Eric Johnson is a name that’s at least casually familiar to many metal fans. He’s not a shredder, nor is he a crafter of bone-crushing heavy riffs ala Tony Iommi or James Hetfield, yet he’s probably influenced legions of the best guitarists in metal today. One of the many cool things that separate the best metal guitarists from musicians in a lot of other genres is that their influences are very far-ranging and diverse – they don’t just listen to metal all day. The same holds true for many metal fans as well. It’s not unusual to see albums by Jeff Beck, Al Di Meola…and Eric Johnson in their music libraries.
Having said that, his brand new live album, 'Europe Live,' is not even remotely metal. Rest assured that it’s still a rock record, however. “Zap” is a frenetic guitar workout that scorches, and “Last House on the Block” sounds like heavy metal forefathers Cream at times. Indeed, any part of this album can be used as proof that Johnson is one of the most talented guitarists in the world, worthy of all the respect he’s garnered from peers, critics and fans.
His backing band, comprised of bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Wayne Salzmann, is pretty impressive too. An extended eleven-minute-plus jam session that transpires during a cover of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” is undeniably a towering epic of musical prowess. And of course, Johnson’s “hit single,” “Cliffs of Dover,” from 1990’s platinum-selling 'Ah Via Musicom' is on here in all its Grammy-winning glory.
As its title implies, this album was recorded all over Europe, proving that Johnson is a global phenomenon. He hasn’t forgotten us though; he’s touring the US this summer. In fact, he is making a stop here in Columbus on Saturday, August 2, at the Park Street Saloon. Tickets are $35 for general admission and $55 for VIP. Doors open at 7 p.m.