Orange lights flash, Scottish mists arise, as an opening drum solo shakes the floor of the Wolverhampton Civic. This is the same venue which spawned the likes of Robert Plant, who with his Band of Joy, featuring his best pal and drummer John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham literally cut their musical live teeth, right here in the heart of the Black Country.
The term ‘Black Country’ derives from the times of the Industrial Revolution, when the smoke generated from the foundries and factories created a black mist difficult for anyone to see through. Queen Victoria would draw the curtains in her railway carriage when passing through the region as it was all just dark and murky.
Dressed in a suitable Black T Shirt and mean looking sunglasses, Joe Satriani coolly takes the right hand spot, not the centre, and without any word launches his famous Orange guitar into a wall of screeching sound. Taking the guitar in his mouth and playing with his teeth he slowly moves to centre stage and is joined one by one by his band. Not one for small idle talk, he just gets down to business and plays.
It is prior to the fourth song in his stunning set that Satriani eventually speaks to his crowd in his very American accent; “Here we are in this beautiful place, the sun is shining and this is Unstoppable Momentum the title track of our new album.” Satriani changes to his White guitar, I check the colour of my pale skin wondering if his dark sun glasses have affected his vision on a day where Wolverhampton saw one of the worst June days in recent history, a sky full of dark clouds and heavy hail storms.
All irony is forgiven as the owner of this White guitar chases those Black cloud demons away playing as a man possessed. Using every centimeter of his fret with his left hand, the right hand strums, rubs, strokes, bangs and slaps the core body of that white guitar; meanwhile the left hand crosses over the right hand and both are playing the central part of the guitar at the same time. All of this happens within a time frame of split seconds; repeated time again to create crowd mesmerizing sounds, adored by the guy in the front row, sporting his replica black shades and a shaved head, taking in the Satriani effect, clearly in his element.
Smiling and strutting, Satriani is clearly relishing every moment, always the consummate showman as huge backdrops appear, over 30 feet high and the breadth of the stage. Scenes from Scottish cairns transform into New York streets. Wolverhampton Civic has probably never seen images of this sheer scale: switching to the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the graphics became so intense it was possible to pick out every bolt and rivet utilized in building the structure of this seventh Wonder of the World.
The Californian theme continued as Satriani introduced the band in his broad West Coast accent; Touring Bass Player Bryan Beller, heavy hitting drummer Marco Minnemann on drums, with stalwart studio keyboardist and rhythm guitar by the able and large presence of Michael Keneally.
Picking up that Blue and Orange Guitar Satriani plunges into his classic 2007 tune ‘The Crush of Love’. Riffs are powered out endlessly, but there is something about this particular Ibanez multi colored guitar, it may just be his favorite as he held onto notes for an entire age, not wanting to let go, and neither did the 2,000 almost sell out Civic audience.
Satriani does not mince his words as he plowed into ‘Lies and Truths’ from the new album, no mincing as there were no words, he just gets down and played probably the most amazing piece of electric guitar playing I have ever witnessed. Following which, a throw of that pick into the crowd and coolly getting out the next one from his back pocket. For Satriani actions speak louder than words.
When he next spoke; “Got the Orange Guitar back, I want you just to relax, we wrote this on our American Bus during some time on the West Coast, and this is American Dream”. With which the massive screen backdrop played the video shot from the tour bus as it drove through cactus strewn desserts of Utah and Arizona with the big orange rocks which famously appear in Western movies.
With this concert, Satriani not only served up electric guitar playing probably not seen since Jimi Hendrix but created a vision which transported the spell bound audience away from those dark Black Country weather clouds and took them to a happier place, if only for a few hours.
Robert Plant started his rock music life at the Wolverhampton Civic and then took the spirit of Band of Joy and Led Zeppelin all over the globe, spreading the vibe, incredibly, Joe Satriani captured that very same spirit and bought it home, big time.
Technical Insider for Rockshot as sent personally from Joe Satriani’s office
Joe Satriani plays Ibanez guitars.
Ibanez Orange 2410 prototype
Ibanez White 2400
Ibanez Blue and Orange 2400
All 3 contain sustainiac pick ups
Review by Tim Price for Rockshot. Wolverhampton Civic Hall 13th June 2013