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ERIC JOHNSON, O2 ABC, Glasgow 7 July 2012

Eric Johnson, photo by Noel Buckley

Eric Johnson is a musicians' musician who is spoken about in exulted tones by the likes of Joe Bonamassa and Alex Lifeson of Rush. This is the Texan guitar maestro's first UK tour and judging by the way the tickets flew out the box office, it was hotly anticipated.

On arrival at the ABC I was met with a large queue lined around the building which was an interesting mix of middle aged gents which I expected, but there was also a large number of teenagers and 20 somethings there which showed that Eric's appeal crosses the generation gap. Unusually, the venue was all seated for this performance which led me to believe that perhaps the promoters weren't expecting the younger element to the crowd.

With no support, the band were due on stage at 8pm as this venue is one of those that turns, pumpkin like, into a disco after 11pm, meaning an early gig curfew at 9.45pm. When the band hadn't appeared on stage by 8.20pm, there were a few restless natives in the audience, but finally Eric, along with bass player Chris Maresh and drummer Wayne Salzmann made it on to the stage and once they kicked into the first track, all was forgiven.

Eric Johnson, photo by Noel Buckley

The focal point was, of course, Mr Johnson himself who, armed with his trusty Strat, played up a storm throughout the set. He does though get a bit lost in his music and doesn't have a huge rapport with the audience, but no one seems to mind when they are watching a craftsman at work.

Playing a range of songs from his back catalogue, some from his latest album ' Up Close' and a few choice covers, the set featured blues, rock, jazz and everything in between all played with consummate ease.

The rhythm section of Maresh and Salzmann were more than a match for Johnson's playing, especially during the longer, jazzier passages as ably demonstrated on 'Last House On The Block'.

The set highlights for me though were the funky 'Manhattan', a fantastic version of 'Nothing Can Keep Me From You' and the set tour de force 'When The Sun Meets The Sky' on which Johnson excelled.

It wasn't the slickest of shows though with a few 'tuning odysseys' throughout the set and a lot of fiddling with cables and effect pedals which interrupted the flow and rendered the hall almost silent at times, which was an unusual situation.

Eric Johnson, photo by Noel Buckley

Towards the end of the set though, Eric showed why he is so respected as a guitarist with an extended solo spot during which he incorporated his whole musical arsenal, his fingers a blur on the fretboard and note perfect throughout. This then morphed into arguably his most well known number , the Grammy winning 'Cliffs Of Dover' which rounded off the set perfectly.

Musically, you couldn't fault this gig, I am not sure though that the venue did the show any favours and things were a bit disjointed on stage at times.

Eric Johnson however, proved beyond doubt that he deserves the respect of his peers and the adoration of his loyal following, although had he been another ten minutes later at the start, it may have been a different story.

Review by David Wilson

Photos by Noel Buckley

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