Sometimes, some things turn out so well that you can call them anything but surreal. Yes, Surreal is the only word that can describe last tuesday’s John Petrucci Guitar Clinic at Healey’s Night club (at Bathurst and Queen). I still can’t get over the ecstatic feeling of hysteria from tuesday night’s guitar rumble. The main and the only act was Sir Petrucci himself and along with him his teal coloured Music Man Axe (and of course countless wires, chords, amps, processors and pedals). His only posy was this mechanical marvel of a set-up, which supposedly “depicted a simplified version” of what he uses live. It leads one to wonder if this were simplified, the real thing would be unimaginably gigantic and more than a tinge of amazing ness.
The night started at 5:45 pm, with my sister and I jumping excitedly off the 511 streetcar at the intersection of Bathurst and Queen. Like two kids hyped up on sugar, we were all smiles. Following the intersection was the line up outside Healey’s and without even reading the board, we knew we landed at the right place (God bless the TTC). What followed was a 45-minute session of standing in the -3 degrees wind-chill surrounded by a crowd of almost 400 strangers who evidently shared the Petrucci-loving. It was a warm feeling to know people around you, for once, knew the music you were into and didn’t give you the ‘omg, what’s wrong with you to be listening to that trash’ look (yes, absolute un-holy words they).
After being in the toe numbing and teeth clattering and perpetually secondary smoking for 45 minutes, they finally opened the gates and everyone rushed in. The bouncer announced no video or sound recording was allowed and if anyone were caught doing so would be thrown out. My sister and I gulped at hearing that but no way in hell was I letting anyone touch my camcorder, and without handing it in to the bouncers, we walked right into the dark interior of the basement at Healey’s. The dim lights, the speakers pumping rock classics, the internal heating and the run towards the stage finally made us realise that was worth all that lining up in the cold and the hour commute preceding the queue. My sister and I found us a perfect place on the left side of the stage, from where the view was anything of the whole stage was anything but clear. After finding the spot to begin the gruesome wait for Petrucci to come out. About 15 songs, four watermelon and lemon tridents later, the L&M crew introduced John Petrucci on to the stage.
All hell broke lose when Mr Extraordinaire walked the line between the crowd and up to the stage. Devil horns were raised, some beer bottles followed and several ‘woo hoos’ later, he finally took the mic.
‘Its cold in Canada’
The ice was finally broken, no more nerves just a lot of Petrucci loving in the crowd followed. Larger than life was the aura of his presence yet his attitude so humble and honest that it made every one feel as if you were interacting with a laymen like yourself, not to a maestro like him. Dressed in a loosely fitted blue jeans and a black round-neck T shirt along with a grey toque on his head, he stood poised and perfect with the axe in his hand.
He talked to us about the layout of the clinic, which was going to include three songs, tutorials on guitar techniques he uses followed by a question answer session. Without further a-do, he went into Glasgow Kiss. It got the crowd pumped as hell, the jumping, screaming, head-banging crowd slowly quietened down, everyone was mesmerised. All eyes on his fingers, which were sliding, up and down the fret board with the speed and smoothness that defied friction. I think it made me shed a tear (of course privately) and I wiped it off before anyone including my sister had a chance to even realise what happened. The silence persisted but the ground seemed to be shaking now, the rooftop, the speaker above us, the pillar next to us trembled at the amplitude of the sound. Petrucci was surely in the house and everyone was fixated in his playing. Magic was happening in there because Glasgow Kiss and Curve (another track) aren’t surreal until you are three feet away from Petrucci and he is playing and improvising live.
Between the tracks, he showed us a few legato techniques, followed by e-Lydian, blues scale, and arpeggios and not to forget the wonders of the wah wah and the whammy pedal. John even did some sleazy guitar tricks to please the crowd by doing an aeroplane, the train and some Steve Ray Vaughan licks. His eyes were sparkling with joy as people shouted out questions regarding music he made years ago, music he hadn’t played in years. His passion for Hendrix, Steve Morse, and Rush showed in his answer about inspirations. His love and respect for Vai and Satriani and being part of the G3 was crystal clear in his smile and the brightness of his cheeks. But despite the madness of the crowd and the roaring of the fans, John kept his composure and tamed the crowd at the right time when he went into Damage Control (from his solo album). He talked about his custom made two-headed guitar that several people in the crowd were dying to buy. Of course his own signature line of Music Man guitars that shunned the crowd with the technical brilliance that complimented his own technique.
The clock said 9:15 pm, he had just finished Damage Control, one last shout out, rounds of screams and cheering later, a satisfied and happy Petrucci, said ‘good night’ and ‘thankyou’ to the crowd, to L&M and Healey’s. He left the stage with a warm smile on his face and I left the club with a pounding head and almost deaf ears. It was a night to remember, so close to a magician like him was a once in a lifetime experience for me. We all left with ear-to-ear smiles on our faces and the night just felt full of musical notes, guitar geeks, happy hearts and a whole lot of Petrucci loving.
The night belonged to JP. It really did. =)
Now if I could only upload pictures:S