Def Leppard’s Phil Collen eager to stretch out with G3
Def Leppard guitarist Phil Collen clearly enjoys a good challenge.
Having spent a fair chunk of 2017 touring North America, South America and Mexico with the hard-rocking English band he has played in since 1982, Collen is now on the road again. Only, this time, it’s with fellow guitar virtuosos Joe Satriani and John Petrucci on the 2018 G3 tour.
Each will play a 30-minute set with their respective bands, before teaming up for a three-guitar finale. (For our interview with Satriani, click here.)
“Because of the type of players John and Joe are, I’ve gotta raise my game,” said the London-born Collen, a longtime Laguna Hills resident.
“My whole thing is multifaceted, because I’m in a band — Def Leppard — with a lot of vocals. In G3, there’s more guitar. When I played with Joe before, I got inspired in a different realm. I’m usually inspired by bands. To be inspired by guitar players, like Joe and John, you get a totally different point of view. So I think I’ll come out of this tour with a lot more than when I came in. I know that will happen.”
The 47-city G3 tour kicked off Thursday in Seattle and concludes Feb. 25 in Milwaukee. It includes a Saturday concert at the Balboa Theater in San Diego, where Collen performed in June with Def Leppard at the nearly 20,000-capacity Mattress Firm Amphitheatre.
He welcomes the fact that the G3 tour is playing in intimate theaters that hold about one-tenth the amount of people as the mega-venues Def Leppard frequent.
“I really love playing in stadiums, amphitheaters and massive outdoor places, when it’s warm,” the 60-year-old guitarist said last month by phone from a family visit in South Carolina.
“But, other times, I like being indoors and I’m looking forward to G3. This is the first time I’ve done the G3 tour and it’s the longest, in terms of back-to-back shows. With Def Leppard, we’ve done some crazy tours. But this G3 tour has one leg with 35 shows in 38 days! And that’s pretty incredible.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I’m not looking forward to the weather. Hopefully, we won’t catch colds — that’s always miserable when you get sick on tour. And, with this one, there’s no time to get better.”
The G3 tour coincides with the Jan. 26 release of “East Coast Live.” It’s the second album by Delta Deep, the four-piece blues, rock and soul band Collen co-leads with former The Jammers singer Debbi Blackwell-Cook. She is the mother of retired New York Giants and Cleveland Browns cornerback Kory Blackwell and the godmother of Collen’s wife, Helen.
The two first teamed up in 2012 for an acoustic duo show at the nonprofit Gerson Institute in Normal Heights. That performance by Collen and Blackwell-Cook went so well, they began writing songs with Helen.
Delta Deep released its debut album in 2015. The group’s 16-song “East Coast Live” teams the veteran guitarist and Blackwell-Cook with Stone Temple Pilots’ bassist Robert DeLeo and former India.Arie/Joe Sample drummer Forrest Robinson. Since DeLeo is gearing up for a tour with the recently reactivated STP, his role in Delta Deep for the G3 tour is being filled by Paul Gilbert Band bassist Paul Martini.
“Debbi sang at our wedding,” Collen said. “She’d be at our house and be singing all the time — and I walk around the house singing and playing guitar all the time. Before you knew it, we’d be doing a Stevie Wonder song or making something up. So it seemed pretty obvious we would work together, because it felt great.
“And the first time we played as a full band, I got goose bumps. It was really nourishing. Forrest is an amazing funk and neo-R&B and jazz player. He said: ‘I really I want to be a double-kick-drum metal player.’ And we said: ‘What?!’ He plays with this sexy soul groove but also has this powerful, John Bonham thing going on. Debbi is not doing the whole tour, but she will be with us in San Diego.”
Collen and Def Leppard have already started work on the band’s next album. By dividing his time between his longtime band and Delta Deep, he now has more than one avenue to play the instrument to which he has devoted his life.
“For me, the most important thing about the guitar is it’s a tool for expression,” Collen said “And I do meet some kids who realize they can express with the guitar what they can’t express with words...
“I’m not necessarily moved by a lot of new artists, because I think the motivation now is to be a star and it’s all ‘me, me, me.’ But I still get inspired by other stuff. I still put on James Brown and Aretha (Franklin), and really get off on it. I’m way open to anything that inspires me. But a lot of new stuff in our culture isn’t there to provide inspiration. It’s there for consumerism.”
G3 2018, featuring Joe Satriani, Phil Collen and John Petrucci
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Balboa Theatre, 868 Fourth Ave., Gaslamp Quarter
Tickets: $37.75-$52.75, plus service charges
Phone: (800) 745-3000
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