Satriani - Petrucci - Gilbert: G3 2007 in New York City

By Lisa Sharken, New York Contributor
Tuesday, June 19, 2007 @ 6:35 PM

At The Theater at Madison Squa

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There’s one requirement for attending a G3 show: You have to appreciate amazing guitar playing. G3 is an annual tour that features three great guitarists which was founded by wizard Joe Satriani back in 1996. As the ringleader and headliner of G3, through the years, Satch has typically been joined by Steve Vai’s band filling the second slot, and a third artist as the opening act—a different performer each year. However, the 2007 lineup for the US was a shift from the past rounds. This year’s bill included Satriani, John Petrucci (of Dream Theater and Liquid Tension Experiment), and Paul Gilbert (of Racer X and Mr. Big). It was the first time that Vai did not participate on the US trek. He did, however, play G3 dates outside the US. For Petrucci, this was his second round, having performed on the 2005 tour. While the show’s lineup is expected to revolve on every tour, it’s generally only the opening spot that has been the “wild card” filled by a guest performer, with Vai and Satriani having always held their places as the second and headlining acts. But even without Vai rocking this round, the tour was hugely successful, nonetheless.

To kick off the festivities, Paul Gilbert opened the show, performing with a five-piece band which included his Racer X band mate, Bruce Bouillet on guitar, bassist Mike Szuter, drummer Jeff Bowders, and Gilbert’s wife Emi on keyboards. Gilbert first gained recognition in the ’80s as an innovative player and one of the original kings of shred guitar. He emerged onstage armed with a double neck version of his Ibanez signature PGM model, then switched over to a standard 6-string PGM for the remainder of the set, playing through a Laney amplifier. Bouillet favored a late ’70s Ibanez PF300 while Szuter held down the bottom end on an Ibanez 4-string bass and Ampeg SVT rig, and Bowders pounded a Tama drum kit.

The group ripped through a set that included material from Gilbert’s new solo album, Get Out Of My Yard, as well as several Racer X favorites, where he traded riffs with Bouillet. At the end of the set, Gilbert teased the audience with a little instrumental clip of Mr. Big’s mega-hit, “To Be With You,” which he played as a solo guitar piece. It’s been a long time since many fans have had the opportunity to see Gilbert perform live, and he definitely did not disappoint. His masterful chops are still fully intact, he is still an amazing performer, but if anything has changed, perhaps he has grown into an even better musician. Although Gilbert certainly has the ability to execute astounding fret board gymnastics, he held back a bit and saved much of that for the jam at the end of the show. His set was a potent block of expertly performed music, which established where Gilbert is at this point of his career—and he has clearly earned a place of honor amongst the guitar greats.

Gilbert was a recent guest on KNAC.COM, calling in to chat with our beloved Junkman and answer questions from visitor’s to the site’s chat room. While on the show, Gilbert explained the origin for the title of his latest disc, and discussed the challenges he encountered in creating this all-instrumental guitar album. As he told listeners, the title came from his first impression when viewing the cover photo, where he thought he was beginning to look like one of those cranky old guys who always barks at all the neighborhood kids, chasing them out of his yard. He may be older and have shorter hair than he did in the ’80s, but he still looks great and rocks like few others can!

Paul Gilbert’s Set List:

  • Get Out Of My Yard
  • Hurry Up
  • Castle Dragon
  • Rusty Old Boat
  • Radiator
  • Scarified
  • Scit Scat Wah
  • Spaceship One
  • Twelve Twelve
  • To Be With You
  • Down To Mexico
Next to take the stage was John Petrucci, fronting a truly intense power trio that included his Dream Theater band mate, Mike Portnoy, on drums, and bassist Dave LaRue (from The Steve Morse Band and The Dregs)—all of whom are well recognized as prodigious technicians. The group played an instrumental set of riff-laden material from Petrucci’s solo album, Suspended Animation. Although those who had not seen him perform with G3 in 2005 or weren’t familiar with his work may have expected a technical shredfest, Petrucci proved himself a tasteful player and songwriter who has total command of the instrument. With the range of material performed, starting with the scorching opening tune, “Jaws Of Life,” the more melodic “Lost Without You,” and the crushing closing number, “Damage Control,” Petrucci and company delivered a flawless set.

Unlike his position in Dream Theater or Liquid Tension Experiment, Petrucci has more room to stretch out in this setting. He simply burned on his 7-string signature model Music Man guitar, which was cranked through a backline of Mesa/Boogie amps, while LaRue backed him on a 5-string Music Man Bongo bass through an Ampeg SVT rig. Portnoy sat behind an impressive set of clear Tama drums with toms of varying sizes, which he proved weren’t just there for show. As Petrucci and LaRue stood out front annihilating fret boards with their fingers flying, Portnoy held the rhythm together as he put on his own entertaining little sideshow with sticks flying across the stage while tossing drumsticks back and forth with his tech. He never missed a beat and caught every stick! Sandwiched between these two monsters, LaRue got a serious workout. As we soon discovered, this set would serve as his warm up for the remainder of the show.

