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Eric Johnson – Concert Review
At one point during Eric Johnson’s show Tuesday night (May 25 th ), a fan shrieked, “Dude, you sound unbelievable!” He did. Johnson’s fluidness, his fingering, and his shimmering crystalline tone have elicited similar responses since the release of his debut album, Tones , in 1986. Nothing has changed and that, depending on one’s perspective, is a terrific or a disappointing thing.
Tones established Johnson’s unique voice. No one sounded like him eighteen years ago and no one does now.except him. As part of an elite group of singular guitar virtuosos, he has refined his sound but there have been no adventurous explorations. The years that passed between his albums testified to a perfectionism that is at best a double-edged sword. This goes for his forthcoming album too called Bloom that will be released upon completion of a few mixes that should only take “three or four years.” The songs that he previewed took the four/fifths full house to wonderful places but none we hadn’t been too before.
The highest heights were reached with his earliest material like Bristol Shore and Friends which led into Spanish Castle Magic for the final encore of a two hour performance. The latter was one of no less than four Hendrix songs performed in whole or in part. He also had a run at the Byrds’ My Back Pages. Enjoyable sure but Johnson’s dusky voice best serves his own material. The fact that he never yells or even growls (although he came close on a new bluesy number called Meet Me at the Bottom) and has a minimal vocal range seems to be more apparent during covers. That and his lack of showmanship are small points though. The slide intro to Cliffs of Dover alone was worth a trip to the Dice. -Eric Holland