Fans of guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani may view the music on the experimental, mostly computer-generated new album as a radical shift, but rest assured: His current live presentation is as impressive and listener-friendly as ever.
The Bay Area-based musician’s live show still boasts the amazing fret-board speed and otherworldly tones, the variety of incredibly lyrical passages and more of the same evocative songwriting that made Satch perhaps the most popular rock instrumentalist of the late ’80s and the ’90s.
Satriani — dressed in black T-shirt and black leather pants and wearing dark sunglasses on an otherwise bald head — and his exceptional band, including longtime bass wizard Stu Hamm, sampled the wide spectrum of moods and styles found on his nine solo albums, stretching from the electronica-informed, sci-fi strains of his new “Engines of Creation” (Epic) collection to the soaring and indulgent hard rock workouts from his 1987 showpiece “Flying in a Blue Dream.”
Newly added keyboard and guitar player Eric Caudieux, who co-produced “Engines” with Satriani, brought a new and interesting element to the show, filling out the more complex pieces so that Satch could freely launch into his lightning-fast solos and even smartly trading six-string licks with the boss during the riveting new song “Borg Sex.”
As usual, Hamm all but stole the show with his second-set solo turn, highlighted by his trademark two-part variation on the “Peanuts” theme. Only one song, “Big Bad Moon,” which closed the second set, featured Satriani’s low-range vocals, while that and one other song found him blowing some passable harmonica.
Some songs were offered with unpredictable new arrangements, as with the ever-changing 1995 tune “Cool #9,” which was highlighted by a smooth and jazzy middle section, while others, such as “Satch Boogie” and the dexterity showcase “Summer Song,” were notable because of Satriani’s awesome ability to somehow re-create his extraordinary recorded parts.
The stage decor evoked an ultramodern construction site, with tall, crane-like vertical light rigs and banks of computer-programmed, multieffect lighting units effectively punctuating the music, which itself was flawlessly mixed and amplified throughout.
The “Evening With” perf was divided into two hourlong sets, with a brief intermission, and included a pair of two-song encores. But despite the length of the show, the energy level both on- and offstage never flagged.