With both Petrucci and Portnoy considered “hometown boys” in New York, many of their family members and friends were in attendance, and some of their kids even joined the band onstage while they took their final bows at the end of the set.

John Petrucci’s Set List:

  • Jaws Of Life
  • Glasgow Kiss
  • Lost Without You
  • Curve
  • Wishful Thinking
  • Damage Control
After a short intermission, Satriani’s band emerged to headline the show. His group was fleshed out by his longtime drummer Jeff Campitelli, guitarist Galen Henson, and Dave LaRue, who we now saw was doing a double shift playing back-to-back sets with both Petrucci and Satch. A seasoned technician and showman, Satch definitely knows how to craft his set to take the listeners through a variety of mood within the tonal textures of his ballads, blues, and slamming rock tunes like “Flying In A Blue Dream,” “Cool #9,” “Satch Boogie” and “Surfing With The Alien,” all of which showcase his unmistakable graceful melodic style and fluid technique. Satch proudly pointed out that 2007 is the 20th anniversary of Surfing With The Alien—the groundbreaking album that changed instrumental guitar music forever by raising the bar to a new level and making him the player that so many attempted to emulate.

But even before Surfing, Ibanez had acknowledged Satch and he became one the first of this new breed of players with his own signature model guitar, and has since been a loyal endorser. Throughout the set, Satch switched off between several JS guitars for different songs to conjure up distinct tones using the signature Peavey JSX amplifier he developed a few years back. Henson backed up Satch, favoring a Gibson Explorer, but switching over to a Godin acoustic/electric for a few songs, and an Ibanez Prestige electric for the end of the set. Henson also played through a Peavey amp. LaRue switched between two 5-string Bongo basses which thundered through his Ampeg rig, while Campitelli rocked on a Tama kit.

Originally from Long Island, Satch also had family and friends in attendance, which makes his New York gigs extra special. For any player, performing at the Garden is quite a high honor, but to do so in front of those who’ve known you all your life gives the greatest feeling of pride and accomplishment one could ever dream of. For all of the G3 participants, this show was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the US tour.

Joe Satriani’s Set List:

  • War
  • One Big Rush
  • Flying In A Blue Dream
  • Cool #9
  • Super Colossal
  • Satch Boogie
  • Circles
  • The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing
  • Surfing With The Alien
  • Always With Me, Always With You
At the end of Satriani’s set, Petrucci and Gilbert came out to join in with Satch’s band for the traditional G3 jam where all trade licks and blow the doors off a few classic rock tunes. Even though the guys are covering tunes that we’ve heard played a zillion times, many consider the jam to be the highlight of the show because it’s an opportunity to watch these extraordinary players just having fun while goofing around and going wild. Each guy gets an opportunity to take the spotlight for a solo and pull out all the stops. It’s all good fun watching everyone attempt to outdo each other—if that’s even possible—but in a friendly noncompetitive way. It’s just a big party to end the work day.

Gilbert took over vocal duties while all jammed on a medley of Hendrix tunes which started off with “Foxy Lady,” then led into “Purple Haze,” and ended with the trademark riffs from “Voodoo Child.” Satch took over vocals on Jeff Beck’s “Goin’ Down.” I think they shared the vocals on the Rolling Stones classic, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” During one of his solos, Gilbert brought out a cordless power drill with a trio of guitar picks attached on the end of the drill bit. It’s a gimmick he became known for with Mr. Big which enables him to have unmatched picking speed, and it’s still just as entertaining to watch now as it was the first time we saw it done. For those who never had the chance to see this trick live or on video, it’s quite an impressive feat. For those with limited experience with power tools, don’t try this at home! No matter what happens in the jam, whether it be players bumping into each other, stepping on each other’s cables, fumbles in their playing, confusion of who plays what and when, or unavoidable mix-ups with the soundman not turning up the right player at the right time, everyone thoroughly enjoys themselves. The ear-to-ear smiles from the performers and the audience speak volumes. To sum it up, G3 is a celebration of the guitar and an evening of fun for everyone who appreciates exceptional musicianship. We’re looking forward to G3 2008!

G3 Jam Set List:

  • Foxey Lady/Purple Haze/Voodoo Child (ending)
  • Goin' Down
  • Jumpin' Jack Flash
Click on the thumbnail shots for the full-size pictures.

Joe Satriani

John Petrucci

Paul Gilbert

G3 Jam

Photos © 2007 by Lisa Sharken

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