London’s Hammersmith Apollo (i.e. the Hammersmith Odeon of old) provided an appropriate historic venue for this much awaited event, namely the return of G3 to London. A giant screen above the stage provided animation for the night, setting the mood with graphics for each song. Apart from that, the stage was bare but contrasted by the dazzling collection of virtuoso musicians - Joe Satriani, Uli Jon Roth (formerly of Scorpions) and John Petrucci (Dream Theater) who performed for over three hours.
Uli Jon Roth walked onto the stage first looking very much the spiritual rock star. With his trademark hairband, moustache and windblown hair he launched into ‘Sky Overture’. With two other guitarists, keyboards, bass and drums, the sound was deep and rich. At one point, with a simply incredible display of whammy bar technique, it felt as if the Hammersmith Apollo walls would crack due to the extraordinary bass sonics that Roth achieved.
The set was not all instrumental though; guitarist Niklas Turmann chipped in with a powerful high registered voice and Roth himself sung on ‘Sun In My Hand’ a song originally by Scorpions. The highlight was another Scorpions song - ‘We’ll Burn The Sky’, dedicated to Roth’s recently deceased brother Zeno which, although starting slow and thoughtful, launched into a sea of notes from Roth and vocals of pure emotion from Turmann. Roth finished his set with one of the best loved songs from his Scorpions’ days, namely 'Sails Of Charon’. Its ancient beat and unusual but catchy main riff provided Roth the opportunity to truly stamp his mark on the night.
Whereas Roth was artful and graceful, a more muscular display (both musically and physically) was given by John Petrucci who smiling behind his large black beard was clearly pleased to be part of G3 again. His songs were, on the whole, more technically focussed than pure melody, proven by the lengthy opener and colossal ‘Wrath Of The Amazons’. Melody however was forefront later on with the aptly named 'The Happy Song' with its infectious four notes per string sweeping chorus.
More in your face songs followed with ‘Damage Control’ (a song he has cited as the one he finds hardest to play) and ‘Glassy Eyed Zombies’ showing strength and vigour and some nifty bass work from the Dixie Dregs’ Dave LaRue thrown in and on message drumming from fellow Dream Theater member Mike Mangini. The Celtic reels of 'Glasgow Kiss' closed a convincing performance.
Last and obviously not least, a perpetually grinning Satriani appeared with master musician Mike Keneally on keyboards and guitar (as Satriani said - sometimes both played at the same time!), bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Joe Travers.
The first part of the set was largely tracks from his new album 'What Happens Next' starting with the explosive and aptly named ‘Energy’. The addictive ‘Catbot' provided a lot of fun, whilst the tranquil yet complex 'Cherry Blossoms' was Satriani in his musical sweet spot. There was also a hypnotising ‘Thunder High On The Mountain’ (with convincing thunder storm effects provided by Satriani) followed by ‘Super Funky Badass’ in which Satriani and Keneally traded bruising guitar licks.
The second half provide three classics - 'Circles', 'Always With Me, Always With You', and 'Summer Song'. Played perfectly, it would appear Satriani never tires of playing them and certainly the crowd lapped that trio up. The sound again was huge but Satriani always manages to bring a touch of brightness to his notes and he demonstrated a mastery of tone and technique.
With no fanfare, Petrucci and Roth appeared back on stage for the finale; in fact it was an extended jam comprising 'Highway Star', 'All Along The Watchtower' and 'Immigrant Song'. The rather pleasing vocals for the Hendrix song were provided by Roth, whilst the higher voiced and powered Turmann sang the other two. As could be imagined, there were all sorts of guitar histrionics going on but egos were clearly parked in the lobby. Generous applause was given to all with an extra cheer to Satriani who started it all with Steve Vai and Eric Johnson all those years ago.
Joe Satriani's G3 UK Tour Dates, Tickets
Fri April 27 - O2 Apollo Manchester
Sun April 29 - Portsmouth Guildhall
Mon April 30 - Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall
Book tickets through our trusted official partner Ticketmaster