Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eric Johnson at the Colonial Theater - 1/7/12

Andy McKee's 40 minute 8 song set ended at around 9:00pm, and Eric Johnson and his three piece band took the stage about a half hour later at 9:30. Johnson was touring with a bass player and a drummer, and that was it. They took the stage. Johnson mumbled a brief "hello"to the audience, and they launched into their first song.

That would be pretty consistent over the set that would last for about an hour and a half. Sometimes Johnson would say something to the audience between songs, but more often than not, one song would just move into the next. Generally, the extent of his banter with the crowd would be along the lines of "how's everybody doing tonight?". But what Johnson may lack in charisma and stage presence, he more than made up for in ability. I have seen some great guitarists live, including Clapton several times, ditto Mark Knopfler, Stevie Ray Vaughn once (Spectrum 1982 opening for the Moody Blues), and Derek Trucks, and I can honestly say that none of them could match EJ purely on speed. The man's fingers simply flew across the neck of his Strat (or Gibson SG some of the time), and perfectly cleanly and with fantastic clear tone. Words cannot really do justice to his technical ability.

The other thing that would become obvious over the course of the evening was the number of different types of music that he could play well; blues, rock, a quick-picking country song off his new album, pure jazz, and covers of a number of different songs. Scattered throughout the set he did Dear Prudence by the Beatles, April Come She Will by Paul Simon, a Coltrane jazz song (Mr. P. C.), and The Wind Cries Mary by Hendrix (as one of the two songs in the encore). And due to the majority of the songs being all instrumental (with many long jams), the show definitely had a different feel to it. Not bad by any means, just different. Most concerts by a musician of this stature would be one known song after another (the "greatest hits on tour" phenomenon); this was a good old fashioned jam fest. Sure, they were songs, but the feel was of three good musicians just airing it out onstage.

My autographed CD...
I have to admit that while liking Eric Johnson, and knowing a little bit about him, he is one of those artists where I have a couple of albums, like him, but for the most part couldn't name many of his songs despite being able to hum or sing along with the ones on the discs I have. So for a few of the songs last night, I recognized them, but couldn't name them for you. The one obvious "have to play it" song is Cliffs of Dover, which was his last song before leaving the stage prior to the encore. It was fantastic, and mostly made up for my disappointment in him not playing SRV. As I said in my post about this upcoming concert, SRV is the one song I would be disappointed if he didn't play. He didn't play it. Oh well. What he did play was astounding. I have left many concerts by my favorite bands saying "that was fantastic", but not many where I have left saying "wow, what was that I just saw?!?!". Last night was one of those. I suspect that I will own most if not all of his available works by the end of the week...

Merry Christmas to me!

[Afterthought and update - A little digging around after writing this post found that some of the names of the songs he did were When the Sun Meets the Sky, Zap, and Dry Ice (by the Electromagnets, an early Eric Johnson band) as the final encore song. Songs I have since positively identified from the newer Up Close album include Fatdaddy, Gem and On the Way, but I am sure there were others as well.]

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