Saturated - Live in Montreal was taken from the Black Swans & Wormhole Wizards tour and joins Live in San Francisco, Satriani Live, and Live in Paris in the Joe Satriani discography, quickly becoming clogged with such releases (not to mention the second disc of Time Machine and the Dreaming #11 EP).
I don't know why he suddenly feels the need to release a live album after every tour. He's proved his point; he can mesmerize us on stage with face-melting guitar voodoo in the midst of great riffs, powerful melodies, frenetic tapping and shredding, and whammy bar wizardry. I'm a collector who's been listening to Satch for more than half my life and I'm intimately acquainted with his extensive catalog. He's going to get my money but the odds I'll spend any significant amount of time listening to one live album over another comes down to the set list. So, what does Saturated - Live in Montreal have to offer?
There are five songs that have appeared on most or all of Satriani's full-length live releases that are present on Satchurated: "Ice 9," "Satch Boogie," "Always With You, Always With Me," "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing," and "Flying In A Blue Dream." I love these songs and understand why he'd still play many of them but releasing live album after live album with them is pointless.
The first three come from his career-defining Surfing With The Alien. "Always" was nominated for a Grammy and is a favored ballad while "Satch" has become something of a signature song. He could punt "Ice" without hurting too many feelings and it may be time to rest one of the other two, while still representing the classic that is Surfing. The most surprising omission from this set is "Surfing" itself with "Cool #9" coming in a close second.
The remaining two come from the successor to Surfing, Flying In A Blue Dream. "The Mystical Potato Head Groove Thing" has become legend both because of its absurd name and the stunning and complicated song it is and there would likely be a fan revolt if he stopped playing it. The ethereal "Flying" is the one that probably needs a rest, love it though I do. "Crowd Chant" has become an intractable part of the encore much to my chagrin. I will give everyone in the band a shiny new nickel if they stop playing it.
There are a few songs making their live debut outside of new songs from Black Swans: "War," "Why," "Hordes Of Locusts," and "Memories." The first of those two are from his outstanding The Extremist album with the other two coming from his 1986 debut Not Of This Earth. There are offically released live versions of those two songs from the Dreaming #11 EP (which also had "Ice 9"!) but they haven't been on the full-length releases and it's been 20-plus years. Calling them a debut is questionable but no one can complain about them being overplayed. Also falling into that category is "Crystal Planet," which hasn't appeared on a live set since Live in San Francisco more than 10 years ago.
Of those first-timers, "War" is particularly ferocious. It's actually a song I didn't gravitate towards when Extremist was released in '92 but have subsequently come to love. "Why" was perhaps my first favorite song from that disc and I was thrilled to see it making its live record debut. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the same agile swing in concert it did on record. It's nice to have a live version and it is solid here but I had higher hopes. Jeff Campitelli has been a Satch sidekick for decades but it was Greg Bissionette who played on Extremist and has occasionally toured with Joe. I wonder how the groove might have been different if Greg was playing on this one.
It is a complement to the band and the compositions themselves the new songs from BS&WW hold up so well and fit beside the established hits and favorites. "Premonition" has the potential to be a future live staple with its mixture of mysterious melody and muscular riff. "God Is Crying" is played as a jam session between Satch and keyboardist Mike Keneally, who go at it lick-for-lick. "Wind In The Trees" is a wonderful epic I didn't expect would even be attempted live but it is played beautifully.
It all adds up to another enjoyable, professional Satriani live album filled with the guaranteed guitar goodness that's as good a live album as any if you've not bought previous live packages. The decision is a little trickier for the hardcore who may be weary about another live album but a few oldies being issued live for the first time and excellent performances of new songs makes adding another live "Satch Boogie" to my iPod a small price to pay.