Joe Satriani @ Colston Hall, Bristol – 8 November 2015

As Bristol comes to the end of the traditional bonfire weekend there’s one more big bang to send a shockwave through the City’s Colston Hall, as guitar legend Joe Satriani hits the stage on his current UK tour.

Across the backdrop of three large video screens, a whirling galaxy of stars is projected before the unmistakable bald head and trademark sunglasses of Satch appears, accompanied by Mike Keneally on guitar and keyboards,¬†Marco Minnemann on drums and bassist Bryan Beller. As the packed-out Colston Hall crowd show their appreciation we’re straight in with the dark and threatening title track from the latest album ‘Shockwave Supernova’ before the twenty-five year old mainstay favourite ‘Flying In A Blue Dream’.

There’s a quick change from one signature Ibanez JS series to another for ‘Ice 9’ from ‘Surfing With The Alien’, the 1987 album which helped to establish Satriani’s reputation as a rock guitarist. I’m sure like many here tonight I clearly remember the release of that album, but it really is quite mind-boggling to realise that was over quarter of a century ago now.

There’s a moment of respite before ‘Crystal Planet’ when a female fan shouts from the back “I love you Joe!” A murmur of amusement from the audience is followed with a “Thank you..” from Satch, “..I’m just going to keep playing cos I’m in such a good mood” he says. This before Mike Keneally breaks free from keyboard duties to step down and join him for ‘Not Of This Earth’.

‘Friends’ is dedicated to the Satriani faithful and also on this tour to South Africa’s premier blues rocker Dan Patlansky¬†and his band, who proved to be a a fantastic and contrasting choice of support act, going down a storm in Bristol.

As the biggest-selling instrumental rock guitarist of all time, of course attention is focused on Satriani’s dexterity and virtuosity. But with various ongoing projections of aerial landscapes, a desert timelapse and song-specific imagery, there is a cool, atmospheric visual entertainment to the performance. The talents of the band are also highlighted with Keneally proving why he is a legend in his own right (look him up!) during a sensational duo during ‘If I Could Fly’.

The set-list contains plenty of new material including ‘On Peregrine Wings’, ‘If There Is No Heaven’, ‘Cataclysmic’, ‘Crazy Joey, ‘All Of My Life’ and the short but beautiful ‘Butterfly and Zebra’. Satriani grooves along to every song, shredding his way beyond the limits of all that is possible for many would-be players. He’s phenomenal to watch and the monstrous tone is a joy to the ears, either at full shred or during a change of pace as with ‘Always With Me Always With You’.

Marco Minnemann delivers an awesome drum solo before Bryan Beller starts ‘God Is Crying’ with a thundering bass intro. This is followed by himself and Mike Keneally dualing with Satch, which includes blasts of Purple and Hendrix, all combining into an entertaining few minutes.

‘Goodbye Supernova’ and ‘Satch Boogie’ complete the main set along with archive images of Satriani from the last twenty-five years flashed onto the backdrop. The Colston Hall crowd are in heaven as we are treated to ‘Big Bad Moon’ complete with harmonica solo and ‘Surfing With The Alien’ played along to an animation from the Silver Surfer album cover. It’s a cracking end to a two and a quarter hour show which proves Joe Satriani remains a leading light in guitar technical wizardry and showmanship.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Joe Satriani