Words: Joseph Dipisa-Fiorenza
Photos: Andrew Basso
It’s always a good feeling walking back into The Forum Theatre, one of the premier venues in Melbourne. This feeling is increased sevenfold when you know it’s the legendary guitar master Joe Satriani you’ll be seeing. The atmosphere is one of excitement and charge as the audience gathers around the Greek amphitheater-esque stage, with its high blue ceiling dotted with stars so as to give the appearance of being outdoors.
The starting time slowly rolls past and we begin to wonder what the hold up is, but before it becomes a real concern, we’re put at ease by Joe exploding onto the scene with ‘Energy’ off his latest album What Happens Next. From that very moment it’s striking just how energetic (no pun intended) his playing is considering he is at the ripe old age of sixty two. Younger guitarists would watch on as he blitzed through ‘Catbot’ and fan favourite ‘Satch Boogie’ with precision and dexterity that their fingers can’t even muster.
It’s important to note that the players Satriani had comprised his band of, are all world class musicians in their own right, making for a four pronged night of insane musicianship. On bass we were blessed by the low thumps and rumbles of Bryan Beller (of The Aristocrats, Steve Vai.) On drums we were gifted by the pounding of Joe Travors (Dweezil Zappa) and on guitars and keyboards we had Mike Keneally (Dethklok, James LaBrie.)
By the time ‘Cherry Blossoms’ rolled around, it was impossible not to realize what a large roll the giant video screen was playing. It projected beautiful artistic renditions of Japan, providing the perfect backdrop for a song which Joe described as “Romantic, believe it or not.” This extended throughout the night with its other notable example being during ‘Thunder High On The Mountain’ where timed lightning bolts were sent flying across the screen.
Constantly alternating between songs from later records and songs from way back in the day, the set a remarkable flow and easily pleased every type of fan, from casual newcomers to die-hard faithfuls who have been following Joe from the start. Furthermore, the middle of the show had a few jam sessions attached to the end of songs like; ‘Ice 9’ and ‘Super Funky Badass’ as well as the titular track from the latest record. These songs and their corresponding solo duals between Joe and Mike were the moments that appealed to the guitarists in the crowd. It’s also when it became super clear just how far above Joe’s playing ability really is. Mike Keneally is a professional guitarist and can do some mind blowing things with his instrument. There is no doubt that the man can play. But during the back and forth, trained eyes and ears would be able to hear the difference. Joe’s playing has a level and sophistication and ease that only a few living guitarists possess.
Returning for an encore, Joe humorously delivered the infamous ‘Crowd Chant’ which had us trying to sing his guitar licks, but to round out the night we were delivered ‘Surfing With The Alien’ before one final outro jam. The perfect end to an inspiring night, sure to have younger players wanting to practice their instrument harder than ever.
Get your tickets to see Joe Satriani on tour HERE!