Shred-head heaven with G3 — Satriani, Collen, Petrucci

Tahoe Onstage
G3 — Joe Satriani, left, Phil Collen and John Petrucci — Rock Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort on Jan. 12.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Smyth

Joe Satriani’s side project G3, pairing himself with some of the world’s great guitar soloists, has been presented in a number of forms since it was introduced in 1996. Saturday night, a four-course meal of virtuoso sonic deliciousness was served up in the Grand Theatre of Reno’s Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.

Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen got things started with a bit of British bad-boy attitude and a straight forward, edgy set tinged with a bluesy undertone.  Reno’s altitude and winter chill (even though it has not been very wintery around these parts yet) must have gotten his attention, as the normally bare-chested Collen actually sported a vest all evening.

Joining him was the majority of his “Delta Deep” blues project, including drummer Forrest Robinson, vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook and Craig Martini, filling in for Stone Temple Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo. The first few numbers were pure instrumental and performed as a trio. Collen wasted little time letting the crowd know what kind of evening it was going to be, as he, Martini and Robinson separated themselves from the pop-rock rhythms of Leppard. Collen rang out deft, relatively effect-free solo work and probably caught those only familiar with his radio-friendly band a little by surprise. Blackwell-Cook then joined to add her soulful pipes on a thumping “Down In The Delta” to deliver a perfect last bite of the evening’s appetizer.

Dream Theater might be the most aptly named band in the world, as it conjures the image of a vast, comfortable cocoon in which to enjoy the journey blending progressive rock and metal. John Petrucci’s immaculate guitar work was further enhanced with Theater bandmate Mike Mangini banging on the kit behind him. Petrucci’s set was a rogue pod departed from the Dream Theater cocoon, with each song orbiting unknown planets and offering a musical peek through their atmospheres at the goings on below.

Featuring effortless speed and soaring ethereal peaks, Petrucci’s solo guitar work made the most of numerous effects flowing through his signature Mesa Boogie amps. Previously unreleased track “Glassy Eyed Zombies” was a highlight. Anchored by thunderous chords of metal and punctuated with airy solo work that turned darker and increasingly frenetic with each verse, it seemed to tell a story of a pleasant evening suddenly turned upside down by an encounter with said zombies. The set was the perfect second course and vaulted the audience to another level.

Tahoe Onstage
Joe Satriani rocks the Grand Theatre.
Michael Smyth / Tahoe Onstage

Joe Satriani has done what very few have been able to achieve. Aside from a successful 30-plus year career in music, having done so as a solo guitar artist is very rare air indeed. I wasn’t sure it could get louder after Petrucci’s set and, as usual, I was wrong. “Satch” as he’s affectionately known, released his latest record, “What Happens Next,” just the day before and he wasted no time introducing it to the shred heads in Reno  The anthem-like “Thunder High On The Mountain” sports a crank-it-it-up-to-the-max and let’s-see-if-we-can-fry-some-amps chorus and progressive solo sections with enough step-and-a-half bends and fret speed to satisfy any guitar geek. “Cherry Blossoms,” also from the new record, showed why Satriani has had such staying power. He’s not a one-trick pony playing in the same ranges and genres, instead pushing himself into a myriad of textures and tones. “Blossoms” offers a couple helpings of the tender sensibilities of the radio hit “Always With Me, Always With You” combined with a section of speed, tonal changes, and effects that wouldn’t be a successful marriage, but it works.

Of course, he’s not going to sound great without a band that can astutely supply the space for his fretboard histrionics. The animated duo of Bryan Beller and Mike Keneally do just that on bass and guitar/keyboards, while consummate pro Joe Travers provides the rails for the power quartet to stay rooted to the earth.

Three courses in and you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone needing dessert to be satisfied after devouring a perfectly seared entree. But this is the G3 tour, and dessert is included in the form of the three tenors, or in this case the three shred-masters, coming at you all at once. There was even an elegant cherry on top with Debbi Blackwell-Cook returning to add her chops to an all-star jammed out take on the Deep Purple classic “Highway Star.” The evening closed with Don Nix’s “I’m Going Down” to the standing appreciation of everyone in attendance at the seated show. The entire evening was an absolute feast of the aural senses. I might even have to loosen my belt a notch after that meal.

-Michael Smyth

Related story: Phil Collen talks about the tour.

  • G3 Tour
    January 16           Delta Hall at Eccles Theater                          Salt Lake City, UT
    January 17           Brooklyn Bowl                                                   Las Vegas
    January 18           Mesa Arts Center                                            Mesa, AZ
    January 19           Orpheum Theatre                                           Los Angeles
    January 20           Balboa Theatre                                                 San Diego, CA
    January 21           Fox Tucson Theatre                                        Tucson, AZ
    January 24           Historic Paramount Theatre                        Denver, CO
    January 25           Uptown Theater                                              Kansas City MO
    January 26           The Pavillion at The Toyota Music Factory   Irving, TX
    January 27           Austin City Limits – Moody Theater          Austin, TX
    January 28           Hobby Center for the Performing Arts   Houston, TX
    January 30           Hard Rock Live                                                   Orlando, FL
    January 31           Florida Theatre                                                 Jacksonville, FL
    February 1          Pompano Beach Amphitheatre                 Pompano Beach, FL
    February 2          Barbara B Mann Performing Arts Hall      Fort Myers, FL
    February 3          Mahaffey Theater                                           St. Petersberg, FL
    February 6          Raleigh Memorial Auditorium                     Raleigh, NC
    February 8          Toyota Presents Oakdale                             Wallingford, CT
    February 9          Landmark Theatre                                           Syracuse, NY
    February 10        Palace Theatre                                                  Albany, NY
    February 11        The Palace Theatre                                         Greensburg, PA
    February 12        The Fillmore Detroit                                        Detroit
    February 14        Warner Theatre                                                  Washington, DC
    February 15        Orpheum Theatre                                           Boston
    February 16        Beacon Theatre                                               New York
    February 17        Merriam Theater                                             Philadelphia
    February 18        New Jersey Performing Arts Center        Newark, NJ
    February 20        Auditorium Theatre                                        Rochester, NY
    February 21        Massey Hall                                                        Toronto
    February 22        Hard Rock Live                                                   Northfield, OH
    February 23        Chicago Theatre                                               Chicago
    February 24        State Theatre                                                    Minneapolis, MN
    February 25        Riverside Theater                                            Milwaukee, WI

ABOUT Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth
Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website


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