AUSTIN -- When Joe Satriani's G3 Tour extravaganza rolled through ACL Live at The Moody Theater on Saturday night, it figured to tug at the (guitar) strings in an electrifying way. And it did.
But that wasn't the only method by which it amazed.
Satriani, who has taught the likes of Metallica's Kirk Hammett and Testament's Alex Skolnick how to wow audiences in their own right, is worth the price of admission by his lonesome. Having released What Happens Next only two weeks earlier while commemorating 30 years of his landmark Surfing With the Alien, Mr. Satch Boogie as a solo attraction would've rekindled memories of his most recent San Antonio visit in 2016 at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium (coverage here). G3, however, always marks a special occasion, as Satriani chooses a pair of his peers to join him on tour in a non-egotistical showing of respect, admiration and appreciation for what other axemen can do.
The 2018 version sees Satriani joined by Dream Theater specialist John Petrucci and Phil Collen of Def Leppard -- the latter having recently announced an Aug. 31 stop with Journey at the AT&T Center (tickets on sale 10 a.m. Friday here).
Collen kicked off the evening with his side project Delta Deep, which included a rousing cover of Deep Purple's "Mistreated." By the third song, it became apparent Collen's guitar skills weren't the only instrument that would enjoy the spotlight.
Vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook, the godmother of Collen's wife and who performed at their wedding in 2010, brought a soulful exuberance to a program that figured to be dominated by instrumentals, as the Deep showcased a semblance of what can be found on East Coast Live, which dropped the day prior. Also backed by touring bassist Craig Martini, who was filling in for Robert DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots, and drummer Forrest Robinson, Collen shredded at times in a way Def Leppard's music does not allow him. Blackwell-Cook was so amazed while trying to match Collen's sounds with her voice during a fun jam session, she raised her eyebrows and conceded, "He's showing off."
Before returning to the stage for the G3 jam finale, Collen gave way to Petrucci's solo set. Petrucci's own trio included his Dream Theater drumming cohort Mike Mangini, who brought along a condensed version of his kit compared to the one he uses in the progressive metal force, plus bassist Dave LaRue. Not even Petrucci's thick beard could conceal his enthusiasm for playing in the Live Music Capital's cozy indoor venue as he enjoyed "starting with something dark" before turning to a more fluid, yet still heavy, style. Petrucci also played a tune not found on any of his albums, "Glassy-Eyed Zombies," which had fans in one of the three floor sections standing throughout and raising their horns.
Petrucci gave thanks on multiple occasions for being able to play in front of an appreciative audience while referring to Mangini and LaRue as "two of the most amazing musicians I've ever had the pleasure of playing with." The latter, ironically, plies his trade in Flying Colors -- one of the many acts featuring Petrucci's longtime drummer and fellow Dream Theater co-founder Mike Portnoy.
Then came time to surf with the alien himself.
Satriani unveiled his out-of-this-universe skills by mixing the likes of brand new tunes "Energy," "Catbot," "Super Funky Badass," "Thunder High on the Mountain" and the soothingly diversified "Cherry Blossoms" with a slew of 1987 tracks such as "Satch Boogie" and "Circles." He dedicated another, "Always With Me, Always With You," to the crowd for helping to make Surfing With the Alien his true career-launching record. One of those nearby fans couldn't help but exclaim "Whoa!" nearly every time Satch utilized his whammy bar.
Satriani temporarily stopped the show mid-song during Shockwave Supernova track "Cataclysmic" after breaking a string, necessitating a guitar change. He humorously insinuated it might be an omen. But the only thing that resulted was more jaw-dropping musicianship. Satriani wasn't even the only guitarist in his band that deserved the spotlight. Not to be outdone, as he showcased at Trinity, was longtime guitarist and keyboardist Mike Keneally, with Satriani marveling that he plays them "sometimes at the same time."
Bassist Bryan Beller and drummer Joe Travers did their thing as well as Satriani exhibited the talent that has made him one of the most respected guitarists of this generation, also highlighting the evening with "Summer Song."
But that wasn't all.
Petrucci, Collen and Blackwell-Cook accompanied Satriani for the G3 climax, offering up their skills on Deep Purple's "Highway Star" and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition."
Although he omitted tracks from 1989's epic Flying in a Blue Dream and 2010's solid Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards, Satriani, along with his renowned guitar brethren, provided an early 2018 candidate for Concert of the Year.
If the vast array of talent on stage wasn't convincing enough, particularly given that media video footage was not allowed, well, the multitude of standing ovations will have to suffice. And perhaps 30 years of Flying in a Blue Dream will unfold next year.
In the Alamo City, to boot.