Matt Schofield opening for Joe Satriani
Kick starting the celebration of the guitar tonight was the Matt Schofield Trio with the phenomenal Evan Jenkins on drums and the ever-present Johnny Henderson on the Hammond organ. This line-up is my personal favourite there being an understanding, mutual respect and common purpose between all three of the musicians on stage. Matt is without doubt a quality guitarist delivering a purity with a style that has the competing combinations of control and freedom that produces a sound of the blues delivered like no other guitarist on the circuit today. His style is certainly distinctive readily recognisable and is fast becoming to the blues what Joe Satriani is to rock guitarists; thus this line-up makes perfect sense as this pair of consummate guitarist just took different forks in the road of the musical highway! It was a great set by the Matt Schofield Trio opening up the proceedings with favourites ‘Shipwrecked Baby‘; ‘Siftin’ Thru Ashes’ and ‘I Don’t Know What I’d Do’. It was obvious that they were loving playing in a larger venue with a great sound that suited them perfectly, and it was nice to see Matt out not with his faithful old Strat but his new It was not Matt’s old strat, its his new SVL 61 Reserve; it is awesome.
We had the band that combines vocals and guitar playing now for the main act of the evening Joe Satriani, who has dropped the vocals and delivers an all-instrumental format with his band that includes on the Keys and second guitar Mike Keneally, formerly of Frank Zappa; where he was the renowned ‘stunt guitarist’! also on stage was Bass Player Bryan Beller, and heavy hitting drummer Marco Minnemann on drums. Joe Satriani is definitely a change of genre, now we have rock but let’s not get into this boring pigeon-holing debate – talent is talent and high quality live music is always a pleasure. Joe’s guitar playing on his collection of Ibanez guitars has a clarity and precision which reflects Matt’s playing so we have a great example tonight of two similar techniques producing different sounds, so a win-win event for all. Joe has without any argument a phenomenal technique using the whole of the electric guitar and more as he squeezes every drop of musicality out of the instrument producing a Technicolor aural event. Combining this music fest is the very presence of Joe Satriani’s iconic image, his dark glasses are almost “compound eyes” we really felt as if we were surfing with an alien.
The strobe effect of the video backdrop complimented the urgency of the sound with some wicked foot stomping rhythms; the video footage changed reflecting the mood of the music that was definitely pleasing the crowds and we were being treating to a cosmopolitan listening extravaganza. Tracks included tonight dreamingly from another place, ‘Flying in a Blue Dream’ and the complete opposite with an awesome rendition of a Satriani signature track ‘Satch Boogie’ that is a foot stamping affair that raises the blood level; what ever the number a generous fox of Satriani guitar magic dust was added to the diverse mix this was always going to include tracks from his highly acclaimed current album including an opportunity for harmonisation with Mike on the title track, ‘Unstoppable Momentum‘ demonstrating different guitar styles that blend and weave together.
The most amazing mix for me of video and music was the backdrop of a wide open panorama of an American Highway which drew you in and the music transported you out of Colston Hall and right onto the freeway as a guitar anthem ‘Shine on American Dreams’; it was like living a dream of pure freedom for a few precious musical moments.
I am no guitar geek, and this was the first time I had heard Joe Satriani live, and I was not disappointed and the guitar changes were not just to bring on the technicians they did sound different and matched the tracks being played; so this was no self-indulgent process but like everything else Satriani does it was for the music! I was disappointed that the music wasn’t more avant-garde; it felt like this was delivery of music and guitar techniques honed to perfection and now he had stopped setting himself and the audiences any aural challenges.
Overall, despite the lack of interaction between Joe Satriani and the audience making him seem rather remote, this was a fantastic evening of live music and would recommend anyone who has not experienced Joe Satriani live – go – you will be entertained and see some amazing guitar playing, and instrumental delectation that will be a treat to your senses.