at House Of Blues, Chicago, USA, April 6, 2006

Joe Satriani on stage.

The House Of Blues in Chicago, Illinois, USA, is nothing short of an incredible establishment. Chicago, the 3rd largest city in the USA, coming in at roughly 3 million people (not counting their massive suburban metro-area), is (unfortunately) unique for concert-goers in that the city has a massive outdoor theatre for summer shows (Tweeter Center, well in excess of 20,000), and a massive indoor venue (United Center, somewhere in the 20,000 range) … but there are few (or no) “in-between” venues where say 3000 – 10,000 fans can witness a show in a more quaint and intimate environment. So, bands that aren’t capable of filling one of these two aforementioned massive venues end up strutting their stuff at the House Of Blues, which is essentially a fabulously laid out bar/restaurant/Victorian theatre that swells at the seams with a mere 1300 fan capacity. In a pre-show interview with Metal Express Radio, Joe Satriani revealed that he sells more records in the Chicago market than anywhere else in the world. Due to the fact that he performed 2 consecutive sold-out shows at the House Of Blues, it was pretty evident that his Chicago fan base may have been underserved by this relatively diminutive venue. The positive side of this phenomenon, of course, is that it stands to reason that only his most rabid fans would be in attendance, because they would be the ones fighting, scrapping, an clawing to get their hands on those precious few tickets — and so it was …


Eric Johnson At precisely 9:01 p.m., Eric Johnson and his 2-man rhythm section opened up the night’s festivities. Johnson, still supporting his Bloom album released in mid-2005, was more than an excellent choice as a warm-up act (actually, as the night unveiled itself, he may have been “too good” of a choice … read on).

Starting out perhaps a bit out of sync, Johnson and company quickly adjusted and delivered a high-energy, eclectic (if not eccentric) show, mixing in both instrumental songs and songs with lyrics for just over an hour. Bloom was a unique release for Johnson in that it was divided into 3 parts, each with a definitive musical style. Johnson’s show on this night followed a similar philosophy, with the song selection varying from straight-ahead rockers, to a Jimi Hendrix cover, to a serial-killer-fast Country & Western number in “All The Way To Love,” to a tribute to S. Ray Vaughn, to a bit of the Blues, along with a couple of well-recognized songs from his platinum-selling Ah Via Musicom album from 1990.

The audience was incredibly receptive to Johnson’s show and his displayed guitar acumen. Johnson, after all, is not necessarily about speed or guitar gimmicks … rather, he is a guitar purist, a craftsman, if you will, who has been capable of building incredible songs around his genre experimentation and natural talents. Topping that off was a very solid rhythm section that held it all together and allowed Johnson to shine like the star he was on this night. In the end, the audience was totally “warmed up” after Johnson’s performance, and was more than ready to continue their bliss with Joe Satriani yet to come.


Joe Satriani 2 At exactly 10:30 p.m., Joe Satriani and his cohorts entered the stage and were greeted by a frenzied reception, as they performed “Flying In A Blue Dream.” Joe’s band was dressed in plain clothes, and Joe came on stage, still bald as a doorknob, dressed in cotton blacks, with eye-fitting black sunglasses. A good look for him, to be sure. Joe and the band were definitely moved and energized by the audience reception… it almost seemed like the incredibly high decibel level of the audience’s collective scream shocked the band into a rather euphoric state of sorts.

The one thing that became quickly evident was the contrast in guitar playing styles between Eric Johnson and Joe Satriani. First, both are incredible talents … but as mentioned above, Johnson is more of a purist in his playing style, whereas Satriani is a master of squeezing out sounds that you might have felt beforehand were impossible to solicit out of any guitar — especially in a live setting. Satriani is/was still very precise in his playing, but tends to “have more fun with it” than a technical player like Johnson. Oftentimes, you could look around and see the gaze of astonishment emanating from the audience as Satriani manhandled his axe, switching from speed solos to remarkably well-crafted artistic expressions.

When speaking with Satriani, Joe told Metal Express Radio that he has a genuine apprehension about being in front of a microphone, so in line with this notion, his entire set was comprised of instrumentals, and in and of itself, Satriani and company put on a well-crafted, enjoyable, and more-than-memorable show. However, Satriani made one critical mistake on this night … and that was the mistake of NOT playing to the desires and expectations of the audience. Nowadays, it has become increasingly difficult to adjust a set-list on the fly, so to speak, due to production room adjustments that would have to be made, but the fact of the matter is the crowd on this night wanted to ROCK, and Satriani simply intermixed too many mellow songs. They were all very well performed, mind you, but you could see the audiences’ wave of enthusiasm rise when Satriani ROCKED during songs like “Satch Boogie” and “Surfing With The Alien,” only to be beaten down during tracks like “The Meaning Of Love” all too often.

Satriani told Metal Express Radio that he has never really considered himself to be a “Metal” guitarist per se, and maybe that thought process has driven the creation of his set list in the manner in which it unfolded. On this night, however, like it or not, deny it or not, the crowd in attendance was largely old-school Metal influenced, and they wanted to hear the heavier side of Satriani. Only from that aspect, therefore, Satriani may have failed to meet the expectations of his faithful following in attendance. Still, though, the band’s sound was incredible, their enthusiasm and love for their craft was evident, and the show overall was more than entertaining.

Satriani and cohorts played for the better part of 2 hours, ending the night with “Crowd Chant” off of the new album, Super Colossal, which was represented well during this evening. As was the case all night, the crowd was very responsive, and there was great participation during the musical/vocal “chant” sections of this song, again bringing several huge smiles to the face of Satriani.

When the band took their bows, a fan from the balcony threw a huge white banner onto the stage, which had black writing on it thanking Joe for his 20 years of music, and listed many of his off-the-wall song topics utilized during his career. Joe appeared quite moved by the gesture, and his actions further demonstrated his appreciation for the Chicago market as a whole … and Chicago’s appreciation and love for this guitar wizard.

Satriani will be touring quite extensively during 2006 in support of Super Colossal … catching the show is indeed highly recommended … however, just be prepared and know that you’re going to be hearing a pretty even mix between up-tempo and slow-tempo songs from Satriani’s catalog.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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