Joe Satriani | Hammersmith Eventim Apollo | 10 November 2015
Photo credit: John Bull
Joe Satriani is a magician. Not one of those obnoxious guys at Covent Garden whose only real talent is shouting. Nor a gaudy Vegas illusionist hiding behind sequins, hair extensions, and confetti cannons.
Instead he’s the real deal, performing seemingly impossible feats right before your eyes. No smoke. No mirrors. Just magic. And, like all the greatest, he makes it all look so effortless you stop wondering how the trick’s done. You just gasp at the results instead.
Tonight, there’s plenty to gasp at — from that beautiful transcendent melody of set opener ‘Shockwave Supernova’ to the inevitable barnstorming finale of ‘Surfing With The Alien’. ‘Flying In A Blue Dream’ lives up to its name as Satriani and his three-piece backing band deliver a stratospheric rendition, before turning up the funk — and fretwork fireworks — on ‘Ice 9’. The title track of 1998’s ‘Crystal Planet’ keeps the momentum going and boasts yet another melodic line so hummable that vocals would be completely superfluous.
‘Not Of This Earth’, once again complemented by otherworldly landscapes on the three giant screens, goes back to the very beginning while continuing the theme of interstellar exploration — not just in terms of song titles, but Satriani’s out-there playing. ‘On Peregrine Wings’, one of the highlights of his current album, brings us bang up to date and perfectly showcases the virtuoso’s fluid playing style, changing posture to coax specific tones out of the instrument that’s clearly an extension of his body.
A magnificent ‘Friends’ gives the performer the opportunity to graciously thank support act Dan Patlansky and the London fans, before ‘Time’ sets the scene for some high intensity shredding action. Of course ‘If I Could Fly’ soars, while also featuring an all-smiles guitar duel with band multi-instrumentalist Mike Keneally. The tranquil ‘Butterfly and Zebra’ heralds a streak of new tracks including the gargantuan groover ‘Cataclysmic’, frenzied finger gymnastics of ‘Crazy Joey’, and flamenco-flavoured slow jam ‘All My Life’, which gives Keneally the opportunity to somehow play two keyboards and a guitar at once.
The bluesy ‘Luminous Flesh Giants’, from 1995’s self-titled release, delves back into the past as do silky smooth ‘80s classic ‘Always With Me, Always With You’ and 2010’s textured prog rock experiment ‘God Is Crying’. By the time a loose-limbed ‘Satch Boogie’ ends the main set on a celebratory note, the guitar god is backed by photos, magazine covers, and album artwork from the archives. The message is clear: Satriani may have lost the hair, the hat, and the floral shirts, but not the magic.