G3 Tour Featuring
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Vai & Joe Satriani
@ Northrop Auditorium, June 30, 1997

Kenny Wayne Shepherd
Kenny Wayne Shepherd opened the show with some blues classics like "Shame, Shame, Shame," and "Keys to the Highway." He has been touring on the phenomenal success of his first album "Ledbetter Heights," and a new CD will be released in October. He did an impressive walking-blues number from the new album and his slower paced songs were played with an emotional rich tone and clarity. Influenced by the late Stevie Ray Vaughan, this 19 year-old prodigy first picked up the guitar after watching a Stevie Ray Vaughan show from the top of one of Vaughan's amps when he was eight. Shepherd's decade-long woodshedding has paid off with a performance that incorporates versatility and a deep felt passion. Shepherd is an excellent guitar player but was overshadowed somewhat by what was to follow (it's pretty hard to follow the flashy showmanship of Steve Vai and the guitar virtuosity of Joe Satriani).

Steve Vai burst on to the stage, literally, with thunder, lights, sirens and explosions. His flashy performance has style, humor and some mighty fine music. He came dressed in his trademark black skin-tight pants and colorful shirt and proceeded to blow everyone away with his screaming guitar and ear piercing sustained notes. He was joined by his lead guitar player who had his "Alice in Wonderland" hats and was acting as goofy as ever. Viaís performance included him throwing his guitar around the stage, over his head, behind his back, between his legs, as well as playing one handed and with his mouth -- you name it he did it!

He also had this neat sequence where he acted like a conductor who was directing the music. Except each time he gestured, there was an accompanying sound from his band. It was like a mini musical symphony with harpsichord sounds punctuated by his hands. He then did his little "tinker bell" routine, like he was plucking notes out of thin air with his finger and thumb. This all culminated with his jumps, stomps and amusing "body" scratching to the sounds of the music. He is a real showman and got a kick out of playing for the sold out house.

Joe Satriani is something else! He has got to be one of the most original guitar players on stage today. His guitar playing defies description. My son said he has seen his albums in the heavy metal sections of the CD stores, as well as the rock guitar, pop, instrumental, country and blues sections. Joe was wearing his shades, had his head shaved and was playing his gold guitar. His guitar notes were ricocheting off the walls and ceiling while his music cascaded over us like a thundering white-water rapids. Wave after wave of sound was assaulting our senses as we felt the heat of his virtuoso performance.

Joe was joined on stage by his long time friend and musical collaborator Stuart Hamm. Hammís bass playing is phenomenal. Always in shorts on stage, he is a one man wrecking crew on bass. At one point I was sitting down taking a rest, while everyone else was standing up, and I kept haring a second guitar up on stage. I was thinking to myself, "where could that be coming from, thereís only one guitar player up there." I though another guitar player had joined him. So I stood up and it turns out to be the bass playing of Stuart Hamm -- sounding just like a second lead guitar. He takes his playing way beyond just a rhythm bass. He then launched into a solo that kept getting more intense boarding on the frightening. From there he went into some loping country rhythms and at the end of this extended solo he was down on his knees just belting it out!

The traditional end of the G3 show is to have all 3 guitarists up on stage together. They were also joined by the opening act (who I missed unfortunately) Robert Fripp. Fripp, along with Brian Eno created some of the most original rock guitar and electronic music during the late 1960ís and early 1970ís. This finale with Fripp, Satriani, Vai and Shepherd was quite impressive (at the G3 show last fall Eric Johnson and Adrian Legg were on stage with Satriani and Vai). They kicked right into high gear with several classic blues and rock songs including Freddie King's "Going Down," the Kinks "You Really Got Me," and concluded with a sensational version of "The Sky Is Crying." The three headliners were trading licks and taking us into the stratosphere with their great guitar pyrotechnics that left my ears ringing for days.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
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