G3 - Satriani, Petrucci and Roth - O2 Apollo, Manchester
Words: Christian Hickson | Photos: Anthony Firmin
As a music lover and aspiring guitarist the thought of a concert such as G3 is an exciting prospect. Considering John Petrucci is one of my heroes and a main influence upon my own playing, this is surely going to be a night to remember!
Uli Jon Roth took to the stage first and as the guitarist I knew the least about, I was intrigued by his style. Opening up with quick ascending and descending lines was a very bold move which most guitarists would shy away from, including the other two masters of the night. Being the first on, on a night such as this will add pressure, which is definitely present at points of what is a nervous, but satisfactory opening act. A humbling and poignant moment comes in his set when he dedicates the stunning Sun In My Hand to his brother Zeno who died earlier this year, with a photograph of him projected onto the screen at the back. Roth’s backing band played consistently throughout although again I couldn’t help but feel that they too are feeling the strain of being first on.
John Petrucci follows, starting out with a slower number, as if to ease the crowd into what is going to follow. His band is a power trio, a stark contrast to Roth’s larger band which, with three guitarists on stage, could’ve been mistaken for the final jam! Petrucci himself had no time for singing in his set, just what us guitarists want from the night and as he puts it he is “the metal act for this evening” bringing in the heavy riffs, breaking his set up in the middle with Happy Song and finishing his set with the Celtic tinged Glasgow Kiss, dedicating the piece to a couple of Scottish guys he met earlier. His backing band, including bassist Dave LaRue and fellow Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini, are flawless, as you would expect. The man himself has a few hiccups along the way, showing his human side, which I’m sure a lot of the audience didn’t know existed!
Joe Satriani is a guitarist I’ve always thought looked cocky and was better than he was. This ridiculous opinion is of course blown out of the water once he took to the stage as he oozed charisma and his style is unrivalled. Just when you thought the tasty lick was done he would turn it again, leaving the listener surprised and waiting for the next twist. His set leans heavily towards songs from his new album, What Happens Next, including the openers Energy and Catbot, as well as the light and beautiful Cherry Blossom. And a Satriani set wouldn’t be complete without the Satch Boogie and Summer Song both of which wind up the crowd with his dazzling playing.
Satriani engaged with every member of his band, who were all accomplished musicians in their own right, as well as the audience who were totally enthralled by this point. There was even a dual guitar solo with his fellow guitarist/keyboardist Mike Keneally, who could play most guitarists under the table! Joe and his band really made it known that they are the kings of the show, the reason it is Joe’s show!!
The final G3 jam was set up surprisingly quick, as a dozen people frantically pull guitar speakers across the stage for the guitarists to immediately start jamming out the Deep Purple classic Highway Star. The interaction between the now united trio was fantastic to see and the crowd were made to feel a part of the show too. The three-way harmonies through All Along The Watchtower is special, however when you have three guitarists shredding three different licks at you it can be tiring. Reminiscing of jams with my band, I guess guitarists will be guitarists! Led Zep’s Immigrant Song is the finale and they went out with a bang by bringing the guitarists from Roth’s backing band out for a chance to prove their worth, is also great to see, and they do prove their worth with lightning shreds which have even the masters stunned!
All in all, the evening was a true master class in guitar and my head was spinning at points, from the use of the whammy bar and pinched harmonics, cross-panned by the sound guys who also made sure that everyone was heard from start to finish! Anybody who loves playing or listening to great guitarists should definitely get themselves to a G3 show! They will not be disappointed by amazingly, humble individuals, at the top of their game, showing the world that real music and that talent is not dead just yet!