Eric Johnson – Anaheim
directed by Hank Lena
starring Eric Johnson
Vanguard / Vortexan
I’ll be honest. I had never heard of Eric Johnson before I received this DVD, but I had no idea what I was missing. This performance, which was shot back on May 3, 2006 at The Grove in Anaheim, is nothing short of stunning. Johnson’s mastery of the guitar ranks among the top ten guitarists that I have ever seen or heard. His fingers dance on the frets of his guitar like they were schooled at the Juilliard School for Kick-Ass Guitar Solos. Even the audience seems absolutely fixated on his guitar skills.
Take the bluesy adult contemporary-sounding instrumental “Trademark.” Johnson starts off the mid-tempo number with some fairly difficult chord progressions and then breaks into this lightning-fast guitar solo that would’ve knocked me flat on my back if I wasn’t already sitting down. The few shots of the crowd show an audience in a state of shock. It’s almost as if they are asking themselves if this is even possible.
After a brief introduction for the bassist and drummer, Johnson breaks into a spot-on rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression,” complete with a blazing guitar solo that rivals Hendrix’s own solo. That’s how friggin’ good Eric Johnson is.
“On the Way to Love” is a quick straight-ahead twangy country tune that sounds like it is straight out of the ’80s, but Johnson makes every country slide guitarist sound like a beginner the way he flies around the guitar. Then he goes right into the bluesy-rock of “Rocktopus” as if you’re supposed to be able to switch genres like socks.
Now, Johnson’s voice is nothing like Hendrix’s; in fact his vocal range is quite limited. But honestly, nobody is there to hear him sing, and he only does that on three of the nine songs. They want to hear his guitar sing. Whether he’s doing adult contemporary, blues, rock, or country, Eric Johnson can do just about anything and this DVD proves it. He is absolutely flawless on the nine-song performance (which includes covers of Bob Dylan’s “My Back Pages” and Neil Diamond’s “Little Bit Me Little Bit You”), but even more so on the three-song acoustic performance which includes another Hendrix cover (“Wind Cries Mary”). Add in an interview with Johnson about his career and recording, and you have one DVD that guitar enthusiasts must own and purveyors of music must see at least once. If nothing else, just to make sure he really has only four fingers and one thumb on his left hand.
Eric Johnson: www.ericjohnson.com