Released: 2004, Epic Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
While the G3 tour had been around in various incarnations since 1996, the G3 ’03 stint was a metalhead’s dream. Originally started by Joe Satriani and with recurring guest Steve Vai, the two six-string virtuosos would bring a different third guitarist on the road with them each time. Past guests include Eric Johnson, Robert Fripp, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth and John Petrucci, but this time, Swedish legend Yngwie J. Malmsteen was welcomed into the fold. Finally, a metal slant would be put on things and the three giants would battle it out to the death. Unfortunately, I missed the Vancouver date on October 14th, but this show, recorded in Denver, Colorado just six days later, has given me the chance to witness the glory of these three legends performing together.
As with all previous G3 tours, each guitarist plays a short set of their own material and then all three musicians convene for an all-out jam session to wrap things up. Satriani opens with a blistering version of his “Satch Boogie” from 1987’s SURFING WITH THE ALIEN. This song has an excellent groove to it and Satriani plays to the crowd with all sorts of string-bending and other flashy techniques. He pulls double-duty on the harmonica during “The Extremist,” but his real talents shine through on “Midnight.” He utilizes some brilliant finger tapping and shows why guitarists like Kirk Hammett have sought his advice and expertise. Not to be outdone, Vai comes on stage with a triple-necked guitar and proceeds to take a chair and wail away for nearly ten minutes on “I Know You’re Here.” His backing band includes fellow legends Tony MacAlpine and Billy Sheehan and the three (along with rhythm guitarist Dave Weiner) pull some serious showmanship as they each play their own instrument with one hand while the other plays the instrument of the guy beside him. It has to be seen to be believed and the live audience is spellbound. The person garnering the most interest must be Yngwie Malmsteen, though. His overblown ego was reportedly an issue on the tour, though it never seems apparent while on stage. His inhumanly fast fingers on “Adagio” and the jaw-dropping “Acoustic Guitar Solo” are the true show-stoppers. After “Far Beyond the Sun,” Malmsteen proceeds to break his guitar in full Paul Stanley style and pass the pieces out to rabid fans. While the glory years of ODYSSEY are clearly behind him, Malmsteen’s talent and stage presence have not been lost. The thirty minute G3 Jam is an overblown vision of excess and wankery that frankly is just too much. None of these guys needs to prove themselves to anyone and a half hour of trying to outsolo each other becomes tedious quickly, especially after having sat through an hour of much the same already. The fans eat it up, though, and any burgeoning guitar god will surely wet themselves over it, too.
The special features of the DVD include a “Fretcam” which allows the viewer to see exactly what the masters’ fingers are doing by controlling the camera angles. Each member receives the customary biography, though they seemed to be a bit heavy on the stroking and superlatives. The lighting plot blueprints are also featured and most people will be best advised to skip it. The tourbook feature is a bit of a letdown as well as the entire book just scrolls downward page by page and without a large screen, most of what is written is completely indecipherable.
For the DVD-philes, the concert is presented in widescreen format with two audio options: Dolby Digital 5.1 and PCM Stereo.
As a visual document of the tour, G3: LIVE IN DENVER does a bang up job of bringing the show to your living room. Of the six incarnations of the G3 tour, this is the best pairing yet. Malmsteen’s energy is exhausting and with talent like Vai and Satriani to keep up the pace, you’ll find yourself playing air guitar on your couch and making silly faces along with each of them.
KILLER KUTS: “Satch Boogie,” “Midnight,” “I Know You’re Here,” “Acoustic Guitar Solo,” “Adagio”
***THANKS TO RYAN HENDERSON FOR LOANING ME THE DVD FOR REVIEW***