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A quick perusal of guitar legend Joe Satriani’s album titles reveals a distinct love of both sci fi and left-of-field quirkiness (Not Of This Earth, Surfing With the Alien, Shockwave Supernova). What he may or may not realise is they also perfectly describe his unearthly talent.

Case in point: Vicar St, Dublin, Monday June 20th: the room, rather than the normal ‘standing room only’ floor plan, has actual chairs and round tables set up, lending tonight’s event a rather cabaret-esque flair – highly unusual for a rock gig. And yet despite this admittedly rather charming anomaly, Satriani – ‘Satch’ to his friends and most devoted fans – manages to hold the tightly packed patrons in a state of spellbound awe for his entire two and a half hour set; an impressive feat, and one that speaks volumes for his live performances.

Beginning promptly at 8.30pm (no support act), Satriani, clad in all black bar a rather lurid silver jacket, strides onstage with the rest of the band and launches without preamble into the title track from 2015’s Shockwave Supernova, immediately dazzling the crowd with his charisma and frankly jaw dropping talent. He is so at home and in tune with his beloved guitars that one imagines he feels quite naked and restless without one strapped to his body.

Such is his skill as he plays that, peculiarly, you almost don’t notice that there are virtually no vocals for the entire show; it’s almost as if his guitar is speaking/singing for him. It’s certainly his voice, his passion, his soul, that emanates from the instrument.

The setlist tonight is a dream for any fan, generously spanning his career. Thus the crowd are treated to the likes of the breezy ‘Flying In a Blue Dream’, the thick and juicy riff in ‘Ice 9’, the pulsating ‘Crystal Planet’ and a raucously heavy ‘Peregrine’.

In between Satriani greets the crowd with easygoing candour and warmth, from a cheerful “Well, well everybody! How we doing?” at the beginning, to quipping that “half the stuff [I] do isn’t good for my guitar” (including playing with his teeth several times), as well as proudly introducing the band members and giving the fans some insight to his songwriting process.

The band themselves are in outstanding form: you couldn’t slide so much as a piece of paper between them musically, they’re so tight – not to mention the fact that they all seem to be having a whale of a time onstage, something that can be sadly absent at some gigs. Here the joy is palpable, particularly in Satriani, who beams delightedly through much of the set.

After a rather odd fifteen minute intermission (again adding to that ‘dinner and a show’ vibe) they resume with a bombastic and funny drum solo from sticksman Marco Minnemann, before further feeding the crowd’s energy with the reggae-ish ‘Crazy Joey’, which leads directly into a floaty and almost ethereal ‘Lost In a Memory’. It’s a rare poignant moment amongst a rush of upbeat hard rock numbers such as a playful ‘God Is Crying’ and the distinctly trippy ‘Luminous Flesh Giants’.

They finish with the power ballad-y ‘Goodbye Supernova’ and ‘Satch Boogie’, which earns the biggest roar of the night so far. Fearing the worst, the crowd stomp up an increasingly louder “one more tune! One more tune!” chant until their patience (desperation?) is rewarded when the band triumphantly return to the stage to belt out ‘Big Bad Moon’ (the only track tonight with vocals) and wrap up with the high octane boogie rock of the legendary ‘Surfing With the Alien’ – talk about ending on a high!

Having been around for thirty years now, Joe Satriani has certainly proven his longevity, and tonight simply reiterated to fans and critics alike his mind boggling talent. Where on earth does it comes from? Here’s the thing – maybe it doesn’t. Maybe he’s the one that has been surfing with those aliens. Now that does make the mind boggle, doesn’t it?

Review by Melanie Black


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