Joe Satriani continues the Unstoppable Momentum tour at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, serving up a night of otherworldly guitar playing that covers his entire career and beyond.
Joe’s always had a knack of picking some superb guitarists to support him. Back in the G3 days we had Eric Sardinas and Adrian Legg alongside many others. Tonight it’s the turn of Matt Schofield.
He’s a perfect choice, with his electric rainbow of Hendrix blues waltzing and Stevie Ray Vaughan attack; there’s a palpable energy as he builds up to his first solo and relief because it’s fantastic – yes, Matt can indeed play.
He’s an inspired choice as support on another level too, as it’s a sound close to what Joe himself might have produced had he turned completely to the blues side. This is wholly demonstrated by his all shuffling & strutting Shipwrecked Baby, the trio wash the venue in organ sounds, delivering a perfect opening to the evening.
This is the first time Satriani has been to the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and right away the atmosphere feels great as he announces “I’m in the mood to play guitar” and then proceeds to tear through Cool #9. He throws in extra embellishments and phrases that can only come from honing a song, being totally comfortable with it – and above all else, enjoying it.
As the backdrops turn blue and control room chatter gives way to the opening strains of Flying in a Blue Dream it’s clear you’re in good hands. It’s three shows into the UK tour and already Satch is on form.
The mix of old and new is perfect this evening and indeed for the tour so far, with brand new title track Unstoppable Momentum being greeted as an old friend, and joining the fraternity of classic melodies.
The energy is up tonight too, drummer Marco Minneman and bassist Bryan Beller are flying and on Ice 9 – which tonight is played fast as hell. They nail it perfectly, with a clear sense that they are enjoying the material. Everyone is smiling, crowd and band alike. Things have only just started and the vibe is great.
One of the true secret weapons in Satriani’s live performance is the one and only Mike Keneally, who tonight is playing multiple roles, at times keyboards, sometimes providing stabbing guitar chords, and at others effortlessly underpinning Satriani’s work, all the time not just keeping up with Joe but supporting him too. When they harmonise it’s right on the money, and when they duel it’s a friendly exchange of two great players all tinged with humour. At one point Joe plays with his teeth, and Keneally apparently goes to do the same, before shaking his head and leaving Satriani to do it alone. Both players laugh and keep duelling.
The blue Chickenfoot Ibanez gets a full work out during Crush Of Love. Satch tells the crowd before he starts that “this was written while waiting for my wife to arrive.” It’s these little insights and nods that personalise the whole evening. Just before Jumpin’ In he talks about how it was a tune he forget about and later found on his computer.
Quick to make every show unique via quips and exchanges with the audience, Satriani seizes a particularly potent feedback at the end of Satch Boogie and just hangs for eternity on it. The band are drilled and free enough to just go with it and after they finish, the guitarist apologises for going slightly leftfield, saying that “sometimes these places just give you a gift and you have to hang on to it.” It’s a wonderfully unique occurrence particularly for the guitar players in attendance, of which there are many. Perhaps the most telling comment though is when Satriani thanks the crowd for “letting us play music from all these decades.” I could see that he was genuinely grateful.
People are starting to stand as Satriani fires up the songs that solidified him as a consummate guitar player and leader in his field. Always With You, Always With Me delivers its beautifully lyrical melodic line, almost becoming a sing-along.
Then he plays Surfing With The Alien.
It was recorded some 24 years ago now, and is still as frighteningly good as it ever was. Tonight there is video projected on the backdrop of his playing, and you get a window into how insanely well composed it is.
Encoring with a great call and response, Satriani segues into Summer Song, and the crowd keep singing the guitar line well into the song. He follows it up with the delicate Rubina’s Blue Sky Happiness. It caps an evening of music performed by an artist playing at his peak, and serving as a testament to how long he has been one of the pivotal artists in instrumental rock.
Listen to A Door Into Summer, taken from the album, below.