Tonight in Birmingham, the masses assemble to witness Joe Satriani, one of the best exponents of guitar playing in the world. The audience is mainly made up of men of a certain age. However, there are a lot of younger fans here also to see the maestro in action.
Symphony Hall, Birmingham – 12 May 2023
Words and Photography: Andy Shaw
As the lights went down, the band, consisting of drummer Kenny Aronoff, Bryan Beller on bass and Rai Thistlethwayte on keyboards, entered to a rapturous reception. Soon after, Satriani walks onto the stage, trademark sunglasses and arms outstretched to welcome the applause. They started with Nineteen Eighty from the 2020 album Shapeshifting.
Satriani is stage right and centre highlighted by a bright spotlight. His band are somewhat in the shadows as a night of instrumental rock and blues music commences. His new song Sahara was next, followed by the title track of his latest album, The Elephants of Mars, and Satriani was in full flow showing his complete virtuosity on the guitar.
Satriani introduced his band, then we were into Ice 9 from his 1987 album Surfing With The Alien. A taste of older and newer followed with Thunder High On The Mountain, then One Big Rush before saying to the crowd, “Been a while, thanks for letting us play some old stuff. We have been doing this a while. Here’s Blue Foot Groovy,” another new song from The Elephants Of Mars.
By now, Satriani is in full flow, and some of the outros to the songs are as long as the songs themselves, something which he acknowledges. The first half of the show ends with a bit of old and new with – Flying In A Blue Dream, Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws, Faceless and Crystal Planet before leaving the stage for a break.
The second half commenced with a rip-roaring drum solo from Kenny Aronoff before the rest of the band returned for a couple of newer songs, Energy, then the slightly rockier E 104th St NYC 1973. We were then treated to a Rai Thistlethwayte keyboard solo showing just how talented Joe’s band are. Cool #9 from his self-titled 1995 album followed.
The stall had been set in the first half of the set with Satriani highlighted and his band in the shadows. However, the crowd did not seem to mind and were enraptured by his guitar virtuosity.
The second half seemed to zip along as there was no relenting in the songs or the quality of Satriani’s guitar playing. However, for me, there could have been more light and shade between the songs in the set and maybe some explanation of his songs, particularly from his latest album, as they seemed to deal with current relevant issues with the lack of vocal input during the songs.
The second half ended with a couple of songs from his second album, 1987’s Surfing With The Alien – Always With Me, Always With You and Satch Boogie before leaving the stage to a massive ovation.
They returned for an encore of Crowd Chant and Surfing With The Alien, finishing a night that his devoted followers thoroughly enjoyed leaving the Birmingham evening with a warm glow.
Joe plays Glasgow tonight, followed by shows in Bexhill and London. Tickets are available from JoeSatriani.com.
Joe Satriani – Setlist
The Elephants Of Mars
Thunder High On The Mountain
One Big Rush
Blue Foot Groovy
Flying In A Blue Dream
Spirits, Ghosts, And Outlaws
E 104Th Nyc 1973
If I Could Fly
Always With Me, Always With You
Surfing With The Alien