May 19, 2024

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Review: Joe Satriani live concert in the Manchester Bridgewater Hall: May – 2023: Videos, Photos

Joe Satriani is a celebrated guitarist and also known as a distinguished teacher of the instrument. He dispenses a guitar masterclass to a doting Manchester audience.  

What can we say about tonight’s trip down to the city of Manchester and the thoughts of seeing the guitar god that is! Well for one thing we have Satriani’s 1987 album “Surfing With The Alien” on full blast in the car as we head off. Being a fan of someone you are about to photograph and see live always gives you that extra boost of excitement and boy we have it in abundance tonight.

We are just entertained by Satrinai and his band who tonight consist of Joe Satriani (guitar), Bryan Beller (bass), Kenny Aronoff (drums) and Rai Thistlethwayte (keyboards and guitar)

The Bridgewater Hall is a stunning venue, constructed in the 1990s with the emphasis being on creating a principal concert hall for Manchester.  Its imaginative structure and majestic audience space creates a unique atmosphere and is the perfect setting for premier performers.  Lovely wide open spaces before you enter the performance hall and on all levels plenty of space to relax during intervals with big open plan looks and windows giving you some great views of Manchester City Centre.

This tour was originally scheduled for 2020 under the banner of Joe Satriani’s, then, latest album ‘Shapeshifting”. The pandemic put paid to that tour and confined Satriani and his band to base. Undaunted, they recorded “The Elephants of Mars” album during their downtime. Consequentially audiences on this tour are privileged to see Satriani showcase tracks from both albums. With no support tonight, the stage is set for two and a half hours of virtuoso guitar.  

As the house lights dim shortly after 8pm on to the stage come the band. Aronoff’s drums high on a riser with Beller raised lower and to the left, further left is Thistlethwayte with his keyboard and then on walks Satriani dressed in black jeans and a black rather cool looking motor bike type jacket and wrap around sunglasses, all very cool. Its Straight into the racy starting riff of “Nineteen Eighty” before the very rocking rhythm is belted out by Aronoff on his drums. Satriani’s playing is a sight to behold and listen to live, finger stretching over large numbers of frets and moving around and up and down the fret board with ease. The sounds this guy makes from his guitar are stunning sometimes chilled, sometimes heavy rock and every so often just simply out of this world with sustain that seems to last for ever and ever.

Its straight into the second tune of the night the very African influenced beat and starting riff of “Sahara” which ebbs and flows all over the audience and hall, a real foot tapper this one and yeah Everyone’s feet were tapping.

The first half of the show carries on with a faultless performance by Satriani and his band we were even treated to a play off between Satriani’s guitar and Thistlethwayte’s keyboard which to be honest was a great highlight and we called it a draw in the interests of fairness. Another highlight for us personally during the first set was “Flying In A Blue Dream” to hear this master piece played live, of course as soon as the intro was played the crowd were in raptures. So an hour of sheer Guitar utopia came to an end but this was just the first set, we relaxed and waited in anticipation for the next.

Performing  in his band Satriani has the considerable talents of  Kenny Aronoff on drums, Brian Beller on bass and Rai Thistlewayte on Keyboards.  

Emerging  just after eight o’clock Satriani, clad in black with his trademark sunglasses, takes to the stage, briefly accepts the adulation of the crowd and launches straight into a scorching “Nineteen Eighty” from the aforementioned Shapeshifting album.  Throughout the evening the screen backdrop displays an array of images to compliment the music and includes videos from yesteryear to accompany vintage tracks.  

The setlist tonight has been tried and tested throughout the tour and is beautifully balanced to deliver the newer tracks intertwined with seasoned favourites. The atmospheric “Sahara” is followed by the spiralling soundscape of “Elephants of Mars” that is extended to include a stunning Hendrix style guitar sequence.  Stopping briefly to address the audience, Satriani thanks them for their patience in waiting so long for the tour to commence, introduces the band and then plunders the back catalogue for the next sequence starting with “Ice 9” and follows up with a glorious “Thunder High on the Mountain”.     

An extended “Spirits Ghosts and Outlaws” has the band in overdrive while the pace slows for the poignant and melancholic “Faceless”.   

Satriani is master of his craft. The audience, which includes a fair few guitarists, can only look on in admiration at this exhibition of fretboard wizardry .  His command of the instrument is otherworldly and he is rightly regarded as a modern guitar great. 

A mend-bending first half closes with the 1992 classic “Summer Song” with a backdrop of the original video that has the crowd applauding furiously. 

After a short interval we were first treated to Aronoff’s skills on the drums as the set Started off with “Drum Solo” and wow was it bloody good ! After this it’s the rocky riff filled “Energy” with Satriani once again just simply amazing us with his skills and the sounds he manages to get out of his Guitar, Unless you see and listen to Satriani live you wouldn’t think it was possible to geat some of the sounds out of an electric guitar that Satriani seem to manage. “E 104th St New NYC 1973” with it’s slower Jazzy funk beat was a joy and again those feet were tapping along to the rhythm as was “Cool #9” It was Very Cool with some very nice jazzy bass from Beller.

Again the time passed so quickly and the set ended with a virtuoso performance from Satriani of “Snatch Boogie” loads of fret tapping string bending loveliness all packaged up in a real boogie feel and at the end again those noises and sounds you just don’t think are coming from a guitar.

It’s fair to say that Satriani is one of the grand masters when it comes to Guitar, he is without doubt a true god of his craft and art and this writer was blown away when back in the late eighties I first heard his music, but to see him perform this live in a great venue and in front of his many fans and with a fantastic band was truly a great honour and privilege and one gig I will never forget. Eleven out of Ten !!

After a very brief interval the second half opens with an inspired drum solo from Kenny Aronoff  that gives way to a blistering “Energy” from the What Happens Next album.  Then it’s time for Rai Thislewayte to have the stage to himself for a dazzling keyboard solo.  

The two latest albums again feature heavily with the autobiographical “E 104th St NYC 1973” one of the highlights of the night for me. The jazz / soul vibe conjuring up images of night time New York.  “Ali Farka, Dick Dale an Alien and Me” is a surreal and heartfelt tribute to two guitarists that inspired Satriani and see Joe seamlessly adopt the styles of both alongside his own. 

The tail end of the concert, as you’d expect, concentrates on older material and includes an encore of “The Crowd Chant”  before rounding off the evening with “Surfing with the Alien.”  

This concert has been eagerly awaited and the audience has been rewarded for their patience with a display of guitar genius. 

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