I saw the G3 show last night at the Congress Theater in Chicago, and was completely blown away. Talk about getting your money's worth. The current incarnation of G3 for 2007 features Paul Gilbert, John Petrucci, and of course Joe Satriani. Each guy played an amazing set of tunes, before all 3 got together at the end for some great jams.
Paul Gilbert opened the show, and his set was my favorite of the night. He played several songs from his latest album, Get Out Of My Yard, plus some Racer X tunes, his solo tune Space Ship One, and some Mr. Big stuff at the end. Bruce Bouillet (Paul's old partner-in-crime from Racer X) is playing second guitar in Paul's band for this tour, and he's one of the reason's I liked this set so much. Bruce was AWESOME. He's playing better than ever, and the inclusion of a second guitar really enhanced the tunes. It was so cool to hear Scarified, for example, done up right with the original guitar harmonies. Bruce added harmony lines to the Get Out Of My Yard tunes also, and had several great solos (ie. the outro to Radiator). He was whipping out some awesome Zakk Wylde-esque pentatonics, and lots of cool string-skipping and hybrid-picking licks too. I definitely want to hear more from Bruce in the future. Paul's playing was incredible all night. It sounds like a cliche, but he makes everything look easy. I prefer his playing now to when he first came on the scene with Racer X back in the mid-80's. He has a real strong blues/classic rock influence in his phrasing that wasn't there 20 years ago. His bending and vibrato are always dead on, and the dynamics in his touch sound very mature. Having said that, he was also shredding his brains out. His fast picked stuff was so punchy and tight that you felt like you were getting kicked in the chest on some of his runs. All his fast stuff was squeaky clean. His playing on Rusty Old Boat was particularly good. Very cool, funky phrasing with awesome shredding as well. Paul's wife Emi took a nice keyboard solo on that song also. Overall, Gilbert's band had a fun, enthusiastic presence that made them sound like they've been playing together for a long time. This was a well-rehearsed, tight band that was fun to watch.
John Petrucci came up next, and if I had to describe his set in one word, it would be HEAVY. His opening tune, Jaws Of Life, was the heaviest thing I have ever heard. Petrucci played a seven-string Ernie Ball guitar on that song, and some others, which made things even heavier. However, on some tunes, it was so heavy and loud, that it was hard to discern what was being played. He did play a couple of lighter songs as well; Lost Without You was really good. But overall, Petrucci's set had the effect of a heavy metal freight train bearing down on you. His solos were great, but some of his picked runs were just a blur. This was especially true if he was using the neck pickup, and the run had smaller intervals. Petrucci was backed up by Dave LaRue on bass, and Mike Portnoy on drums. LaRue had several nice solos (LaRuuuuuuue!), and Portnoy was just a mad-man. What a great drummer. He was throwing sticks all over the place, and was just generally beating the crap out of his kit. He and Petrucci were both very popular with the crowd (I saw lots of Dream Theater t-shirts).
Joe Satriani's band played last (Double-duty Dave LaRue played bass for Satriani also). I really liked Satriani's set. He mentioned Surfing With The Alien was released 20 years ago, so he played several songs from that album. Ice 9 and Circles were both great. My favorite song from his set was Cool #9. The thing I dig about Satriani is his use of old-school blues licks, and Cool #9 was a great example of this. When he goes into pentatonic box territory, the bends, vibrato, and phrasing are always very solid and authentic-sounding. Another fun tune was Crowd Chant. In this song, Satch plays a line, then has the crowd repeat it back to him. The audience was way into it.
One of the fun parts of G3 of course is the big jam at the end. After Satriani's final song (Always With Me, Always With You), he went immediately into a slow major-sounding three chord vamp. Petrucci then walked on and played a very cool solo that kept building and building. Then Gilbert came on played a fantastic solo with some of his patented string-skipping triad lines. Very cool. They then played a Hendrix tribute that consisted of Foxy Lady, Purple Haze, and a snippet of Voodoo Chile. After that it was the Jeff Beck classic Going Down, and finally Jumping Jack Flash closed the show. Satriani sang Going Down, and Gilbert sang the others (Gilbert's vocals on Jumping Jack Flash were really great). Going Down was my favorite jam of the night. All 3 guys sounded great on this tune. I kind of wish they'd play some different stuff for these jams though. These are great tunes, but they've been doing Hendrix songs for years now. There are lots of classic instrumental guitar jams they could play too (speaking of Jeff Beck, how about playing Freeway Jam or Led Boots for a change?). Regardless, the jams did not disappoint. Gilbert was wailing, and he seemed to enjoy listening to the other guys play too. At one point, after Petrucci played a wicked fast-picking run, Gilbert used his classic pick-enabled drill to counter Petrucci's attack. Too funny.
This was an awesome night of guitar craziness. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I heard they won't be filming any of these shows for a DVD. That's too bad, because it would sell like hotcakes if they did. If this version of G3 comes to your town, you must go see it. Highly recommended.
UPDATE: Here's a video I took of Going Down. The audio is not great. It was so loud in there, my cameras built-in mic got overloaded.