Technical Ecstasies: Paul Gilbert enthralls San Diego

Review by Doug Walker, photos by Scott Clift

January 20th 2017, Brick by Brick, San Diego CA: On yet another cold and rainy night, I was driving to the show listening to Racer X, thinking to myself, “There’s going to be nothing but musicians and primarily guitar players in the room.” I arrived, and I pretty much hit the nail on the head. There was a very solid turn out at Brick by Brick, which is a medium-sized room in San Diego, to see guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert, who stopped here on a short run of shows in support of his latest solo album ‘I Can Destroy’. Points North and RDG were regional/local openers for this event. I ran into several guitar players I knew and we talked shop waiting for the music to start up.

First up was San Diego act RDG, an award-winning progressive band featuring a star-studded cast. The Raymond DiGiorgio group puts on a show that’s quite easy to get lost in. Instrumental, progressive and technical, but very palatable. There’s quite a bit of interplay going on between the bass and the drums, locking into a rhythm with a super sonic guitar layer pulling you in. I enjoyed their set, and would say I experienced it more than listened to it. Not quite as flashy as the acts for the rest of the night, but definitely the easiest to zone out on.

Raymond DiGiorgio (more photos at the bottom of the article)

Points North took the stage next, featuring another super group line up. They are an instrumental prog rock band from San Francisco. The best way I can sum them up is if Eric Johnson played guitar for Rush, and they were wise enough to keep Geddy from singing. Joking aside, they did actually cover the seminal ‘YYZ’ by Rush. They didn’t miss a note, not a single hit, everything was dead one. A pretty impressive feat. ‘YYZ’ is one of those you don’t cover unless you can get it perfect, which they did. Eric Barnett put on an impressive guitar display throughout their set, playing a solid mixture of Satriani and Johnson influenced guitar. Speaking of impressive displays, bass player Uriah Duffy not only played incredibly innovative bass lines, but did two bass throws perfectly. I mean he caught the fucking neck and hit the note in perfect time. Oh, and the frets on his bass lit up. A true showman. Excellent performance all around. If you’re a fan of prog rock and haven’t checked them out, you should.

Points North guitarist Eric Barnett (more photos at the bottom of this article)

The excitement waiting for Paul Gilbert to take the stage was palpable. There was a sea of guitar players waiting to watch everything he did, hoping to absorb something. I know I played guitar for an hour when I got home, and I’m sure the rest of them did too. As Paul walked out, as soon as he hit the front of the stage he struck the first big chord with the band kicking in and unleashed a flurry of notes that dropped every jaw in the room to the floor. No countdown. no “how are you doing”… just blastoff. The first 30 minutes of his set was a series of songlets organized into larger pieces. Riff, shred, riff, shred… and it was like a “here’s every single cool thing you can do with a guitar” display for everyone in the room. The way he effortlessly shifts between styles and techniques, going from blistering speed to slow drawn out soulful notes, the man is a living legend. He defined guitar playing in an age when musicians were super heroes and their powers were ability and mastery of their instrument. He’s still energetic and youthful with a sly tongue-in-cheek humor with choruses such as, “Everybody use your god damned turn signal”, and song titles like ‘I’m Not the One (Who Wants to Be With You)’, a clear dig at his other band Mr. Big’s most popular tune, ‘To Be With You’.

It was a solid two hours of guitar wizardry and mastery the way only Paul Gilbert can deliver it. But not to overlook the rest of the band, and as a three-piece, the bass and drums filled the room up underneath the guitar work. Watching Paul interact with his bass player on a mounted guitar doing a tapping solo with both hands, while the bass player stood next to him and held the root notes, was pretty insane. Incredible live act, and if you get the chance, go see them.

If you play guitar, you owe it to yourself to see Paul Gilbert perform.

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Paul Gilbert (more photos at the bottom of this article)

Paul Gilbert set list:
01. Massive Medley
02. Everybody Use Your Goddamn Turn Signal
03. One Woman Too Many
04. Blues Just Saving My Life
05. Enemies (In Jail)
06. I Can Destroy
07. Woman Stop
08. Better Chords
09. Drum Solo
10. Technical Difficulties
11. I Am Not the One (Who Wants to Be With You)
12. Adventure and Trouble
13. SVT

Paul Gilbert upcoming US dates:
01/23/2017 – Annapolis, MD @ Rams Head On Stage
01/24/2017 – New York, NY @ Iridium
01/25/2017 – New York, NY @ Iridium
01/26/2017 – New York, NY @ Iridium

More photos from this show: