Blues Music

Joe Satriani: Elsinore Theater, Salem Gig Review

Joe Satriani’s “Earth Tour 2022-2023” Arrived in Salem, Oregon at the Elsinore Theater on Friday, September 30, 2022. The sold out show began at 8:00 PM with no opening act. It was just Joe dishing out a generous three hour helping of some of the most amazing guitar work that this writer has witnessed since the last time he played here on the G3 tour before the pandemic. The show began with a jolt as Satriani and the band took the stage and dove into “Nineteen Eighty” from Shapeshifting, his 17th studio album released in 2020.

The band was a quartet consisting of Kenny Aronoff, drummer extraordinaire, Bryan Beller on bass, and Rai Thistlethwayte on the keyboard and sometimes second guitar. Two songs from the most recent 2022 release The Elephants of Mars followed, “Sahara” and the title song. The show was a multi-media experience that was both aural and visual as each song was accompanied by images projected on the screen behind the band. The stage was bathed in blue, red and orange light with generated smoke rising as Satriani continued to perform amazingly.

“Thunder High on the Mountain” from 2018’s What Happens Next was accompanied by lightning flashes and mountain scenes as Satriani’s guitar soared. A half dozen selections were featured from The Elephants of Mars that included “Blue Foot Groovy” which had Satriani apologizing for a malfunctioning wah wah pedal that got unplugged. Drummer Kenny Aronoff is one of the top drummers today and he’s played with a variety of music artists over the years including the “Bodeans,” Melissa Etheridge and John Mellencamp to name some. Aronoff kept a hypnotic beat that anchored the direction for Satriani’s guitar to sonically travel in. Thistlethwayte came out from behind his keyboard to lead the audience in a clap along in time to Kenny’s primal drumbeat.

When Satriani began the title song from 1989’s Flying In a Blue Dream the audience immediately recognized it and responded enthusiastically. His fast fingers and passionate playing continued to be accentuated by the visual accompaniment illustrating the subject as a spaceship soared through clouds. Thistlethwayte also played guitar on some of the songs and Joe continually was changing guitars for different songs. Over the course of the concert, he played two dozen cuts from nine of his eighteen studio albums. “Spirits, Ghosts and Outlaws” from 2020’s Shapeshifting album was introduced by Joe telling the audience that when he plays the song he envisions Nicolas Cage riding his motorcycle in the desert. Rai left the keyboard and donned his guitar for a couple more songs as Aronoff’s metronome like drum beat continued. Old time motor cars and drag racing footage from the distant past accompanied Satriani wailing on his silver six string. His full speed ahead playing of “Summer Song” was a bring down the house climax with the stage lights flashing.

Joe Satriani performs in Portland, Oregon

After the band left the stage some of the crowd wasn’t sure whether it was the end or just a break but eventually everyone sat back down or stretched their legs. After about twenty-minutes Kenny Aranoff took the stage and sat behind his drum kit where he began a five minute drum solo before the rest of the band returned. Energy from 2018’s What Happens Next began the set as lightning and geometric prisms danced on the screen to Satriani’s other worldly guitar peals. “E 104th St NYC 1973” from 2022’s Elephants of Mars had a distinctly NYC sound with accompanying visuals from the period.

Aronoff continued to be mesmerizing with his intense metronomic drum detonations. At the same time, Satriani’s fingers danced on the frets of his guitar as red and purple lighting continued to be overwhelmed by the rising smoke effects. Thistlethwayte performed an amazing keyboard solo that led into “Cool #9 on Satriani’s self-titled sixth album from 1995. Joe traded licks with Beller as the bass got louder and matched Aronoff’s exploding bass drum.

A Shapeshifting segment featuring cuts from the 2020 release included “Ali Farka, Dick Dale, an Alien and Me,” “Teardrops” and “Shapeshifting” the title song. Psychedelic colors appeared on the screen as Kenny continued with his insane drumbeat as Joe squeezed out high notes that inspired Beller’s bass. Raindrop splattered windows appeared on the screen to accompany Satriani’s delicate almost oriental sounding guitar notes. “Luminous Flesh Giants” from the 1995 self-titled album was accompanied by an Orange sphere with moving clouds as Joe wailed on his white guitar guided by Aronoff’s machine gun drumming.

Joe Satriani

Joe Satriani is an amazing musician who hits every guitar pose while he performs musical gymnastics immaculately, fret runs, and guitar feedback melodies. “If I Could Fly” from Joe’s tenth studio album Is There Love In Space was released in 2004. Joe played his white guitar as scenes taken from the air of mountains and forests were projected onto the screen. The band hit a groove and they all jammed in unison to Kenny’s rhythmic drumming. The performance was ending where the success of Joe’s career began with Surfing With the Alien. When Satriani donned a red guitar and began “Always With Me, Always With You” Kenny was playing maracas and the crowd went nuts.

The final song was “Satch Boogie” where Joe stood center stage and played his ass off to Kenny’s intense drumming until they brought the house down again and left the stage. The sold out crowd screamed and stomped for a few minutes before the band came back and Joe began to accompany the crowd chanting as he played and the crowd continued until the keyboards took over and they jammed for five minutes. “Surfing With the Alien” closed the show as Satriani dove into it with the rest of the band following in a guitar driven finale that left the audience satisfied that they got their money’s worth.

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