Joe Satriani

Joe Satriani, The Forum Theatre (Melbourne, 11th July 2008)

Joe Satriani, The Forum Theatre (Melbourne, 11th July 2008)

Professor Satchafunkilus brought his bald head, fast fingers and sunglasses to the brilliant Forum Theatre in Melbourne on the 11th July. Did I expect guitar aerobics? Well, not entirely. But I did see 2 shows. One of them awful, one of them good. Both of them by Joe Satriani

I love the guitar. Sure, i can’t play it that well but I do enjoy watching people that can. So when asked if I wanted to go and see Joe Satriani – American solo guitar god – I didn’t hesitate. Hadn’t listened to a lot of his stuff recently, but like a lot of people I bought his Surfing With The Alien album in the late 80s. Well actually the tape of it. Because I really liked the cover and they advertised it a LOT on TV. It works on 9 year olds, TV advertising.

Since then I’d heard a lot of his stuff without having too many albums.

When’s that stopped me from going to see a show though?  Especially one at the Forum Theatre in Melbourne, in my opinion one of the best medium sized venues in the country. Certainly the best in Melbourne.

Joining the queue at about 7:30, it had already snaked well back towards Federation Square, and fair to say there was a lot of black in the lineup, and not a lot of estrogen. This was going to be a very male dominated show, that much was clear.

Straight in, and we took our positions on the floor about 3 back from the rail. Happy to get a good spot to watch a brilliant musician in action.

Melbourne metal outfit Vanishing Point were the support act. Not exactly a genre of music I like, but you give em a chance. Won’t be seeing them again and their half hour set seemed to last 90 mins. Kinda found it hard to distinguish where one power chord showpiece finished and the next started. So the less said about them the better. They got a couple of head nods from blokes in Pantera T-Shirts but not much else. Meh.

With the venue filling up, Satriani came on stage just before 9pm. Opening with the latest single I Just Wanna Rock (great video, check it out ) was a great choice, and kicked off the show well. After that, well, the next hour was tough to get through. Unlike a lot of gigs I go to I’m not going to be able to go through a list of songs he played – partly because I don’t know them and to be honest, if I did, a lot of them live sound pretty similar. The sound early was awful. Heavily distorted, screaming solo after screaming solo, no melodic lines to speak of and there’s only so many whammy dives a guy can take in an hour. Not entertaining in the slightest.

Then something happened. A big 6’2″ English Sheepdog called Stu Hamm played a bass solo. For about 6 mins. He covered every style imaginable, from slap and pop to country and western. I’m pretty sure there was some polka in there too. From that point the crowd came alive, the sound problems had well and truly been fixed, and Joe returned to the stage with some dynamics and melody. It was a completely different show from that point in – contrasting, melodic, brilliantly technical and dare i say entertaining.

One of the highlights for me came shortly after, a brilliant version of Crying which showed what sets Satch apart from blokes like Vai and Malmsteen – melodic ability and songwriting.

Only using the centre and left side of the stage (yep, we were on the right… probably should have done our research!) was a bit annoying, but we did have the brilliant bassist Stu Hamm to watch on our side of the stage. Stu looks more like a 50 year old  XBOX addict than a rock star, but his work on the bass was incredible.

All in all, I left having enjoyed the second half of the show, and in terms of positives I’d also missed Carlton’s capitulation to the Saints.

I wished I’d also missed the support act and the first hour at the Forum.

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