As hundreds of Joe Satriani devotees filed in to Riverview two things were becoming quite evident: that Riverview is an excellent venue for an event of this type and that WA’s Thump Music had once again pulled out all the stops for guitar fans.
As audience members took their seats, examining the contents of their Thump Music showbags (which contained guitar cleaning and polishing supplies as well as sample Riff Axelerator guitar training software) many noted the spacious, well-lit staging area and three massive video screens which would later be used to capture and highlight all of the world-renowned guitarist’s intricate playing.
After a brief introduction which included giving away some amazing effects pedal prizes for answering a few Joe-related questions, Satriani took to the stage amid raucous applause and proceeded to locate a patch lead problem which was thought to have been solved during sound check. The calm manner in which the guitarist worked with the Thump Music sound crew to quickly resolve the issue served as the first lesson for the evening, with Satriani adding an amusing anecdote regarding a similar occurrence he experienced live on radio in recent history.
With the ice well and truly broken, Satriani commenced the class, building the information around the concept of having only one hour to practice and how that hour would be divided up. Fans were treated to Joe playing faultless renditions of his most famous songs to backing tracks. This served to highlight the guitarist’s confidence and mastery of his instrument; one wrong note and no one is going to be blaming the iPod and, let’s face it, playing some of the world’s most famous instrumental guitar songs to a room full of guitarists would be daunting for any player. Satriani commented on this, stating that “If you want to know how that weird sound was made or how the fast lick is played, let’s face it, there’s thousands of kids on YouTube who can teach you that and probably play it better than I can…”
Indeed, much of the clinic steered away from what the guitarist calls ‘showbiz stuff’ (guitar tricks and special effects) and veered towards providing excellent information regarding the melodic and harmonic concepts on which his compositions are built.
Satriani stayed on message as he weaved his magic throughout staggering renditions of Satch Boogie, Surfing With The Alien, Flying In A Blue Dream and more, the message being ‘melody is king’. Each song was dissected, revealing the musician’s unique approach including his pitch axis technique (borrowing chords from multiple keys while holding down a constant anchoring tone) and Sinatra-influenced melodic phrasing. A veteran of guitar teaching (whose more famous past students include Steve Vai and Kirk Hammett), this was surprisingly Satriani’s first ever master class tour and it was obvious from the outset that the guitarist possesses the unique ability to deliver solid musical concepts in a practical and palatable framework.
The clinic ended in a brief on-stage jam with five local guitarists and a sense of community not often displayed amongst guitarists came to the fore, the audience getting behind each player and clapping along with each jam. Satriani then moved across to the meet and greet area immediately to sign materials and take photos, reportedly staying much longer than officially contracted to try and make sure everyone left happy.
From start to finish, a class act, represented impeccably by a Western Australian music company.