Eric played Juanita’s restaurant/club in Little Rock, which I think has become a running summer gig for him as this is at least the 3rd year in a row he’s played here. We got here early again like last year and I made sure I posted myself in front of his mic/pedals for the next 1:45 until the show started. It was worth it as I was able to stand about 5 feet away for the whole show.
Eric’s stage and pedal setup is the standard that most of us have seen. It’s really not much different from the guitar geek circa 2001 diagram, although specific models may change he’s still using the same sorts of pedals, etc. In the amp dept. he had the two Fender Twins and the Marshall double stack with apparently new Hendrix signature heads based on other reports, although I couldn’t see well enough to tell (wouldn’t know what I was looking for from a distance anyway). He didn’t have the Allen/Heath mixer on stage this year, but he did have a couple of echoplexes on the floor (which I didn’t see last year, but they could have been obstructed by the mixer).
I couldn’t figure out all his pedals but he did have the memory man, fuzz face, a Radial Tonebone Tube Overdrive that was labeled as an “Eric Johnson Custom” and looked like a modified classic model by the coloring/size. He had a small mxr pedal with script text that may have been a phase 90 but I couldn’t read it well enough; a TC electronic chorus/flanger, the cry baby, and the multitude of a/b boxes. He had another pedal sitting over by his jbl eon monitor (stage right) that may have been the chandler tube driver but I couldn’t see it well enough to tell. I may be leaving one or two things out here.
He played the black signature model for the whole set except for the three song acoustic set in which he played his Martin EJ signature model. He used his Dunlop Jazz III picks for the whole show as far as I could tell. It was nice and loud again although I think I benefited by not being in the direct axis of the amps this time (they were aimed a little more off center this time). I still think the bass was mixed too loud, but it may have been where I was standing. Eric’s tone was a little lost in the mix for me. I brought my earplugs but never felt like I needed them, and they would have just accentuated the bass more so I left them in my pocket.
Set list (there may be an omission or two and the song order may be a bit out of sequence, but it’s relatively close as I tried to write these down during the set):
- Soulful terrain - great opener, just a classic EJ tune
- My Back Pages
- Trademark - he opened this by joking about the show featuring jugglers, acrobats, monkeys, and snake oil salesmen. He then alluded to how that was what this song was about but I think I may have missed something
- Country - (the unnamed as yet instrumental) commented on how they had seen George Jones’ tour bus and it got them in the mood for some country
- Morning Sun - my sequence may be slightly out of order here
- Brilliant Room - i think he introduced this by saying they had just finished recording this at home and he hoped they would be releasing the album in the next 6-7 years (he was joking). he said they hoped to have a new album out “soon” (so, that means 2-3 years probably )
- Manhattan - very well played, and I was glad to hear it as he didn’t play it last year
- Dusty - beginning of three song solo acoustc set
- Song for Life
- Once Upon a Time in Texas (?) - hadn’t heard that before, but I think that is right. This set was played on the Martin EJ signature and he sounded fantastic. I was thrilled to see him play Dusty from that close and those of us in front we’re probably the only ones who could really see what he was playing as he was sitting down. Unfortunately the crowd was well inebriated and growing restless during the set so I don’t know if he’ll want to continue this.
- New Song - couldn’t understand him when he said the name, but I liked it.
- Austin - great tune, beautiful chord changes and a great melody, I hope it appears on the next album. He played the coolest arpeggio sequence during the solo.
- Desert Rose - he had played fast all night but I guess he was warmed up at this point because he was really wailing on this guitar solo, although I know he typically really goes for it on this one
- Guitar Solo - similar start to last year with a very beautiful slow intro with some great melodic chord changes with a clean, warm tone which eventually fused into a faster portion with a little overdriven but more punchy and not so sustained tone which eventually culminated in the classic lead tone and the intro to Cliffs. I’m not sure but I think he cut off early because he faced Tommy Taylor (who had been playing some light percussion as texture) and waved his arms out to the side like he was saying stop. He started playing a more lead tone and it looked like Roscoe had to hurry to get his bass back on and get ready for Cliffs
- Cliffs Of Dover
- (Encores)Spanish Castle Magic - very extended jam and Eric and Roscoe had some great interplay where it looked like they were goading each other on a bit. Whatever problem he had during the guitar solo seemed to have been forgotten by the end.
The show was a little shorter this year with a few less encores, but I think it ended up running about 1:40 total. Tommy and Roscoe both played fantastically as usual. I apologize to them both in admitting that as a guitarist I can’t resist the call of Eric’s fingers on the fretboard, but I did try and pay a little more attention to their playing this year. The only downers were the people who were there more to party than to listen to a great band. I had a drunk middle aged woman behind me who tried to shove her way to the front and then was upset because no one wanted to let her up (everyone up there had been standing there for almost two hours to reserve their spot. She would periodically let out a scream which just showed that she wasn’t listening at all to what was being played. Unfortunately about half the crowd was that way. There was one guy who held up a napkin which said “Play Cliffs of Dover”, which he unfortunately held up right after Eric had played Cliffs. Don’t know if he was so drunk he didn’t realize what he had just heard or if he was that clueless about EJ. I don’t know if EJ and the guys cared about that or if it made a difference. It was still a great show and they all played fantastic. I think Eric said they would come back next year. (the two pics are from the Birmingham show the next night, courtesy of ByTor1975 from the EJ forum. I didn't bring my camera, so this as close a pic as I have now. The biggest difference is the stage there is a bit more roomy than Juanita's).