Joe Satriani @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham – 12 May 2023

The Symphony Hall in Birmingham vibrates tonight, with the electrifying sounds of legendary American rock guitarist Joe Satriani, here on his long awaited ‘Earth’ tour.

Opening with an explosion of energy, ‘Ninety Eighty’ and ‘Sahara’, thrust us into a captivating performance of virtuosity and guitar skill supremacy. With ‘The Elephants of Mars’ completing an initial fifteen minutes of spellbinding, jaw-dropping artistry, Satch is welcomed to the microphone for the first of only a few, brief monologues.

The show comes in two carefully curated halves, to take the audience on a journey through the masters’ extensive discography. Introducing drummer Kenny Aronoff, Bryan Beller on bass and Rai Thistlethwayte on keyboards, Satriani leads into ‘Ice 9’ from his outstanding 1987 album ‘Surfing With The Alien’.

As the first set progresses, it becomes evident that amongst all of Satriani’s technical prowess, is the ability to inject real emotion into his music. The atmospheric ‘Flying in a Blue Dream’ is capable of transporting the listener to another dimension, while ‘Summer Song’ literally puts you in the mood for the months ahead.

After a brief intermission, the second set commences with a drum solo from Kenny Aronoff, highlighting why he is one of rock’s most in-demand session players. From here the musical exploration continues with a mix of new and older cuts from Satriani’s expansive catalogue. ‘E 104th St NYC 1973’ makes way for a Rai Thistlethwayte keyboard solo, before the masterpiece ‘Cool #9’ slides into action.

Of course, in terms of guitar technique, the man has everything in his locker. But while an entirely instrumental set may not appeal to some, it has to be realised these are true songs. The likes of  ‘Shapeshifting’, ‘Teardrops’, ‘Luminous Flesh Giants’, and ‘If I Could Fly’, have their melody and refrains throughout, and the Symphony Hall audience hangs onto every note.

Towards the end with the heart tugging ‘Always with Me, Always with You’, and ‘Satch Boogie’, it has to be noted that Satriani’s band are an incredible ensemble, perfectly complementing the guitar wizardry and contributing their own exceptional skills to the overall tapestry.  Appreciation for all is shown as the band exit the stage.

Returning for ‘Crowd Chant’ and the forever memorable ‘Surfing With The Alien’, the crowd really don’t want Satch to go. After all, with his enduring legacy as a guitar legend, there is a sense of mastery and accomplishment just to see him play. For those fortunate enough to see him in Birmingham tonight, it will be an unforgettable experience.

Review & Photography: Steve Johnston

Joe Satriani