“There’s going to be lots of guitar playing,” grins Uli Jon Roth, welcoming the audience to Eventim Apollo.
As far as understatements go, his is right up there with “We’re going to need a bigger boat”; for the next three hours, three of the world’s leading guitarists each play their own set before teaming up for an epic jam session.
It’s a simple formula but one that’s seen the G3 series thrive since Joe Satriani first came up with the idea of touring with fellow virtuosos Steve Vai and Eric Johnson back in 1996. Over the ensuing years he’s been joined by other bonafide rock gods like Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Morse, Michael Schenker, and,for this first European trek since 2012, Roth and John Petrucci.
They’re an inspired choice, and not just because they’re both G3 veterans able to perform inconceivable feats with a plank of wood and six strings. Like Satriani himself, they each have their own signature sound and, even more importantly, the ability to convey undistilled emotion through their music and performance. They clearly know there’s a lot more to this guitar hero business than speed and technique.
Roth is the first to demonstrate this. Joined by a five-piece band, including guitarists Niklas Turman and David Klosinski, the German plays with a fluid calm that matches his flowing bandana and the feather floating below his headstock. The only extravagance comes in the form of an occasional flamboyant swing of his right hand. But beneath that calm exterior is a man unafraid to give his whammy bar a fierce workout as he glides through a set comprised mainly of hits from his mid-’70s tenure with the Scorpions.
The bluesy groover Sun In My Hand, with Roth on lead vocals and some fine soloing from all three guitarists, makes way for We’ll Burn The Sky. Dedicated to his younger brother Zeno Roth, who passed away in February, and sung by Turman, it features some lightning fast fingerwork on the fretboards as well as atomic drumming from Michael Ehre. But it’s Fly To The Rainbow, which begins as a floating instrumental duet between Roth and keyboard player Corvin Bahn, and culminates in what sounds like a dive bomber hurtling down on Hammersmith, that truly impresses, not just technically, but viscerally.
John Petrucci hits even harder. With his long hair and impressive beard complemented by an equally black T-shirt and jeans, he quite literally brings the metal, visually and musically. The turbulent Jaws of Lifesets the tone, a gargantuan prog rock beast that sounds like it’s being performed by at least six musicians, not three. Petrucci has the ability to lay down a brutal riff that’s then continues to be suggested by his rhythm section as he layers savage solos on top of sudden time changes.
The 10-minuteDamage Control is even more sprawling, giving drummer (and Petrucci’s Dream Theater bandmate) Mike Manginia real workout during a hyperkinetic middle third that even has room for a solo from bassist Dave LaRue.
ThemajesticGlasgow Kiss, which sets the template for those ambitious epics Iron Maiden have mastered over the past decade, ends Petrucci’s set on a moving high.
Nestled between these three songs from his only solo album, 2005’s Suspended Animation, are Glassy Eyed Zombies and brand-new The Happy Song. Both living up to their titles, the former lumbers along like the undeadbut breaks out into flashes of violence; the latter is a positively upbeat toe-tapper, and the closest Petrucci will ever come to matching the mood of Satriani’s Summer Song.
That bonafide instrumental classic from 1992’s The Extremist wraps up Satch’s set over an hour later. But first the godfather of G3 barrels through a selection of highlights from his three-decade career and vigorous new album What Happens Next. Recorded with Glenn Hughes on bass and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, the LP is his hardest rocking in years and, although the all-star rhythm section haven’t joined Satriani on the road, its vitality has seeped into his live performance.
Blasting off with the unstoppable momentum of Energy, as the virtuosic Mike Keneally beefs up the six-string attack, Satriani then powers into another new song, the stomping Catbot. Anchored by Joe Travers’ drumming and Bryan Beller’s pulverising bassline, the futuristic boogie is all about intergalactic guitar tones, flashy soloing, and even some playing with his teeth.
An all-out Satch Boogie is recreated with as much intensity as it was back on 1987’s Surfing With The Alien before an exquisite Cherry Blossoms brings us back to the present. The prettiest and most melodic of the new offerings, lets Satriani make his guitar cry and Keneally play guitar, synth, and keys (sometimes all at once).
Thunder High On The Mountain begins with the lithe performer hitting his guitar to create the necessary rumbling of distant storms, before embarking on a ridiculously complex run of notes that twice descends into riffing so dark and heavy even Petrucci could learn something.
Super Funky Badass is, well, funky but primarily stands out for the intense to-and-fro soloing of Satriani and Keneally. Circles, with some massaging of the fretboard to create another selection of extra-terrestrial sounds, and a smooth rendition of the instantly recognisable Always With Me, Always With You mark a return to Surfing With The Alien, before a bright and breezy Summer Song sees the lights come up.
