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G3 - Joe Satriani, John Petrucci, Phil Collen

Date: 1/18/18
Venue: Mesa Arts Center, Mesa AZ
Report By: Jack Mangan


Experiencing a G3 concert is akin to a revival tent faith healing, with your local concert hall transformed into the Church of Guitar. Joe Satriani has been running these things every few years since since 1996, which are always a triple bill, starring himself and two other guitar gods. Years past have featured such luminaries as Steve Vai, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Yngwie J. Malmsteen, John Petrucci, Robert Fripp, Paul Gilbert, etc. Petrucci and Satriani are back for the 2018 incarnation, but filling the third spot is first-timer, Phil Collen. Not the “Sussudio” guy - - the lead guitarist from one of the greatest NWOBM and Pop Metal bands of all time: Def Leppard.
It was a night of surprises.
Phil Collen is pretty much universally loved and respected - - he’s laid down some of my all-time favorite Rock n’ Roll solos - - but he’s rarely thought of as an elite guitarists. He and his new Delta Deep project opened the evening with a set of genuine blues jams, proving instantly that he belongs on this tour. He can even sing. Who knew? His band proved themselves fantastic too, and in spite of his skill and prowess as a Rock n’ Roll legend, Collen was nearly upstaged by his lead singer, Debbi Blackwell-Cook, whose soulful, powerful versatile voice and commanding presence ruled the house while she was under the lights. They stuck to Blues originals and standards, with nary a Def Leppard reference anywhere. Phil Collen’s leads were an unmistakable link to his larger history, though.
John Petrucci and his beard batted second in the lineup. His bassist, Dave LaRue is one of the best to ever wield the heavy gauge strings. With LaRue on bass and Mike Mangini on drums, the perfect conduit was in place for Petrucci’s brand of shred. And wow, their set must have left a crater. The place was rocking to the deep, heavy, ominous tones of his opener; minds were blown when he started in with his lead, and everyone recognized the Metal theme from the 2017 Wonder Woman movie. He expressed his happiness at being a part of G3 again, but his joy was plain on his face. He also stuck to solo material, all-instrumental, featuring a bunch of material from his “Suspended Animation” album, and a previously unheard Thrashy original, called “Glassy-Eyed Zombies.”
Satriani headlined, as he does. The man is an ageless wonder. He was arguably the best guitarist in the world when he released his debut, “Not of This Earth,” in 1986, and he's only grown and improved his technique since. It’s a pleasure to hear this old dog perform his old tricks, because he intersperses them with new ones. His set was a mix of stuff from his brand new, 2018 “What Happens Next” album and old. Joe tends to focus on the “Surfing With the Alien” album live, and tonight was no exception, with “Satch Boogie,” “Circles” (it’s OK if you play this one every time, Joe), and the bona fide classic ballad, “Always With Me, Always With You.”
The evening climaxed with the inevitable G3 jam. Phil Collen, John Petrucci, and Joe Satriani came together with Satch’s band to play 3 songs to close out the evening. Blackwell-Cook also retook the stage to cover most of the vocals, with a little help from Collen. To go back to the church theme, it felt like a spiritually uplifting experience to witness this group of musicians performing two of the greatest songs of all time: Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.” They closed out the evening with the stanky blues rocker, “Goin’ Down,” which has been a staple from G3 jams of the past.
The crowd was primarily middle-aged men, with obvious music geeks and musicians among them, but this show is an unforgettable, rapturous experience for music fans of all ages. It’s an amazing night of music for fans of great guitar playing, but the appeal is universal to all audiences. It’s one of the best G3 shows I’ve seen.

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