A night of blistering guitar hits with Eric Johnson

Guitar virtuoso Eric Johnson is back on tour and at it again. Though having not released a new studio album since 2010’s Up Close, Johnson wasn’t short on hits built up since the early 80’s.

The intimate sit down show at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall Ballroom featured no opener and nothing but ample time for Johnson’s multi-faceted guitar set. Die hard instrumental guitar fans rejoiced at this rare experience to witness a guitar legend.

Johnson opened the night with a solo acoustic set filled with instrumental guitar and even a little singing. Accompanied by a piano resembling a cross between a standup and baby grand piano he sampled one of his newer songs reminiscing about childhood experiences. He also claimed that he would start putting more and more singles up on iTunes instead of making fans wait a few more years for an album.

Following up with a full electric set, there was no absence of diversity from Eric Johnson’s extensive catalog of blistering guitar hits. Acoustic or electric, he’s just so relaxed and in the moment. The old classics were expected, but it’s the unscripted freestyle and on the spot improvisation occasionally accompanying his songs that really got everyone’s attention.

Johnson settled for nothing less than his traditional and very signature Fender Strat for most of the set. He has a very distinct tone resembling dialed back treble, but still relying heavily on the crisp and warmth of his vintage Fender and Marshall amps.

Similar to only a handful of other instrumental guitar players, Eric Johnson has a very clean way of playing guitar. There were virtually zero mistakes in his playing, but I guess that’s what happens after playing all these years. Most notably would be his consistent performance of his popular 1991 Grammy Award winning hit “Cliffs of Dover”.

I enjoyed the playful banter between Johnson and fans from song to song. They’d yell out to him and he’d just smile back, sometimes returning with his own witty remarks. Even when faced with a fan collapsing just as the band was beginning a song, Johnson stopped and talked with fans making sure everything was okay.


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