But it’s not time to go yet. Joined on stage by Roth, Petrucci (and sometimes Turman and Klosinski), Satriani and his band bring on the finale jam. Deep Purple’s Highway Star, Hendrix’s take on All Along The Watchtower, and Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song each get the all-star treatment, with the well-known classics providing a perfect framework for three masters of their craft to have some fun together. Smiles abound, on stage and in the audience, as they trade looks and licks with obvious joy.
Live review of G3 @ Eventim Apollo on 25th April 2018 by Nils van der Linden. Photography by Edyta K.
With a striking stage presence and undeniably soulful bass baritone voice, you should already be listening to contemporary blues vocalist, songwriter and bandleader Bruce ‘Mississippi’ Johnson.
Born Bruce Lester Johnson in Starksville, Mississippi and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, Bruce received a musical education most people can only dream about. As a child in his grandfather’s church choir and surrounded by his father’s soul and R&B influenced record collection that included Al Green, Jackie Wilson (his mum’s first cousin), Lou Rawls and Gil Scott-Heron, Bruce discovered he could sing.
His life story to date is fascinating, replete with vivid and memorable experiences. Bruce served as a US Marine for seven years, and while stationed in Kinshasa, Zaire he performed Gil Scott-Heron tracks. It was towards the end of his enlistment while stationed in Paris and being enveloped in a city full of music and nightlife, that he realised he wanted singing to be his full time profession. Showcasing his extraordinary talent in various Parisian venues he soon built a formidable reputation on the jazz scene, working with the city’s luminaries and musicians who had played with the likes of Stan Getz and Sammy Davis Jr.
With a growing influence, he branched out and formed his own band, becoming a leading light in the funk scene. Bruce and the band were invited to perform in the Jack Daniel’s Music Competition in Bordeaux judged by Nina Simone and blew the competition out of the water. The win gave Bruce the impetus to record his first single and cement his reputation as a star.
Soon, Bruce was keen to create a more earthier sound, affiliated to the Delta region he called home. He was given the opportunity to join legendary blues bassist Big Joe Turner’s band Blues Caravan as a vocalist, which gave him the chance to tour the world. He formed a solid bond with the keyboard player Johan Dalgaard and the two began to write and demo songs that would eventually become his solo album The Deal Baby.
His fame in France saw him compete on the French version of The Voice and land a gig with one of France’s leading “Rat Pack” ensembles, Forever Gentleman. The band’s album of jazz vocal standards went triple platinum.
Bruce’s debut solo album The Deal Baby was released in Spring 2017 to critical acclaim. It straddles soul, blues and jazz with glimpses of bluesy-rock guitars, augmented by his textured, classic voice. Featuring heartfelt compositions including I Can’t Shake the Blues and The Neighbour Next Door, it was recorded in Paris and mixed by Grammy Award winning sound engineer Veronica Ferraro.
The album has received rave reviews from listeners and critics, with The Wall Street Journal describing it as, ‘an impressive, long brewing introduction to a fine dramatic storyteller in the Bobby Bland soul blues tradition with 70’s Influences’. Its timeless material instantly brings to mind the music of Johnny “Guitar’ Watson, Gil Scott-Heron, Lou Rawls, Robert Cray, Bobby Bland and more.
London-based Bruce will tour Europe in 2018, including Paris in April and in the basement of London’s Pizza Express, Holborn on 19 October, an intimate space known for showcasing the biggest names in music.
In 2017, London-based Bruce was awarded theLiving Blues Magazine’s Living Blues Award for “Artist Deserving More Attention”. With a unique and effortlessly soulful baritone voice, this gifted and charismatic performer is definitely worthy of your recognition; a force to be reckoned with and the embodiment of contemporary Mississippi Blues.
As London braved snowmageddon and getting anywhere was a case of determination and luck, a living legend, Robin Trower, was headlining a sold-out gig at Islington Assembly Hall. Despite the weather, or should I say, transport conditions, the fans came out in their masses and filled up the venue to capacity. Some diehards even waited outside in the cold for any last minute ticket returns.
The Sari Schorr Trio opened the night for Robin. The American singer-songwriter was accompanied by the exceptional blues guitarist Ash Wilson and Hammond organ wizard Bob Fridzema, who’s known from his previous work with King King and Joanne Shaw Taylor.
The trio delivered a stunning set, with Sari’s vocals hitting new levels of perfection. Despite Islington Assembly Hall being a much bigger venue than Half Moon Putney or Borderline, where she played previously, the band chose to play an almost acoustic set. Stripping the music down created a very intimate feeling and allowed the singer to showcase her enormous range in a different light. Demolition Man, Maybe I’m Falling, and finally a cover of Lead Belly’s Black Betty left the audience in awe, still whispering about the performance after the band had left the stage.
In equal proportion to the temperature dropping outside, the inside temperature rose and just about reached boiling point when Robin Trower took the stage. The excitement made the air heavy. There is no doubt that, coming up to his 73rd Birthday this year, he’s is an icon, a legend, a guitar god living and breathing among us. The former Procol Harum axeman shows no signs of ageing or slowing down and in 2017 released his 22nd, and probably one of the best, solo studio albums of his entire career: Time And Emotion.
