Joe Satriani reveals Robert Fripp’s bizarre stage demands for 2004 G3 tour

Joe Satriani and Robert Fripp performing live at the 2004 G3 tour
(Image credit: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage via Getty)

Best of 2022: Over the course of the past 20-plus years, Joe Satriani has masterminded a total of 18 G3 concert tours around the world, which have seen the shred legend join forces with some of the best electric guitar players on the planet.

Since the inaugural tour took place in 1996, the list of guest guitarists has expanded to include Steve Vai, Eric Johnson, Paul Gilbert, Steve Lukather, Yngwie Malmsteen, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Brian May, Guthrie Govan, Andy Timmons, Phil Collen and many, many more.

One G3 collaborator who especially sticks in Satriani’s memory, though, is Robert Fripp, who apparently insisted on a number of “interesting” stage demands after he signed on to appear at the 2004 edition of the tour.

When asked in the latest issue of Guitar Player – which features a joint in-depth interview with G3 vets Satriani, Vai and Johnson – whether there had been any instances when he was unsure about how the lineup would work, Satch singled out Fripp’s strange demands.

“Well, one of the most interesting characters was Robert Fripp, beyond a doubt,” he reflected. “When he joined up, he insisted that he not be listed, and he wanted to play before the show. 

“He said, 'Look, don’t turn the lights on. I’m going to sit behind all the amps, and I’m going to play music as people walk into the venue and find their seats. And don’t mention my name.' It’s what he wanted to do. 

“Sometimes [bassist] Stu Hamm would play with him unannounced,” Satch continued. “He’d just come out, sit right next to Robert and he’d play along, or some of the other guys would play. It was really quite beautiful. Robert is such a wonderful human being and an incredible musician.”

Despite Fripp’s downright bizarre conditions, footage from the event shows Satch did indeed cater to (most of) the King Crimson legend’s demands. In the video above, which predominantly shows Vai and Satch situated in the spotlight, an unlit Fripp can be seen standing near the rear of the stage shrouded in darkness.

In fact, such was the strength of Fripp’s desire to remain anonymous, he even remained completely submerged in the shadows while offering up his own guitar solo contribution during a rendition of Neil Young’s Rockin’ in the Free World – seen at the 3:50 mark in the video above. Alas, despite Fripp’s request, Satch did indeed give him a shout-out at the end of the set.

Other footage from ‘04 paints a similarly entertaining picture. Elsewhere in the event, Satch and Vai stole the spotlight to shred away over the former’s Ice 9, while Fripp, who remained true to his word, can just about be spotted sitting behind the amps towards the back of the stage.

He did, however, at least have the light on him for that occasion, meaning attendees got a good look at his frenetic left-hand fretboard migrations.

“We did a couple of other tours together,” Satch added, “just me, Steve and Robert playing the blues or something. It was hysterical, and he was fearless about that. He was Robert Fripp to the very end.”

Eric Johnson – who was speaking to Guitar Player alongside Satriani – had a similar recollection, commenting, “I was actually thinking of Robert Fripp when Joe mentioned him, because it was like, ‘Wow, that’s different!’ 

“He was definitely coming from left field, I think,” Johnson reflected. “But it was beautiful and cool. People really enjoyed it, too. I thought it sounded great. A lot of people told me, ‘Hey, have you heard Robert play with the G3 thing?’ They thought it was great.”

Head over to Magazines Direct to pick up the latest issue Guitar Player, which features the full in-depth interview with Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.