Is there room for a guitar hero in the “Guitar Hero” era?
In the era of hip-hop, electronic dance music and blustery singers, you might wonder if enough people still respect real chops enough to turn out for the instrumental virtuosity of Joe Satriani on Friday at the Palms.
But Satriani says he has always lived on the edge of pop culture. “Every once in a while I figure into it, but I don’t let it alter my course.”
He put out what would become his biggest album, “The Extremist,” in 1992, “just as grunge was exploding. And I thought, ‘Great. I just released a classic rock record at the perfectly wrong time.’ ”
But over time, Satriani, 57, has solidified a fan base to the point “where I could just tour every day of the year … playing much larger places than I could in ’88,” when he made his first splash with the “Surfing With the Alien” album.
Satriani’s instrumentals tend to have clean melodies that defy fans to call him a “shredder.” He says he tends to walk around humming a tune with his voice before he lays it down on guitar.
“I think that helps me edit out all the useless stuff that a player might throw in because it’s fun to play,” he says. “When you’re trying to create a melody that’s really memorable, when you’ve got too many notes in it, it really does ruin it.”
Four years ago, the rock “supergroup” Chickenfoot came along as a new outlet for his spare riffs. Teaming with Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith gave Satriani a taste of delayed rock stardom.
“I think the band is much more important to me than it is to the other guys,” he says. “They have been a part of bands that have been to the top. They have toured stadiums. They’ve got all the awards. I’m the one in the band that hasn’t. I’ve been this instrumental solo artist.”
When Chickenfoot launched about the time Hagar opened his Cabo Wabo Cantina on the Strip in late 2009, Hagar painted Satriani as the straight arrow of the band.
He told the Review-Journal, “Joe isn’t off on an ego trip saying, ‘You guys can’t act like that around me.’ We get drunk and unruly, and Joe just sits there and laughs.”
Better three years late than never, Satriani is given a chance to respond.
“I’m just like an easy-going drinker,” he says. “I still have a great time. To tell you the truth, I think I have a better time than all three of them. I just express it in a different way.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.