Two songs into his 50-minute set, John Petrucci greets the cheering crowd by saying that the G3 tour – the latest incarnation of which sees the Dream Theater co-founder moonlighting alongside Joe Satriani and Def Leppard’s Phil Collen – is “the most fun a guitar player can have”. It’s a welcome display of personality by the normally all-business guitarist, whose capacity to make jaws drop is well-documented, but who tonight seems more interested in turning frowns upside down while displaying a different side to his persona.
Case in point: a delightful, previously unreleased track called The Happy Song, which Petrucci initially debuted during a South American G3 tour in 2012 (at which time it had the working title Cloud Ten). It’s an absolutely irresistible, infectious mixture of major-chord power pop and melodic shred that borders on mimicking the theme song from an imaginary 1980s television sitcom.
With a soaring intro that recalls his scintillating opening to Liquid Tension Experiment’s Universal Mind, the song proves definitively that there is a way to write instrumental music that’s both catchy and virtuosic. It would become an immediate hit if put on YouTube.
Another unreleased song dating back to the 2012 G3 tour, Glassy-Eyed Zombies, shows off Petrucci’s Mr. Hyde side. “It’s a little scary, so don’t be afraid,” he warns the audience during his introduction.
Featuring a polyrhythmic groove and a moody, angular opening riff, the track gives him a chance to show off his insane right-hand picking speed, while its closing solo – during which he combines sweep-picking and tapping to dazzling effect – is the set’s most furious moment.
The remainder of Petrucci’s set features sterling renditions of three selections from his 2005 solo debut, Suspended Animation, the highlight of which is Glasgow Kiss, another track reminiscent of Liquid Tension Experiment, with hypnotic licks and lilting melodies. There’s also a cover of cellist Tina Guo’s ‘metal’ version of the Hans Zimmer/Junkie XL-penned Wonder Woman movie theme. The latter features a thunderous, chunky riff that, if you could see past his bushy beard, would presumably expose a snarl all over Petrucci’s face.
He’s all smiles, however, during the show-closing encore jam with Satriani and Collen, as the man himself – apparently not content with providing a mere flurry of notes – delivers a full-scale blizzard to tie a bow on what has been an exuberant performance.
It all proves that, out on his own, there’s much to commend Petrucci’s ability to fascinate an audience. And he balances the inevitable progressive inclinations you would expect from someone with his background with a natural virtuoso talent. He can certainly hold his own with any of the other guitar masters involved with the G3 tour.