Tonight, for the second time in a week, Shepherds Bush Empire is playing host to a night of great blues music. Last week it was Joe Bonamassa, and tonight it’s Eric Johnson. Less well known in the UK than Joe Bonamassa, Texan guitarist Eric Johnson is here as the first night of a European tour.
First up though is former busker Tristan Mackay. He performs solo, with just a backing tape containing a drum beat and at times additional guitars, while he sings and plays guitar. For the first part of his set he played acoustic guitar before switching to electriv guitar. He switched between the two a couple more times during the set too. I enjoyed his set and he certainly seemed to go down pretty well with the crowd, although his attempts to get the crowd to sing along during the final song did fall fairly flat. A good start to the night.
Next up though was tonight’s star, Eric Johnson. There was a simple set-up on stage – a drummer, a bassist, and Eric Johnson himself on guitar and vocals.
Since hearing his latest album a few weeks ago, I’d been really looking forward to tonight’s show, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed by what we got. To put it simply we got some of the best blues guitar I’ve ever heard. Once I’d done the photos during the first two songs and then checked in my camera gear with security I headed upstairs to take a seat and watch the show. Once I sat down I didnt stir till the end of the show – no going to the bar for a drink, or nipping to the loo – this was one of those shows where I was simply spellbound watching Eric’s fingers flying over the fretboard as he produced some amazing music. The songs frequently included long solos or were instrumental, and whereas these two features would normally be an opportunity for me to nip to the bar to get a beer, the quality of the music tonight was such that these were actually some of the highlights.
While Eric Johnson doesn’t seem to be as much of a showman as Joe Bonamassa, when it comes to what matters – the singing and guitar playing, he’s every bit his equal. In fact despite loving Joe’s show the week before, I think for me Eric Johnson was the better gig.
Tonight’s show was primarily performed on electric guitar, but two songs – ‘Divinae’ and ‘Once upon a time in Texas’ were performed acoustically. The show included plenty of changes of pace with some fast loud songs and some slower more bluesy songs. When the show ended the cheers from the crowd made it clear that an encore was demanded, and happily Eric came back out for a two song encore which kicked off with a Jimi Hendrix cover – ‘Are you experienced’. It was superbly done, and I always like it when a band or artist does a cover version that avoids the most obvious tracks by the artist they are covering. The encore then ended with ‘Cliffs of Dover’. Tonight we got a second encore and this was an instrumental rock and roll jam. A fantastic end to an unforgettable night of music.
If you’ve never listened to Eric Johnson but are a fan of artists such as Joe Bonamassa then I strongly recommend that you check him out – and his latest album, ‘Up close – another look’ is an excellent place to start.
Battle We Have Won
Forty Mile Town
Last House on the Block
Mr. P.C (including drum solo)
Once Upon A Time In Texas
When The Sun Meets The Sky
Are You Experienced?
Cliffs of Dover
Rock and Roll Jam