JOE SATRIANI, ERIC JOHNSON, STEVE VAI – G3 Live in Concert (1997 Epic)
It took me 21 years to finally buy this CD. Why? It was hard to get excited about three live Satch songs, three live Vai songs, and so on. But a collector needs to catch ’em all, and it’s actually a pretty fabulous listen throughout.
Joe Satriani opens the set with “Cool No. 9” from his self-titled blues album. Blues to Joe Satriani is a different kind of animal. It’s trick-laden and thick with notes, although this doesn’t mean light on feel. His landmark classic “Flying in a Blue Dream” is more what people expect from Joe. I like to describe his albums as regular vocal rock records, just with the lead guitar singing the melody instead of a person. I think I stole that description from Joe himself. You can’t really call “Flying” a ballad but it sure is epic. Finally it’s “Summer Song”, Joe’s big 1992 hit from The Extemist. It doesn’t get more accessible for instrumental guitar rock. Joe’s actually the perfect artist to open this CD for that reason. His music, more than most instrumentalists, is door-opening for listeners.
The sublime Eric Johnson is in the middle position. “Zap” is a tour-de-force of instrumental prowess, built into the framework of a nice shuffle. Though you can certainly bop along if you like, the musicianship here is not for the timid. “Camel’s Night Out” is a busy groover. One of Johnson’s best tunes ever has to be “Manhattan”, which goes down unbelievably smooth live. The playing is lyrical and warm.
Steve Vai’s threesome includes “Answers” and “For the Love of God” from Passion & Warfare. “Answers” is one of Vai’s more challenging songs, fast and funky with weird tones and melodies. This is probably the most blistering song on the whole disc, including a solo that isn’t in the studio version. For all that, “For the Love of God” is the most awe-inspiring. This ballad puts the passion in Passion and Warfare. This is the one with Steve’s soul in it, every bend and every beat. “The Attitude Song” is an oldie from the first Vai album Flex-able, just a solid rocker with some shredding. Live it is much heavier than the tinny studio cut.
Finally, there is a trio of tunes with the three maestros playing together, as is the G3 tradition. The blues standard “Going Down” is a typical jam, with Joe on vocals. Then a tribute to Steve’s mentor, Frank Zappa, on “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” with everyone singing…and shredding. Finally, Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” finishes the CD with Eric Johnson on lead vocals. Of these three tracks, “My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama” smokes the other two.
May as well pick up the original G3 CD if you find it in the wild. It’s good stuff.