JOE SATRIANI – The Master Of Six-Stringed Flash And Flair Wows The Masses In Fort Lauderdale

November 15, 2022, 2 weeks ago

Words by Jonathan Smith | Photos by Joel Barrios

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The title of legend gets bandied about fairly frequently, and there is a case to be made that it is one that should be reserved by those that have either passed on or are well past their prime. Then again, there are those select few that can claim this distinct honor while still in the threshold of their glory days without it being diminished in any way. Virtuoso guitarist and compositional extraordinaire Joe Satriani is one such example, for between the artists that he has associated with via his long-running G3 Tour, the ones he has personally instructed in Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett and Larry LaLonde (arguably connecting him to the creation of both thrash and death metal no less), and the impressive back catalog he has amassed since the mid-1980s, every box has already been checked. Yet when all of this is considered, it is easy to forget that there is a formidable showman behind it all, a fact that would not be lost on the multitudes that amassed to witness Satriani’s majestic odes first hand on November 11 at the Lillian S. Wells Hall at The Parker in Fort Lauderdale.

It seemed that all the stars had aligned for a breathtaking experience as the crowd gathered for a Friday evening of musical extravagance. The venue itself underwent a remarkable renovation roughly a year ago, making it an even more ideal location both from a standpoint of audience comfort and acoustic quality, and it would be hard to imagine that any in attendance would take the premium level accommodations for granted. Likewise, Joe would be accompanied by a pair of highly skilled and seasoned veterans in drummer Kenny Aronoff and bassist Bryan Beller to forge a solid and precision-based rhythmic foundation upon which his flair for the melodic dynamic and technically impressive could stand. Also in congress would be Australian pop, rock and jazz musician Rai Thistlethwayte, who would provide an invaluable service in further filling out the arrangement on keyboards and also occasionally on rhythm guitar, resulting in a sound highly comparable to the one that Satriani would accomplish in the recording studio.

As any who have followed Satriani on his near 4-decade journey can attest, he is an artist that prefers to let his guitar do the talking. Only occasionally were a few words spoken by the man of the hour to the audience apart from introducing the rest of the band and a few laconic asides between songs, which would be a welcome eventuality given the massive, 26-song set that would ensue. Be this as it may, Joe would play to the visual aspects of a live concert brilliantly with his usual sort of happy-go-lucky mannerisms, a fitting sight to go with the often spritely rocking themes his songs tend to feature and making what often appeared to be impossible feats of skill appear all but effortless. Of particular note would be his rousing rendition of early ‘90s smash hit “Summer Song”, which would feature the original music video itself behind the drum kit and find the now 30 years older Satriani hitting all the riffs and licks so seamlessly and his movement so in sync with the ones featured on the screen that it almost seemed as though his flowing hair was about to spring forth from his now shaved, monk-like crown.

Having tasked himself with the prospect of going it entirely alone on this tour, the massive length of the set would feature a wide array of selections from Satriani’s extensive career, and also require an intermission for the crowd to catch its breath. Being the first tour following a 2-year period of involuntary downtime, a healthy portion would include selections from his two latest albums in 2020’s “Shapeshifting” and 2022’s “The Elephants Of Mars,” with rocking romps like “Nineteen Eighty” and the quirky, outer space meets modern pop stylings of “Ali Farka, Dick Dale, An Alien and Me” lighting up the night something fierce, while the synth-steeped groove of “The Elephants Of Mars” and the serene, piano-driven ode “Faceless” were also among the highlights. Yet when it came to the level of audience elation, the response became far more palpable the further back into his past Satriani went, with the obvious fan favorites from the late ‘80s such as the flashy rock meets jazz riff fest “Satch Boogie”, the hard rocking goodness of “One Big Rush” and the cerebral contemplations with a gripping set of hooks “Flying in A Blue Dream” stealing the show, though late ‘90s busy banger “Crystal Planet” would prove a formidable dark horse entry.

To call what took place an exercise in extravagance would be putting it mildly, yet through it all there was a sense of humbleness about the man at the center of it all, and it spoke as much through the collaborative nature of all the musicians present on stage as well as how Satriani himself opted to present himself. Kenny Aronoff would be allotted a substantial solo slot at the kit to rev things back up right after the intermission, and not long after Thistlethwayte would be given an equally prominent chance to shine apart from the band on the keyboards, making for a spectacle more in line with that of a super group rather than a lone impresario and his touring act. But even more consequential was the utter faithfulness that Joe himself paid to his original creations, striking a perfect balance between note for note restatements of classic hooks and tasteful fits of improvisation, and nowhere was this more apparent than on the colossal coup de grace and encore performance of “Surfing With The Alien”, which gave all in attendance a sendoff that was sure to reverberate in their collective memory for years to come. Though this would not be the final word on the triumph that has been the Earth Tour, Fort Lauderdale likely came away feeling that this encounter had been one of the 3rd kind.

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