The “G” stands for guitar, the “3,” Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and John Petrucci. And that’s what the audience at the Wiltern came for and got — guitars, and lots of them.
Satriani and Vai are promoting double live CDs, both on Sony.
With a house full of Musician’s Institute of Technology/Berklee/Guitar Center layabouts filling the seats, these three maestros of new metal guitar went at it full throttle. All three and their bands were doing the same act, for the most part — instrumentals with rhythm section –showcasing endless flashy soloing. There were lots of whammy bars and effects and arpeggios and showing off: for a guitar freak, heaven; for the rest of the world, probably tedium.
After Dream Theater’s John Petrucci opened the show with 45 minutes of shrieks ‘n’ squawks and brief snippets of melody, the true star of the show, Steve Vai, stepped out. The former Zappa/PIL/David Lee Roth/Whitesnake sideman danced out onto the stage to the strains of “Shy Boy,” a Roth tune sung by his bassist and former Roth bandmate Billy Sheehan. Vai was dressed like a gypsy as he posed and pouted and did every guitar stunt in the book, playing behind his back, with his tongue, with guitar above head.
Spirited and showy he was, full of content he was not. As with headliner Satriani, there was nowhere to go after about five minutes of these displays of prowess. There were no forays into jazz or country or World, just twiddling and more twiddling, the climax of which was the “jam” at the end of the three sets with guests Steve Lukather and Paul Gilbert. They assayed ZZ Top’s “La Grange” and Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” with all of the grace of a typical bar band, beating these standards to death. The irony here was that the stage lighting was subtle, well-employed and effective, in contrast to the musical bombast it was augmenting. Maybe the lighting crew should have received equal billing.
There was nary a dry eye nor unshattered ear drum in the house by the end — a prodigious achievement.