Satriani kicked things into fifth gear from the very start, with the speedy ‘Energy’ off his latest album. A concoction of rock, jazz fusion, boogie and blues, Satriani’s music covered a wide spectrum of styles. Visually as well as aurally, he is an expressive performer, kicking things up a notch from the mostly static Jon Roth and Petrucci. He danced, and grooved, and conveyed every shredding solo or wailing pinch harmonic through his entire body, shaking stronger as he ran up the fretboard of his chrome guitar.

Well-known classics like ‘Satch Boogie’ and ‘Always With Me, Always With You’ were mixed in with cuts from Satriani’s latest offering What Happens Next. Keeping up with the theme of capable backing bands, Satriani’s team were no exception. A special highlight was the skill displayed by Mike Keneally – split between guitar and keyboard duties, sometimes simultaneously, Keneally could easily have passed as another of the guest stars of the tour. Finishing with the energetic ‘Summer Song’ closed the set on a high after yet another batch of brilliant solos from the maestro.

The time for the headline moment arrived and Satriani invited his colleagues back on stage. Deep Purple’s ‘Highway Star’ showed off their ability to play thousand-note-per-minute solos in full synchrony.They also covered ‘All Along The Watchtower’ in Jimi Hendrix’s legendary arrangement of the Dylan classic, for which Uli Jon Roth came in with a surprisingly accurate interpretation of Hendrix’s vocals. A final extended jam over Led Zep’s ‘Immigrant Song’ was to draw things to a close. Having conducted these jams for decades, Satriani knows when to take a step back and let his colleagues shine – at one point he traded his guitar for the singer’s tambourine, letting the latter rip out a solo of his own whilst Satriani grooved around the stage with a smile of utter joy at his fellow guitarists.

Photo Credit: Laurence Harvey

As the final thundering power chord of the three maestros signalled the end of the show, the entire Apollo was on its feet applauding the undeniable display of talent that we witnessed throughout the concert. Three hours of mostly instrumental guitar – ‘a bit indulgent’, some might say? Perhaps, but it just happened to indulge those gathered tonight in exactly the right way.

The G3 tour continues through the UK:

Friday 27th April – Manchester Apollo
Sunday 29th April – Portsmouth Guildhall
Monday 30th April – Birmingham Symphony Hall

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