By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Correspondent Tampa
Venue: Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida–March 17, 2016
Joe Satriani kicked off his retrospective “Surfing to Shockwave” tour in Seattle in late-February, which is continuing its sonic journey across the U.S. and terminates in Vancouver at the end of April. The tour’s intention was to reflect on a lot of classic Satriani hits between his break-through second solo album Surfing With the Alien to his recent and 15th solo album Shockwave Supernova.
Rock At Night saw Satriani receive “The Maestro” award at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards in London in November 2015 and now we are proud to review his concert at the Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater, Florida on March 17, 2016. It is funny, when I think of Joe Satriani two things immediately come to mind—virtuosity and generosity. Satriani is one of those rare breeds that loves to share and collaborate with musicians (think “G3” and Chickenfoot) but also sponsors non-profit organizations like Little Kids Rock, which provides new musical instruments and lessons for teachers to expand music education. At the concert last night there was a special raffle for a JS Surfing 20th Anniversary Guitar plus two roundtrip airline tickets to San Francisco to meet Joe. Word has always been in the industry that “Joe is a hellava’ nice guy” and a “musician’s musician”.
The concert set kicked off with a curtain rising to reveal Marco Minnemen (drums), Bryan Bellar (Bass), and Mike Keneally (keyboard, guitars) and the sound of Satriani’s wailing electric guitar blasting “Shockwave Supernova” as he emerged on stage. He was dressed in a black t-shirt, black pants, a silver jacket, black high-top sneakers, and sporting his now signature shaved head and black wraparound sunglasses. His guitar featured multi-colored stylized space creatures painted on the guitar body. Later in the concert he held up the guitar, asking the audience to “Say hello to my little friend.”
During the evening, Satriani switched between various Ibanez JS Series guitars, depending on the song. I observed quite a few Marshall stack amps and an array of pedals. The acoustics in Ruth Eckerd Hall, as always, were stellar and especially suited to this kind of progressive rock performance.
For me personally, the concert was almost a hallucinogenic experience between the music, which was a melding of jazz-fusion and metal rock. I watched the background screen, which often mimicked flying over canyons, mountains, crashing ocean waves, psychedelic swirls, and octopus arms, and I was propelled to another dimension. What amazed me while watching the retro videos of longhaired “young” Joe (“Summer Song” and “Crazy Joe”) was the synchronicity of the video with his playing on stage. The hand positions on the neck of the guitar appeared to match the videos on the screen.
During the concert Satriani attacked his guitar, working his way up and down the neck, like a madman. He used both hands to tap the strings and the guitar almost appeared to be screeching and speaking, as if a creature from another planet. In fact, my thought during this whole concert, which was often themed with science fiction references, was “Is he an alien? This music is other-worldly”. The albums, CDs, and videos do not serve justice—you must experience the sensory sensation of his live performance.
Satriani paused to introduce a few of his songs with a witty one-liner or a short story. “Crystal Planet” was introduced by saying “When it is getting hot I’ve got to be as cool as I can” and he expressed his heartfelt appreciation of all his colleagues, friends and family saying, “So many people are central to making the songs happen—different studios engineers and musicians.” He dedicated “Friends” to the audience and jumped right into the song, while photos of family and friends displayed in the background. Satriani introduced “Butterfly and Zebra” by saying it was a love song about a special relationship and that it was probably “the only love song written about an animal and an insect falling in love.”
The performance of the band was phenomenal and needs to be commended. Keneally adeptly held the guitar and played while standing at the keyboard. He would often walk and stand beside Satriani playing dueling guitars. He appeared to be quite an accomplished guitarist in his own right. Bass play Bryan Bellar’s hair swayed in time with the music the whole evening and he attacked the strings with fury and aggression. Minnemann was a sight to behold on the drums as he slammed the sticks on the toms and cymbals. I wondered how many drum heads he has gone through with this kind of action.
Satriani often paced up and down the stage, bending and arching his back, while attacking the guitar. He was truly feeling the emotion (as the audience did by applauding and arm raising), often doing the guitar-gasm faces of joy—and joy it was. There was a 15-minute intermission between this 2 1/2 hour show and I chatted with other audience members who confessed to feeling quite emotional while watching his performance. Being well-behaved adults, they might not have outwardly shown it. The music, afterall, is cerebral and not head-banging, although there was plenty of nodding and head-bopping going on.
Standing ovations occurred after “If I Could Fly”, “Summer Song”, and “Satch Boogie” which brought out the encore which included harmonica, guitar, and vocal-driven “Big Bad Moon”. “Surfing With the Alien” was a lot of fun to hear and watch as the silver surfer cartoon was displayed in the background.
I strongly suggest catching Joe Satriani during this tour if you have never seen him. Trust me, you will not be sorry—and you will be transported to another dimension.
Personal favorites of the evening: “Not of This Earth”, “Cataclysmic”, “On Peregrine Wings”, and “Surfing With the Alien”
Tickets and exclusive Joe Satriani meet & greet and VIP packages are available now, for details please visit: http://www.satriani.com
“Surfing to Shockwave” Tour Itinerary:
February 25 Paramount Theatre Seattle, WA
February 26 Historic Elsinore Theatre Salem, OR
February 27 Grand Sierra Theatre Reno, NV
February 28 Fox Theater Oakland, CA
March 1 Balboa Theatre San Diego, CA
March 2 Fox Tucson Theatre Tuscon, AZ *
March 3 Fox Performing Arts Center Riverside, CA
March 4 Pearl Concert Theater @ Palms Casino Las Vegas, NV
March 5 Talking Stick Resort Ballroom Scottsdale, AZ
March 7 Historic Paramount Theatre Denver, CO
March 8 Abraham Chavez Theatre El Paso, TX
March 9 The Majestic Theatre Dallas, TX
March 10 House of Blues Houston, TX
March 11 Laurie Auditorium San Antonio, TX
March 12 Orpheum Theater New Orleans, LA
March 14 Iron City Birmingham, AL
March 15 Saenger Theatre Pensacola, FL
March 16 Parker Playhouse Ft. Lauderdale, FL
March 17 Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater, FL
March 18 Hard Rock Live Orlando, FL
March 19 Florida Theatre Jacksonville, FL
March 21 Carolina Theatre Durham, NC
March 22 Knight Theater Charlotte, NC
March 23 Symphony Hall Atlanta, GA **
March 24 The National Richmond, VA
March 25 Sandler Center Virginia Beach, VA
March 26 Orpheum Theatre Boston, MA
March 29 College Street Music Hall New Haven, CT
March 30 Capitol Theatre Port Chester, NY
March 31 The Vets Providence, RI
April 1 Tilles Center Brookville, LI
April 2 Lincoln Theatre Washington, DC
April 4 Count Basie Theatre Red Bank, NJ
April 6 Keswick Theatre Glenside, PA
April 7 Hampton Beach Casino Hampton Beach, NH *
April 8 Danforth Music Hall Toronto, Ontario
April 9 UAB Center for the Arts Buffalo, NY
April 10 Hard Rock Cleveland
April 12 Carnegie Music Hall Pittsburgh, PA
April 13 Fillmore Detroit Detroit, MI
April 14 Pabst Theatre Milwaukee, WI
April 15 Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL
April 16 The Fitzgerald Theatre St. Paul, MN
April 17 Fargo Theatre Fargo, ND *
April 19 Conexus Arts Centre Regina, SK *
April 21 Grey Eagle Event Centre Calgary, AB
April 22 River Creek Casino Enoch, AB
April 24 Hard Rock Casino Vancouver Vancouver, BC
* new dates not previously announced
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