Self-taught virtuoso blues guitarist Simon McBride is sole support act on Joe Satriani's 2010 UK tour. Winner of the prestigious 'Young Guitarist of the Year' competition in Guitarist Magazine at just fifteen years of age, the Irishman has refined his style predominantly in a band context with a stint in Vivian Campbell's Sweet Savage as well as session work for the likes of Slash, Charlie Morgan and Steve Lukather. Opting to go solo in 2009 with the release of debut album 'Rich Man Falling', this year has seen him consolidate and progress his self-styled blues approach on sophomore full length 'Since Then'. And it is from said two releases that McBride draws from in tonight's short set, namely 'Down to the River', 'Take My Hand', 'Hell Waters Rising', 'Down to the Wire', 'Devil's Road', 'Rich Man Falling' and a cover of Hendrix's 'Power of Soul'. Beyond his highly developed fretboard abilities and commanding blues licks, McBride is also an adept vocalist with a singing voice that is tonally apposite for the genre within which he plays, and a pristine sound in Birmingham's magnificent Symphony Hall this evening affords his music the best acoustics within which to flourish in a live setting. Accompanied by just a drummer and bassist, it is a stripped down affair, although the trio of musicians manage to fill the venue with solid, hard-hitting blues which is well received by the masses of Satch fans present.
Saturday 23rd October 2010
Symphony Hall in Birmingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Some venues are just that little bit special. Birmingham's Symphony Hall, housed within the International Conference Centre, is one such place, and the £30 million building, with its elegantly decorated interior and plush appearance, has been strategically designed beyond mere aesthetics for the acoustics prove to be amongst the best, if not the best, I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing in a UK venue. A perfect setting for a living guitar legend such as Joe Satriani, and when he walks out onto the large stage with his band, the sold out Symphony Hall erupts into an intensity of ardent cheers and applause. Opening with a trio of 'classic' Satch, he commences with 'Ice 9' from ground-breaking 1987 album 'Surfing with the Alien', swiftly followed by 'Hordes of Locusts' from 1986 debut release 'Not of This Earth', and then a performance of perennial fan favourite and title track from his third solo offering, 'Flying in a Blue Dream'. Next up is 'Light Years Away' from stunning new release 'Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards' before returning to his debut album for 'Memories'. And so forms the pattern for the evening as he hurls classic after classic at a discernibly appreciative audience such as the expected airings of both 'Satch Boogie' and 'The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing', interposed with the majority of tracks from his latest album. Predominantly letting his guitar do the talking tonight, Satch only occasionally ventures towards the mic with introductions to some of the songs, namely the new material, which puts each of the latest instrumental pieces neatly into context and dispels some of the ambiguity otherwise inherent in their titles. Hence the audience are enlightened as to the nature of 'Dream Song', for example, which transpires to be literal in its meaning when he informs us the track was born from a dream where he dreamt the entire song - melodies, themes, structure and tempo - so awoke to record the music that had infiltrated his unconscious. Likewise, 'Littleworth Lane', is about the street where he lives.
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Introducing the band no less than three times during the night is perhaps a little excessive although one could also read this as Satch's admiration for his fellow musicians and bestowing them with the credit they also deserve for the performance, albeit billed as just a Joe Satriani show. Drummer, and long-time Satch collaborator, Jeff Campitelli receives the loudest cheers each of the three times and also of note is the presence of one Jem Godfrey on keyboards, renowned within prog circles for his primary band Frost* and also, bizarrely, his main bread and butter as composer and producer within the pop world, penning hits for the likes of Blue, Gareth Gates, Ronan Keating, Atomic Kitten and Shayne Ward to name but a few (everyone's got to make a living though, right?). Godfrey's keys are superlative this evening, and particularly impressive on 'Wind in the Trees' with its lengthy keyboard solo an interpretation of Mike Keneally's recorded version. In one of his introductions, Satch even bows before Godfrey in what seems to be a respectful acknowledgement of the man's talents. The night, however, belongs to the guitar legend himself, and he more than lives up to such a label with a two hour set of virtuoso playing that is as breathtaking in its technicality as it is in its melodious exuberance. Ending the set with the night's only vocal piece, 'Big Bad Moon', Satch and his band exit the stage to deafening cheers, before returning a couple of minutes later for the obligatory encore which arrives in the form of audience participation number 'Crowd Chant' (those present even manage to vocally mimic the pinched harmonics manipulated with his tremolo bar!) and, of course, 'Surfing with the Alien'. An awesome, awesome performance from a man who has proven in 2010 that, both recorded and live, he remains a hegemonic presence in his field.