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Joe Satriani's Experience Hendrix Tour blog: part 3
For the past month, Joe Satriani has blogged exclusively for MusicRadar from the Experience Hendrix Tour. In celebration, MusicRadar has teamed up with IK Multimedia to give away five copies of its awesome AmpliTube Jimi Hendrix Edition amp and FX modelling software.
Click here to enter the competition and be in with a chance of winning a digital version of Jimi's rig. Hurry though! The contest closes on 16 April 2010.
Meanwhile, back to Mr Satriani. We've read his insights, dispatched from hotel rooms, dressing rooms and buses, from cities such as Santa Barbara, California; Mesa, Arizona; Las Vegas; Chicago, among others. And now, for the third and final installment of Satch's blogs, the Experience Tour hits the East Coast.
Chicago, Illinois. The day after the show, I had a great in-store at Sam Ash. My fans are the coolest. There were lots of families, and the age spread was the biggest I've ever encountered at such an event. It was very international, as well, which goes to show what a cosmopolitan city Chicago is, and a great one at that.
St. Louis, Missouri. At the beginning of sound check, I checked my rig and discovered a nasty hum; in fact, everybody was experiencing the same phenomenon. There must have been some unshielded power running underneath the stage or something. I will say this, though: The Fox Theatre is certainly beautiful.
Everybody's set was amazing. The feeling from the audience was deep, heartfelt, and all the performers fed off of it. Our drummers, Chris Layton and Will Calhoun, were nothing short of astonishing. The Fox Theatre offered them an expansive stage, and they really took full advantage of it. Seeing them play together, as they often do, was a real treat.
"Eric Johnson's set…spectacular, as always. One Rainy Wish, with guest vocalist Susan Tedeschi, was thrilling"
Hubert Sumlin was too ill to perform with us tonight, and I must say it bothered me quite a bit. During my set, I kept thinking about him. While I was rockin', he was hurtin'. Sad.
After the show, bassist Scott Nelson and I were showing Jonny Lang how cool open tunings can be. We ran through the greatest hits of open-tuned guitar songs. I was surprised to discover what an accomplished guitarist Scott is.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Did a most enjoyable in-store in the nearby town of New Berlin. Afterward, I missed sound check for a little r&r at the hotel…You've gotta listen to your body when it says, "Rest...rest."
The show at the Riverside Theatre was another smash. Starting with Ernie Isley's amazing guitar work, it seemed as though all the guitarists were getting particularly great sustain. I suspect that the theater's natural ambience contributed to the brilliant guitar tones. I've played this room for over 20 years and always had a good time here.
Living Colour's Corey Glover managed to climb from the stage to the top of the balcony during the band's performance of Crosstown Traffic. Bassist Doug Wimbish rocked his bass solo while roaming the aisles. The audience was on their feet the whole time.
Eric Johnson's set…spectacular, as always. One Rainy Wish, with guest vocalist Susan Tedeschi, was thrilling. It got me thinking how cool it would be to see Eric in a band with a lead vocalist. (And no, Sammy Hagar isn't available!)
Brad Whitford's youngest son, Harrison, joined Hubert Sumlin and the rest of us for the show's encore, a fiery version of Red House. At 14 years old, Harrison already plays well and knows how to improvise on stage in front of a few thousand people. It was great to see Hubert smiling and on stage with his guitar again. Milwaukee gave us a lot of love tonight.
After the show, I headed back to Chicago with my manager and tech as I had a clinic to perform at the Sweetwater headquarters in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
The Sweetwater facility was very impressive. They know how to do things right and were pros in every aspect of setting up the clinic. I actually wound up doing two - a short one for the employees and a longer one for the fans. I was told that the second clinic resulted in the largest turnout they ever had.
It was a trip playing my instrumentals after doing Hendrix for the last three weeks. I was back to 440 tuning and using .009s on my Black Dog JS, my familiar pedals into an old Marshall 6100 and a handful of 'minus one' tracks to play with. The audience, split into two rooms and connected by video screens, was a lot of fun to play for and talk to.
Akron, Ohio. Traveling, however, is not always fun. On the bus ride, we encountered intense thunder, lightning and blinding rain. Not good times.
The stage at the Akron Civic Theater had such a cool, "woody" sound to it. I think it gave a little boost to the performances - people always tend to play better when they like their own tones. Every set was smokin', and each artist walked off stage smiling. Hats off to a fantastic audience.
Living Colour's Vernon Reid and Corey Glover pour it on. Image: © Paul Hebert/Icon SMI/Corbis
Montclair, New Jersey. The Welmont Theater. I think we all enjoyed this one. In general, there was a very warm feeling of unity going around.
There were things to do and people to meet before and during show time that kept me quite busy, but that's good because otherwise I might have over-practiced. That's right - over-practiced. You know what I mean: playing too much before a performance so that all your good stuff is spent before you even walk on stage. It happens. You've got to save the best for the audience. Otherwise, you may as well invite them to your dressing room to hear you play.
Unfortunately, I missed seeing most of the other artists. I did manage to catch Living Colour, who were on fire as usual, and Robert Randolph and Sacred Steel, who sounded great from my side of the stage. When they play, I'm usually standing off-stage right with my guitar on, getting pumped for my set. I've truly loved those moments.
Just as I was ready to hit the stage, a guest standing next to me decided he needed to ask me a question. He screamed in my ear something about harmonics and I was trying to tell him that it wasn't a good time to talk - I was just about to be announced. Well, wouldn't you know it? During this exchange, my name was called but I didn't hear it because the guy was distracting me.
