ric Johnson has an authentic longevity to his career that eludes most guitar fans looking for a good lick. Johnson has been steadily spreading his particular brand of guitar skills  throughout his life and garnered a Grammy for his efforts in 1991. His playing almost seems classical as he hits several notes in a matter of seconds, this speed can only be captured after a lifetime of studying music. Johnson explored the greats of guitar as he began to master the inner workings of instrumentation and would have his first band at the age of 13.

Photo by Florent Atem

Now he’s 65 and gets greeted by fans at New York’s Sony Hall lovingly screaming his first name. Several tables with fancy centerpieces are arranged in front of a modest stage setup but this was no posh dinner party. Johnson radiated a certain youth as he politely thanked the crowd and embarked on a series of epic jams with his signature 1954 'Virginia' Stratocaster. Johnson augmented his usual trio format for his 2020 tour with a quartet made up of Roscoe Beck on bass, Tom Brechtlein on drums and Dave Scher on rhythm guitar with side of keys.

When you see Eric Johnson it seems like a guided musical spectacle that touches upon all the genres that intersect with that six-stringed instrument. Johnson began his New York set with a cover of the psychedelic Beatles ballad ‘Things We’ve Said Today’ which transitioned into an instrumental segment that switched into a cover of ‘Drifting’ by Jimi Hendrix. The caliber of tunes played at an Eric Johnson show can give you a hint at his skill level because not many musicians will attempt to cover the classics. Despite the novelty of seeing such historical tracks being played out, Johnson does not limit himself to one genre. After slaying the Hendrix cover he invited jazz guitarist Oz Noy for a Coltrane cover that moved into Johnson’s bluesy instrumental track Trademark. Then he slowed it way down with a cover of ‘Down Here on the Ground’. This sort of masterful musical curation only arises after years of music making and this was only the first set. To put it simply, Eric Johsnon aims to please. Catch Johnson as he continues his Classics: Past and Present Tour with dates in Ohio, Georgia, Florida and the Southeast

Photos by
Kitsap Sun