Starting with one of the best songs written on guitar, Too Rolling Stoned, the London native made his signature white Strat weep and scream. Smoothly changing into Lady Love, he left no room for any other instrument that evening. In the end, they’re just the backdrop for a man and his Fender.
A rock veteran well travelled in the country of blues, he effortlessly combined different styles and added improvisations to well-known standards. Upbeat rocker Confessing Midnight and Little Bit Of Sympathy, obviously influenced by Hendrix, were mixed with the much more laid-back Daydream and For Earth Below.
With his reputation and years of experience, he doesn’t feel the need to prove anything. Take it or leave it. Watching him live on stage, interacting with his guitar like it is a living creature, it’s easy to see him as a one-of-a-kind of musician, a legend that still walks on Earth.
Robin Trower @ Islington Assembly Hall, London 27th February 2018
Words and photography by Edyta K
Christina Martin is back with Always Reminding, the brand new single from her forthcoming sixth studio album, Impossible To Hold.
“This is a song about love,” the Canadian singer-songwriter says of Always Reminding. “It’s about not knowing in my past, if I could love anyone, or be loved. It’s about having hope that I could love someone, and be loved, and a willingness to trust and move towards and stay with love.
“I am fortunate to have many reminders in my life, that I have loving friends and family, and that I have everything I need. Love is all around me. Love is inside me.”
The pop-tinged rock song, written by Martin and her producer Dale Murray, is accompanied by a video that draws inspiration from the gloss of the ‘80s.
“It is a kaleidoscopic dream world which at times seems to peel back its veneer and expose an unpolished and undeveloped sense of self awareness,” explains director Ryan Thompson.
Always Reminding, which follows recent single Lungs Are Burning, showcases Martin’s artistic development since 2016 LP It’ll Be Alright.
“There was little concern for following any style or trend in writing and recording these new songs,” she explains. “My commitment was to honour the direction the songs were leading me in. There were dark moments in the process, but I showed up each day to work, and hoped it would all come together.”
Of course it did all come together and Impossible To Hold will be released on 23rd March.
“I was inspired to become a performer by watching iconic performers like Tom Petty, Stevie Nicks, and Tina Turner live, and music videos of The Pretenders, David Bowie, Annie Lennox,” says Martin of her inspiration.
“When I write, I can envision the music in larger venues, though I know that performing smaller venues is an important part of my journey and connecting with audiences.”
Just days after Muse frontman Matt Bellamy announced the death of rock ’n’ roll, and guitars in general, three bands playing Islington Assembly Hall prove how wrong he is.
Midlands hard rock trio The Bad Flowers are first to take the stage. The band, who recently released their first studio album Starting Gun, have already grabbed the attention of Planet Rock, scoring a nomination for The Rocks 2018 Awards in the Best New Band category.
A sold-out headline show at Islington Assembly Hall will soon be a reality for these talented men. For the moment they’re first on the bill, starting with Hurricane and Who Needs A Soul and setting the tone for the night.
The groovy sound of Dale Tonks’ bass, combined with the energy of singer-guitarist Tom Leighton and power of Karl Selickis’ drumming, get the crowd on their side from the first to the last song. The short set, featuring the album’s first single (Thunder Child), as well as Secrets, Lion’s Blood, Be Your Man, and City Lights, is met with well-deserved applause and causes some swinging in the audience.
Next up on stage is American singer-guitarist Jared James Nichols, fronting a power trio that look like they come straight out of the ’80s with their long hairstyles. Together they bring a whole new level of energy, led by Nichols’ breathtaking solos (created without a plectrum) and charisma.
Striking his best poses next to bass player Erik Sandin, he entertains the audience, not only as a great musician but also as a great performer, as best heard during Can You Feel It, a catchy tune with audience participation.
By the time Stone Broken hit the stage the crowd’s already buzzing. They start with a solid body-shaking tune (Heartbeat Away) and drift into some well-known, fan favourites like Just A Memory, Stay All Night, Let Me See It All, Broken, and set finale Worth Fighting For.
It’s been a while since Stone Broken headlined a London show and frontman Richard Moss takes the opportunity to ask who saw them that night, back in a small club in Camden. From the raised hands and cheers it’s pretty obvious a large number of people a tonight’s Islington Assembly Hall gig saw them years back at Black Hearts.
The band have, without a doubt, evolved since then. Even looking back a year ago, to when they opened for Glenn Hughes, they’ve changed a lot, with guitarist Chris Davis and bassist Kieron Conroy especially seeming more confident and now owning the stage. Showing more presence on raised platforms and engaging with the audience, they prove once again that rock ’n’ roll is alive and well. And, despite Bellamy’s opinion, it looks like it will be that way for decades to come.
The Bad Flowers, Jared James Nichols & Stone Broken live at Islington Assembly Hall, London, 24th February 2018