Joe Satriani Live at the Grove of Anaheim (05/03/2006)

with opening act: Eric Johnson

I can't give it Six Stars... Want to...I can't give it Six Stars... Want to...I can't give it Six Stars... Want to...I can't give it Six Stars... Want to...1/2

A Six String Psychoanalysis!!!

J.C. Mašek III... Play me till your FINGERS BLEED!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

In my time I've seen some of the greatest guitarists of all time... live. I've seen Pete Townshend swing that arm with three fourths of The Who. I've seen Peter Frampton three times (once in this very theatre). Let's see... Bruce Kulick, Ace Frehley, George Lynch, Joe Perry, Kirk Hammett, Zakk Wylde, Buddy Guy, Keb' Mo', and yes, I've seen Steve Vai on David Lee Roth's Skyscraper Tour. Yessir, it's safe to say that six stringed Axe is that proverbial lightening rod to that dang ol' soul o' mine.

The problem with reviewing such guitar greats is that, well, it's hard to feel truly qualified to do so. I sort of equate this with reviewing the writing of Wordsworth or any given episode of Lost. Luckily the bands these greats play with are ensembles of talent, leading to balanced shows in which the entire set has a complimentary orchestration.

But that's not quite the case when going to see a show like oh, say, G3. Let's face it, nobody comes out of a Steve Vai/ Eric Johnson/ Joe Satriani show and say "Dude, the drums like TOTALLY stole the show!" Nope, you go see these guys for the guitars and the amazing techniques that can be observed and appreciated all over that fret board (and beyond) from E to E (and beyond).

On May 3, 2006 I was given the unique opportunity to see Joe Satriani, with special opening act Eric Johnson. Vai wasn't present, making this, I guess, "G2"(???), but then, with these two, you'd go a little beyond "Gee" with more weight added to the set.

Let me tell you. It had been a hell of a week, packed, in part, by birthdays and deaths (nah, I don't wanna talk about it), therefore, the real opening act of the evening... was BEER. Beer and Nachos. Beer, Nachos and Friends. Now, just imagine three guys sitting peacefully around a table at one of the finest brew pubs in Orange County, California, sitting patiently and sipping their top shelf beers while quietly discussing the finest techniques of Guitar Playing. Now imagine those three guys are joined by me, a six-foot three inch loud Irishman with a loud voice, hair that hangs down past my shoulders (in the front and in the back) and a quote-a-minute (from pop culture to Shakespeare) whose idea of "Moderation" is stopping at the first Keg. Man, did my waitress get tipped that night (I'm a very polite drunk). After shouting something in Latin, then convincing the other three (subdued) dudes to WALK to the concert we braved traffic, the homeless, the crowds and about a million comments of "Man, whose idea was WALKING????" (screw you guys) to arrive at the Grove Theatre in Anaheim, California.

Mike and I boggarted the most up-front spots on the stage barrier, while John and John's friend... um... "John's Friend"... boggarted a similar space on the other side.

My hair was perfect.

Austin's own Eric Johnson took the stage (pretty well on time) and threw his head around the stage as he did with his guitar neck. Eric's three man band (including him) was superb. As alluded to before, this wasn't so much about the band as it was about the guitar itself, and the magician working at its strings. The bass and drums, though proficient (truth is, it takes a great player to keep up with Johnson), were really a means to an end.

Let me tell you... Eric Johnson is fast. Very fast. However, like any true virtuoso, Eric knows it's not about speed, it's about impact. EJ knows when to rip the guitar out, when to bend the strings out further than a stripper's thong and when to slow it down and simply play out his arpeggios and rhythmic chords.

Johnson ranged from the relaxed blues style he seems so comfortable in, to the virtuoso rapid-tap of the true guitar hero, to the new age high-pitched paths, to the pure rock, to the country infused, and even occasionally to the metallic heaviness we all knew he was capable of. Further, singer Eric takes over from time to time adding in his own voice to the eclectic mix of sounds. His high, bounding voice enhances the sounds, and even gives the crowd a little somethin'-somethin' to sing along with.

Aside from this, Eric's voice is used only to warm up the crowd, and occasionally crack us up. The bad thing about his set (if there is such a thing) is the fact that his amazing talents showed the rest of us amateur axe-men how it was done. It's sort of like showing up to the set of a John Holmes flick. You realize you're not going to measure up, so you never bother whipping it out. And while EJ is never boring (not by a country mile), I can imagine that many who don't hang on every note might find the set to be rather flat, if only out of ignorance. Eric Johnson is a diverse and brilliant player, but one would probably have to have a guit-hard-on to really appreciate it all, especially with less lyrics than Bach's six concertos. Personally... I do.

