There are two men scrambling around on the floor in front of the stage fighting over a guitar pick. It is a somewhat haloed piece of plastic since it has just been flicked into the crowd by guitar hero Steve Vai. Of course, one of these fans is going to leave empty handed and when they finally stand up, one slopes back to his seat dejected, while the other punches the air triumphantly.

A little further down the front row, a woman is on her knees, bowing down in worship as Vai carves off another widdly widdly slice of guitar goodness. Such is the adoration this guy has in virtuoso rock guitar circles.

Vai, an unashamed poser who purses his lips and winks as he fondles his whammy bar, is just one of three guitarists performing tonight as part of the travelling guitar God roadshow known as G3. Steve Lukather, best known as the main axe man of soft rockers Toto and in-demand session musician who played on Michael Jackson's Beat It, was first up, and concert tour founder Joe Satriani finishes, before the trio come back on stage together for the all-in G3 jam finale.

The thing is, though G3 first-timer Lukather is good, and Vai is full of flair, it's only Satriani who is truly deserving of fan worship tonight. From the moment he walks out and plays his first b note there is a striking shift in intensity. One of the reasons he started G3 back in 1996 was to pit himself against players he believed were better than him - which he believed would make for a cracking live show. But tonight the instrumental rocker is the clear leader.


He is a refined and elaborate player but staunch and fiery during a set that takes in everything from the classic Satch Boogie, off his ground-breaking 1987 album, Surfing with the Alien, to the spacey heaviness of Secret Prayer (a song chosen for the setlist by his fans).

Satriani plays solid rock songs that are soulful, bluesy and at times verging on metal. In comparison, while there is no doubting Vai's technical proficiency, much of the time his genteel wailing is ineffectual - and often it's more like a platform for him to show off than being a great song.

Not that it matters for the near sold-out audience of guitar fanatics who are transfixed for every minute of the three-hour show. It ends with the 30-minute jam finale where Vai cracks into a raucous Frank Zappa's My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama, Lukather starts a lovely, loud and lilting version of Hendrix's Little Wing, before a stomp and groove through Neil Young's Rockin' In the Free World.

The crowd love it, and Satriani is beaming too: "You guys really make me wanna play my guitar."