Joe Satriani Live @ Birmingham Symphony Hall 02/11/15

Credit : Mark Lloyd

Credit : Mark Lloyd

For many fans, this evening’s event has been a long time coming. Advertised from near the beginning of the year, what we have here is a meeting of minds. Two guitarists, both brilliant in their own unique ways, teamed together for one remarkable night of entertainment. Opening the show, we have Dan Patlansky, the South African guitarist who has been taking the world by storm since the release of remarkable album ‘dear silence thieves’. Stylistically Dan’s quite different to Joe, channelling Hendrix and Buddy Guy to deliver a raucous blast of electrifying blues, and it gets the show off to quite a bang, even if some of the audience initially seem a little nonplussed by the crackling display with which they are greeted.

Opening in a bluesy vein, Dan warms up by dishing out some world-class solos and heavy, heavy blues. Live, the man’s a ball of nervous energy, barely able to restrain himself, and if anyone had had any doubts about his ability to move from the club scene to arena-sized venues, then this immense display of superlative musicianship blows them all to hell and back. Despite the remarkable success of ‘dear silence thieves’, Dan only dips into the album here and there, preferring to unleash a new cut, ‘raw’, and several extended workouts, but when he does turn to the album we get the very beautiful ‘hold on’, the crushing Led Zeppelin might of ‘fetch your spade’ and, to my very great delight, the year’s best blues single, ‘backbite’. A track that sizzles with funky power, ‘backbite’ is masterstroke and the live version even manages to eclipse its studio counterpart thanks to the band’s dazzling performance.  Dan’s too-short set ends with an extended instrumental jam where he plays his guitar every which way, demonstrating once and for all that Dan Patlansky is a man for whom showmanship, musicianship and song-writing craft go hand-in-hand and it is heartening to see a massive queue forming at his merch stand during the interval.

Dan having whipped the crowd up into a frenzy by the conclusion of his set, most guitarists would be daunted, but then most guitarists aren’t Joe Satriani. A name that has resonated with hard rock fans and musos for years, Joe Satriani knows how to rock, but he also knows how to deliver subtle, jazz-infused pieces that have the audience in rapture. On stage in such a remarkable venue, Joe delivers a wide-ranging set that takes the audience on an epic journey, the energy levels on stage never dipping, and over the course of his lengthy performance Joe delivers no fewer than eight tracks from the utterly brilliant new album ‘shockwave supernova’.

Credit : Mark Lloyd

Credit : Mark Lloyd

Kicking off with an animated intro that references Joe’s many albums, the band storm on stage to deliver the new album’s stunning title track. Although there is plenty of live footage of Joe out there, I was unprepared for the electric power of Joe’s performance and his sound certainly benefits from the addition of Mike Keneally who adds second guitar and keyboards to the band’s explosive sound. A multi-talented musician who clearly loves playing with Joe and his cohorts, Mike has played with (amongst others) Frank Zappa, Steve Vai and Dethklok, and his larger-than-life personality makes him the perfect foil for Joe’s crazed flights of fancy.  Tracks like ‘ice 9’ fly by as if in a dream and it’s only then that Joe takes a moment to speak to the ecstatic crowd. Introducing ‘crystal planet’, Joe’s down-to-earth demeanour contrasts neatly with his furious displays of technical wizardry and it’s a testament to the good natured approachability of the man that he can talk to a venue as large as the Birmingham Symphony Hall and yet still make it sound as if he’s addressing a group of close friends.

What makes Joe truly special, of course, is the fact that his music is not just an excuse to deliver mind-blowing solos. Each track is a flight of fancy, a journey in which the lead guitar lines take the listener out of themselves and to far-flung solar systems. As a result, the evening flies almost as quickly as one of Joe’s blistering leads and it feels like a moment before the band unleash ‘Friends’, a song during which, in a remarkable display of synchronicity, one of the stage lights shines directly through Marco Minnemann’s drum kit, making him appear to shimmer in some ethereal haze throughout the song’s intro. A drummer’s drummer, Marco has worked with everyone from Ephel Duath to Steven Wilson and his resume alone reads like a music fan’s dream collection. His stunning skills are given plenty of room and when, later, he plays a solo that receives not only rapt attention, but also deafening applause, it’s easy to see that you’re in the presence of a true master. Like the others, on stage, however, there’s not a jot of ego and the joy that radiates from the musicians on stage easily transmits itself to a crowd who, by the show’s conclusion, cannot keep from standing to show their appreciation.

Credit: Mark Lloyd

Credit: Mark Lloyd

Following a devastating display of acrobatic guitar work on ‘If I Could Fly’, Joe introduces the band before heading into the beautiful ‘Butterfly and Zebra’ from the new record. As with the other tracks, the song features amazing bass work from Bryan Beller, another artist who has amassed a list of album credits to drool over. Amongst the reams of material Bryan has appeared on, Bryan has worked with Steve Vai, James LaBrie and even his fellow stagehands for the evening, Marco and Mike which further helps to explain the strong sense of camaraderie on stage. Like the others, he is a formidable presence, but also like them, there’s also the feeling that this night is all about the joy of getting together with like-minded souls and cranking out some seriously good music. It’s entirely infectious and it results in the time ticking by even faster as the show races towards its conclusion.

Cranking out the tunes, the band give us the likes of ‘Cataclysmic’ and the fun, furious ‘Crazy Joey’ before taking their bows and exiting the stage. The noise from the crowd, however, is unceasing and so the band are forced to return for an encore that sees the night’s one vocal tune (the awesome ‘big bad moon’) and, of course, ‘surfing with the alien’ (which is played against the backdrop of the Silver Surfer on an attack run) delivered with an energy that can only come from the band members feeding off of the audience’s undiminished adoration. It’s a luminous end to proceedings, and when Joe and his cohorts tear into an impromptu blues work out that gives Mike one last chance to show off his immense skills, the audience’s pleasure can hardly be contained. It marks a beautiful conclusion to a two and half hour show that felt about ten times shorter.

Credit : Mark Lloyd

Credit : Mark Lloyd

It’s easy to imagine that a lengthy headline show from a guitar legend could slip into the dull. Not so with Joe Satriani. His music is about fun, it’s about love, it’s about the unlimited power of the imagination, and at every step he paints a portrait of a man who just wants to share his powerful dreamscapes with the world. The love that flows between band and audience is very real and everywhere you walked at the conclusion of the concert you could hear people simply stating how utterly amazing the show was. Joe may be a master musician, but his show is all about the music, the songs, the rock and the fun and he delivered all of these things with an energy and vitality that was irresistible. Joe Satriani’s name is legend and with good reason, for his outing at Birmingham Symphony Hall was quite unmissable.

You can still see this amazing tour at the following venues:





GLASGOW ROYAL CONCERT HALL Tuesday 3rd November 2015

SHEFFIELD CITY HALL Wednesday 4th November 2015

CARDIFF ST. DAVID’S HALL Thursday 5th November 2015

SOUTHEND CLIFFS PAVILION Saturday 7th November 2015

BRISTOL COLSTON HALL Sunday 8th November 2015

PORTSMOUTH GUILDHALL Monday 9th November 2015


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