So there I stood, waiting to hear my name until I I saw Living Colour out on stage looking at me like, "WTF? Come on out, Joe!" I turned to my tech and asked if name had been called and he said that even he didn't know because the guy was distracting him too. After a long, awkward moment, I decided to stroll out on stage. So much for my grand entrance!
However, I must say that we rose to the occasion and played a ferocious set. Each song got bigger and grander, a new level of excitement and cohesiveness. Third Stone From The Sun was sublime.
Red Bank, New Jersey. Before the show at the Count Basie Theater, I took a walk around town and bumped into amp wizard George Alessandro, who invited me to check out the new D'Angelico guitar shop around the corner. A fellow named Bill Comins is D'Angelico's luthier and he makes some mighty fine guitars.
The place looked more like an antique store, but it had a great vibe along with a very cool selection of new and vintage guitars and amps. I was in the shop for about 45 minutes when who came walking? Eric Johnson! Apparently, George had some amps that Eric wanted to check out.
Eric Johnson: "Spectacular, as always." Image: © Paul Hebert/Icon SMI/Corbis
Afterward, I hung out with Hubert Sumlin for a while. He told some beautiful stories about his very talented older brother. Hubert has such a way about him, almost an angelic aura. When I looked at him, he seemed to have bright light all about him - no joke. More importantly, you just feel good being around him. A most special person.
That show was another biggie. Ernie Isley brought the music and spirit of Jimi Hendrix to the audience in such a vivid manner. Living Colour had the crowd positively sailing. Eric Johnson mesmerized - he always does that! Jonny Lang surrounded the audience with his soulful intensity. Kenny Wayne Shepherd was powerful with a capital 'P.'
Hubert reminded us where it all began. Robert Randolph stunned with a four-piece lap and pedal steel lineup. As for myself, aided by Living Colour, I explored Third Stone, Foxy Lady and Watchtower. Strange and beautiful things happen on stage sometimes: one night you might 'play' a song; another night you 'perform' it; and then there are nights you go on a musical exploration. The gig at the Count Basie Theater was such a night.
As soon as I left the stage, I jumped in a car that took me to Manhattan. I did an in-store at Sam Ash in the city on Friday, had a great time, then took a night flight to Atlanta to re-join the tour. Never a dull moment!
Atlanta, Georgia. Saturday afternoon, I did another in-store appearance, the last of the tour. It was weird thinking that everything was winding down soon. It felt like we'd just gotten started!
The Fox Theater is legendary, and with good reason: built in the 1920s, it's one of America's first grand movie palaces. Silent pictures played there! Architecturally, it's truly a sight to behold. They don't make 'em like the Fox anymore.
The audience was pumped from the very start. Going to the show, I had a weird feeling that it might not be one of my better nights. Earlier in the day I did a rousing in-store; in fact, it was so good and so much fun that I was feeling drained, a little 'reserved' even. I had this bizarre sense that I had already peaked.
I watched the other performers from the side of the stage rise to the occasion of being in 'Hotlanta,' as the town is often called. We were minus a number of players - Hubert, Kenny Wayne, Noah and Scott - but we got Susan Tedeschi back for one more stunning set. The artists on hand had to add some songs to the repertoire to fill out the show, and I must say, it added a nice edge to the evening.
As I walked on stage, all my reservations mysteriously evaporated. The cheering crowd lifted my soul and off I went into Third Stone From The Sun. I felt rejuvenated and in that special place in my head when I'm not only playing music, but the music plays me; that moment when everything else in your world fades away. It's what makes all the waiting and hangin' around on tour worthwhile.
After Red House we added Voodoo Chile with Robert Randolph and Brad Whitford. Did we take it somewhere else? Oh yeah!
One more show to go. Bummer…
Hubert Sumlin: Priceless stories, impeccable musicianship. Image: © Paul Herbert ./Retna Ltd./Corbis
Durham, North Carolina. The Durham Performing Arts Center is a pristine facility with two balconies, a big stage and terrific room acoustics.
Even though everyone was hurting a bit from lack of sleep and a too-long bus ride, we wanted to really give our all tonight. And I'll be straight-up honest: we did just that. Everybody played brilliantly, with passion, joy and commitment.
It was somehow fitting that I performed my best set on the last night. My prototype JS felt so right in my hands and sounded just as I had hoped it would. Of course, I had other help: Living Colour reached their highest of highs. Together, we found a deeper place to go with Hendrix's songs. Pure magic. I know the audience felt it too by their reaction. It was electric.
We added Hey Joe to the encore. Funnily enough, it was the first time I was asked to play that song on the tour. Of course, you can imagine how many times in my life someone has asked me, "Hey Joe, where you goin'…" You know the rest.
What's weird about Hey Joe is, because its chord arrangement doesn't take kindly to exposition, it's actually a tough song to jam on with four other guitarists. Tonight, however, it took flight. A great encore, to say the least.
The end-of-show bow stretched from one end of the stage to the other. We all walked to the edge to shake hands and say goodbye to the wonderful audience.
After the gig, there were lots of hugs and good vibes all around. People exchanged numbers and addresses and made future plans to play again. A nice way to end a very rewarding 'experience.'
Postscript. After the show, once everyone had left and I was all alone, my mind traveled back in time to my childhood. I remembered how, as a 14-year-old budding guitarist, I would light my 'Hendrix candle' whenever I practiced, hoping it would bring me some of Jimi's mojo. I guess I've always been burning that candle, and still hoping…