I actually didn't go for more booze during the intermission. Seeing as how I finished not only all of my golden foamies, but (if I remember correctly) also making my buddies' empties truly empty, it was time for the long and perilous plank-walk to the Concert Commode. Man, this is the first event I've ever been to where the line for the men's room was longer than the line for the ladies' room. As I'm not just a polite, but also a logical drunk, I realized that more beer would only bring me back to the head, instead of BANGING my head back up on the front row. Not gonna happen, peeps.

Hair, still perfect.

Why? Joe, baby... It's Joe's world, we're all just livin' in it. Satriani took the crown as one of the definitive guitar masters back in the 1980s after his famous students (the list is huge, but contains Hammett and Vai) bragged about him in the press. Since then, "Satch" has released some of the best instrumental Guitar albums since... well, they're great, okay?

Satriani hit the stage looking like Satriani. His long brown curls have long since been replaced by a closely shaven cue-ball, but the actions and style of dress are all classic Joe. He bounces onto the stage in solid black clothes with matching pitch sneakers, opaque sunglasses (at night, no less) and a guitar featuring his own likeness (from the cover of the new Super Colossal album). He joked that playing that guitar was like picking his nose... ah, see it, you'll get it. Anyway, Satch is funny, having done this on his terms for this long, and jokes with the audience as if we're old friends he's known for twenty years. Though Electric Joe's band is bigger than Eric-weric's is, they still perform a similar function... providing backdrop (albeit skilled) to the incredible central act of the lead guitarist.

Joe jammed to his hits, bounding about the stage like a madman, and commonly striking his familiar playing pose (standing with spread feet, pile-driving hand down below, spider-crawling fingers up above, staring straight up at the ceiling with open mouth, shaking that bald head like a Polaroid picture [hey-ya]) as he outshined even the floodlights on that sparse stage. Satch surfed with the alien, flew in a blue dream, went 9 degrees of cool (if not ice), and, yeah, proved he was not of this Earth when he debuted some of the new numbers from Super Colossal, whith a boogie that only Satch himself can provide!

Satriani's relationship with the crowd was unquestionable, and unquestionably enhanced by his witty banter with the mic. However, that's just about all the Mic was used for. None of Satch's (admittedly few) singing hits saw the light that evening, keeping Joe Viewtiful, but expressed, not in voice, but in the singing of his instrument. Like Johnson's set, Satriani's will be best appreciated by guitar fans, specifically, as it's the guitar that controls the show, expresses the emotions and colors the colossal superbly. The almost New Age, trippy, neo Pink Floyd feel to some of his songs would appeal to just about anyone (hell, some of his best instrumental work has actually been featured in television commercials), but a full hour or more of it might not be the proverbial cup of tea of just any guy named Joe in the audience. Despite what my co-workers might think, I'm not just another guy named Joe... I'm just another guy named J.C., or, if you must, "Resurrection Joe".

But don't take my word for it. There was a whole crew with HDTV cameras filming the whole night. Buy the DVD and soak in it yourself.

The night was crisp, the beer, a gift from God, the music... incredible. Not one, but two gifted musicians graced that stage, their fingers dancing around the fret board as their picks, nails, and occasionally teeth and tongues strummed and plucked those six string ether-tappers for all they were worth. Not one, but two... and unfortunately, not three. But hey, man cannot live on G3 alone. Instead of being a side each of a triangle, this night Eric was his own man, Joe was his own man and Steve... I don't know, man. But Eric and Joe each get Four and One Half Stars out of Five, giving us a cumulative total of... uh... let's see... uh... oh, Four and One Half Stars out of Five! So I can't average today... maybe because I'm reviewing a show that was anything BUT average. Man... we're talking Razor-Wire instead of strings. And considering my Suds consumption... they weren't the only ones cuttin' up! I haven't heard from Mike, John or John's Friend since then... maybe I'll see them in the next reel.

Fly in a blue dream right through this Link...
For reviews I wrote when I was so much older then!

Joe Satriani with Eric Johnson Live at the Grove of Anaheim (05/03/2006) Reviewed by J.C. Mašek III, who plays the guitar just like he's ringin' a bell.
He just sits there and jerks on the Tremolo Bar and then just shakes the damned thing.
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