G3 - LIVE: Cliffs Pavilion, Southend 2018

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European Tour
April 24 (19:30 - 23:00)
Capacity 1600

Hot off their recent European dates, G3 kicked off their current UK tour by performing to a healthily sized crowd at the Southend Cliffs Pavilion. The current line-up is identical to the that of the European dates, with ex-Scorpions guitarist Uli Jon Roth stepping in for Def Leppard's Phil Collen, who opened the US tour, joining Dream Theater's John Petrucci, and the ever-present member of G3, Joe Satriani. While both Roth and Petrucci have been part of the revolving door touring package in the past, it's the first time that both have joined Satch for a UK run. It's an ideal line-up on paper, given that each guitarists' clear differences in style offer a package with encouraging variety.

That variety also came into full effect in practice. Roth opened the show with a 45-minute set, drawing primarily from his catalogue of lesser-known fan favourite Scorpions tracks that were featured on his 2015 release Scorpions Revisited. Indeed, while Roth's instrumental passages and the impressive opener of Sky Overture were everything expected from a G3 show, the real highlights of the set were Sun In My Hand and The Sails of Charon, wherein Roth blazed through revitalised versions of both. One particular point of interest regarding the German's set was the relatively large size of his backing band. While their presence was mostly justified by supporting Roth's playing with harmonies and vocals responsibilities, during periods when they were not necessarily needed, they could feel like overbearing detractions from the guitarist - he particularly doesn't need two rhythm guitars backing his own. Yet with that said, Roth's playing has seemingly only improved throughout his career. As one of the original pioneers of the neoclassical genre, his unique phrasing and effortlessly careering legato lines made for exciting viewing. Certainly justifying his inclusion in this line-up, Uli Jon Roth offered a very strong set that demonstrated why he has always been such a highly regarded guitarist.

Following Roth, Petrucci performed his own 45-minute set of material mainly drawn from the Suspended Animation album. First, he opened with Wrath of The Amazons, a suite of music compiled from Rupert Gregson-Williams's 2016 score for 'Wonder Woman', joined by Dream Theater band-mate Mike Mangini on drums and bassist Dave LaRue. Unlike Roth's set, Petrucci set out on a 45-minute voyage of instrumental prowess that offered up an exciting display of technical ability and musical interplay with the rhythm section. While Petrucci did include two new pieces of material in the shape of The Happy Song and Glassy-Eyed Zombies, neither of which should be shunted, the main highlights of his set came in the form of Damage Control and fan-favourite Glasgow Kiss. With so much of the charm of G3 coming from the variety of it's different sets, Petrucci's comparatively heavier progressive-metal sound was a welcome addition. To offer one potential criticism, at times Petrucci was perhaps not as visually commanding as his peers, which is understandable considering that he doesn't usually find himself in the front-man role for the entirety of a set. However, it's a minor criticism at best, due to his outstanding playing being more than interesting enough to make-up for any visual weaknesses. In a nutshell, the Dream Theater man's set was everything fans would want it to be; a straight ahead 45 minutes of alternate picking mastery, enormous riffs, and exceptional melodies littered throughout a plethora of excellent and varied material.

As the instigator and permanent mainstay of G3, it was only natural for Satriani's set to fill the pseudo-headline slot, which he did with his usual aplomb. Unlike both of his G3 colleagues, Satriani has spent the majority of his career as a front-man himself, which is something that became rather obvious from the opening track, Energy. Commanding attention with his animated and bouncing moves, the guitarist rolled through a set that rather heavily featured from his new album What Happens Next. Indeed, while Satch classics like Always With Me, Always With You, Circles, Satch Boogie, and Summer Song were all welcome included, it was the majority of the new material that arguably offered some of the most exciting moments of his set, with Catbot, Cherry Blossoms, and Super Funky Badass standing out. The presence of Mike Keneally in Satch's band is also always of particular note. As a highly respected musician in his own right, Keneally is able to act as both an excellent backing musician and part-time foil to Satch, which ultimately culminated in an excellent solo duel between the two.

It's difficult to direct any real criticism at all towards Satriani; his highly energetic performance was clear evidence as to why he's arguably the ultimate instrumental rock guitar player. While both Petrucci and Roth offered so much musically, neither appeared overly comfortable in the role of a front-man, something which couldn't have been further from the case with Satriani. Between the sing-able melodies and frankly astonishing playing, Satriani laid out a near perfect set that was arguably the biggest strength of the show.

As with every G3 show, the culmination of the even was a final 30 minutes spent jamming a three-song encore with all three guitarists, backed by Satriani's band. Adding Roth's vocalist Niklas Turmann, they started the frantic finale with a cover of Deep Purple's Highway Star, followed by Bob Dylan's All Along The Watchtower (naturally in the style of Jimi Hendrix's famous version, with Roth on vocals), and closed with Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song, trading solos back and forth on extended renditions of all three. Of all three encores, Highway Star was arguably the strongest, with a harmonised version of Ritchie Blackmore's original solo being one of the highlights. All Along The Watchtower also made for a strong cover, as the song's chord progression made for an ideal backdrop for some great interplay between each player. As for Immigrant Song, the Zeppelin classic didn't lend itself quite so well to the sort of improvisation that was played over it, making for a somewhat chaotic final song. With that said, there's very little to criticise about G3, and so much to praise. The variety of the line-up itself was an excellent balance of styles and genres, with every musician performing at the top of their game, G3 delivered on every front.

Uli Jon Roth Setlist: Sky Overture / Sun In My Hand / We'll Burn The Sky / Fly To The Rainbow / The Sails of Charon

John Petrucci Setlist: Wrath of The Amazons / Jaws of Life / The Happy Song / Damage Control / Glassy-Eyed Zombies / Glasgow Kiss

Joe Satriani Setlist: Energy / Catbot / Satch Boogie/em> / Thunder High On The Mountain / Cherry Blossoms / Super Funky Badass / Circles / Always With Me, Always With You / Summer Song // Highway Star / All Along The Watchtower / Immigrant Song

Written by James Abel
More: Gigs, Instrumental, , , ,

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