G3 Reunion: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eric Johnson – Orpheum Theatre – February 10, 2024

Joe Satriani at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, California

G3, in guitarist Joe Satriani’s words, is a celebration of the electric guitar. For rock guitar heads—and especially those who appreciate instrumental players who shred—G3 is an exciting event. For the uninformed, G3 is a periodic concert tour which features three premiere guitarists, a backing band, and a lavish supply of amplification. Since the event’s inception, G3 prime mover Satriani books two highly-proficient, and in nearly every case, world-renowned axemen for the bill.

This year Satriani was joined by fellow guitarists Steve Vai and Eric Johnson—the original “3” who performed on G3’s first U.S. tour in 1996. Two dates at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles wrapped up the string of dates that were played in the Western U.S. Built in 1926, the Orpheum is a storied venue that has hosted legendary performers such as Judy Garland, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder. Now, at almost 100 years old, the Orpheum’s magic lives on.

The closing night saw a video and sound crew in the venue for a live album that was going to be recorded; a commemorative bookend for G3 since an album was released in 1997, which also featured Satch, Vai, and Johnson. 

Vai and his band opened the night with “Avalancha”, an electrifying instrumental from his last studio release Inviolate. The way Vai emotes through guitar is amazing. His onstage physicality and the sound that emanated from his fingers held the audience’s attention, to say the least. Vai closed his set with “For the Love of God” and brought the house down.

While Vai has always been a tough player to follow, Johnson nonetheless got down onstage, employing his trademark style of playing with a tone unparalleled; bright, high-key, and devoid of mass distortion. While his classic hit “Cliffs of Dover” didn’t invoke the devil, it made EJ fans in the house happy.
All smiles, Satriani was met with loud applause. Accompanied by Rai Thistlethwayte on keys, vocals, and guitar, Bryan Beller on bass, and Kenny Aronoff on drums, Satriani’s performance included set staples  “Surfing With the Alien”, “Sahara”, and “Nineteen Eighty” to name a few.

Satriani took the microphone to sing “Big Bad Moon” while laying down vicious guitar licks and giving L.A. a taste of his deft harmonica skills. Satriani was joined onstage by his son Z.Z., an unprecedented event, for “Summer Song” with Papa Satch playing lead while the younger Satriani took charge of rhythm guitar duties. The enjoyment the two were experiencing was evident and the crowd was digging it.

The traditional G3 Jam finale was the proverbial cherry on top. Satriani, Vai, and Johnson ripped into Cream’s “Crossroads”, alternating solos with Thistlethwayte behind the keys, singing an energetic lead vocal. Strapped to his baby blue-colored Stratocaster, Johnson sang lead and played some searing guitar solos alongside Vai and Satch on “Spanish Castle Magic” (Jimi Hendrix). The Jam continued with another rock classic, Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild”— with a jaw-dropping display of drumming by the master of percussion Aronoff.
Satriani then introduced three guest guitarists: Australian wunderkind Plini, Dethklok’s Brendon Small, and Bon Jovi’s Phil X, who joined the G3 ensemble for the last two numbers of the show. Thistlethwayte, at the far end of the stage sang his ass off on “Going Down”, the old Freddie King number that many greats have covered (including Satriani, Vai, and Johnson in the first G3 iteration). If there was a definitive crescendo of the closing segment it was on the last song, when Phil X sang “Foxy Lady” (another Hendrix hit), flaunting his guitar superpowers.

Satriani’s warmth is the magic of G3. With a smile and arms wide, he wraps the audience in a virtual hug. For those who came to G3 for the first time, for the returnees, or for anyone who just wanted to get rocked, this concert exceeded all expectations.

 

 

 

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