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Continuing our series My Best And Worst Gigs Ever, guitar superstar Joe Satriani talks about one show that stands out in his mind as being the greatest he's ever played – and one that didn't work out so well.
“I could actually pick one gig for both my best and worst performances. It was my first show ever in the Carle Place High School gym, which on the one hand was so thrilling, but at the same time I was so nervous that I barely turned around to the audience. But later, I do remember thinking, ‘That was the greatest thing ever, and that’s what I’m gonna do, and I should never do anything else with my life.’ It was a super moment and it’s a beautiful memory, even if I was terrified at the time.
“But that isn’t what I’m going to call my ‘best gig ever.’ My best – and there’s so many to choose from; I’m very lucky in that regard – happened quite recently, actually, on this past tour we did. It was the last show, in fact.
“We’d had about seven and a half weeks of touring, and the last show was supposed to be with Jeff Beck in Nice, France. A few weeks before the show, we found out that Jeff had injured his back and had to go in for surgery, and he was going to cancel the last week of his shows, which included the one we were to do together.
“Our mutual promoter came to me and said, ‘We’re really stuck. Would you be willing to extend your tour another nine days and do a show in Monte Carlo and a couple of these other festivals?’ I said that I thought I convince the band and crew to stay on for another nine or 10 days, but I wanted to know: ‘Are these gigs going to be welcoming to what we do? Because, you know… we’re not Jeff Beck. What we do is a little different.’ They were a lot of jazz festivals, so I was slightly concerned about that.
“They turned out to be really good and pretty interesting – the Monte Carlo show with Marcus Miller and Booker T. And we did some others that were kind of normal. But the last show, the last gig of the tour, was at the Marciac Jazz Festival, which is maybe the most prestigious jazz festival in France. Even though we’d taken on the last week of shows and things went fine – fantastic, even – this gig was a pretty big, serious jazz audience. Plus, we were pretty beat up. We’d done a whole tour, it was the last night – we were toasted and ready to go home.
“As we were about to go on stage, we looked at one another and said, ‘Hey, no matter what happens, no matter how indifferent the crowd is, it’s not going to affect us. We’ve had a great tour.’ We started playing, doing our usual thing, and we looked out and saw not what expected at all: The crowd had a lot of young people. They were on their feet and cheering. It was amazing. And this was in a giant tent with maybe 4,000 people in it, like in the town square. And they had all of these mini tents and video screens, so it covered a huge area. It turned into a real event.
“It was an amazing show all the way to the end. We finish with Crowd Chant and Summer Song – it’s a show that’s designed to get people up on their feet. Everybody was into it. They were having a great time and throwing things onto the stage – funny hats and shirts – so we were able to end the set in a perfect way. It was what you would expect to see at a big rock ‘n’ roll show, not a jazz event. It was a great feeling and really exhilarating to think that we had won over an audience and converted a few people to our point a view, at least for that one evening. We’re just trying to give people a great time, to lift spirits, so we felt as though we’d done that.”