After an energetic set by the Atlanta-based Derek Trucks Band (Derek is the nephew of Butch Trucks - a drummer in the legendary original Allman Brothers Band) the stage is cleared for Joe Satriani. The crowd is packed right up to the front. They're jammed in real tight and every couple of seconds somebody howls in frustration. "C'mon!", they call.
Suddenly the lights go out and One Big Scream erupts! Joe wanders out with the band, looks around and flames into an incindiary opening noise fill. Jeff counts in "Up In The Sky." All heads bob and fists are raised in the air.
Joe looks otherworldy, in keeping with his Alien Nature. He's spidery and crouching...an arachnoid, infant-morphologized, off-planet being all in black; with a chrome guitar, a white chrome-dome, bald head and wrap-around shades. One smile at the audience and it's all over. They scream at him.
A brief pause for a low swooping feedback and Jeff kicks out "House Full Of Bullets." Stu rocks along behind Joe in comfy red velvet harem pants and a shiny black shirt - he looks like a big, goofy friend of yours, nodding his head and grinning. Jeff, behind the big maple drumset pounds away steadily. He's absolutely relentless.
Some guy next to me is yelling "STU!" Stu can't hear him though...he's playing the intro to the song "Crystal Planet," from the new album of the same name. The three bandmembers look like very happy kids. They're really clean. They bob along with the audience...or is it the other way around?
Stu does the vaudville toes-in/heels-in dance across the stage while Joe and Jeff go absolutely apeshit, playing along with a sequencer. It's completely mind-numbing.
In a breath of silence Joe speaks. He introduces Stu. "The crowd yells as one. "STU!"
They launch into "Time"...slow and oddly-metered, with big unison hits by the whole band. There's a large guy sitting next to me eating a plate of Warfield Theatre nachos. I get him to trade places with me so I can be closer to the liquid light show. The blue glow spills across my pages as I write. Mr. Nacho Man is chomping and head-bobbing at the same time. There's a musical break and the band picks up the pace. Much of this sound is a fat groove cake covered with heavy layers of Joe's guitar icing. They launch into "Raspberry Jam Delta-V." Stu's strapped on the red-sparkle bass. The lighting choreography is becoming increasingly complex. There's a bass break and the boys are back into it in a stunning, shimmering, diabolical shower of notes, every event distinct and loud.
Into "Train of Angels," a slow, dreamy drift. I think of Joe's son. It sounds as if he wrote it for his boy. The song pulls at my heart, the melody a slow wah cry with all the power and control that only Satch can put into it. The lovely song ends and Joe and Jeff split the stage.
It's time for Stu. The crowd howls. "STU!" He walks, he frets, he taps, he thumps. It's very pretty and then he starts to romp. Wait! Is it? Yes! It's the Peanuts theme, "Linus and Lucy." He hammers away and suddenly switches to the "Loony Tunes" melody. From there he could only go to something that, for all the world, sounds like "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." He's bobbing and hilarious. Hamm. He definitely got the right name at birth. "STU!"
"Ceremony" and "Lights Of Heaven" follow in quick succession and bang! We're into "Satch Boogie", the trademark stomp. That's it, that's what we've come to hear. And then it's all over. Joe and company leave the stage. The yelling doesn't let up. Encore? You bet!
We're treated to "Ice 9," "Surfing With Alien," "Flying In A Blue Dream," "Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing," "Summer Song" and the strikingly beautiful "Always With Me Always With You." As John Lennon once said: "It's all too much." It isn't too much - but it's totally overwhelming. That much power and that much passion and NO WORDS!
Every accolade about Joe Satriani you've ever heard - he deserves them all. Give it up!
One last encore...it's "Rubina". If your heart isn't overflowing by now you're dead. Goodnight one and all. Out into the cool late winter San Francisco night. Warm up the car and drive home. You're not exahusted and confused...you're envigorated and inspired. Tomorrow is a new day.