Sound: This show was in a small little restaurant/club in Little Rock called Juanita's. Apparently he has played here before. I don't know the total capacity of the place, but I don't think it could have been more than 300, and was probably closer to 150-200. The layout was kind of like half an Applebee's in size and configuration with the bar on the back wall and chest high tables behind a partition on a higher level with tables on the lower level and a floor area in front of the stage (which is tucked into a corner and barely had enough room for just the trio). I had gotten there around 90 minutes before the doors opened and was about 5th in line. I originally had chosen the closest table to the stage, but as the floor started to fill up I decided to stand up by the stage and ended up having just one short couple between me the stage, giving me an essentially unobstructed view of Eric the whole night with the exception of the occasional walk over to Roscoe's side.
Eric's stage and pedal setup is the standard that most of us have seen. I did think his two Twin Reverbs looked fairly new, and could possibly be some 65 reissues, although one did have a repair patch on the face, but otherwise looked pretty new. The Marshall double stack had one amp head on top and there was another amp head on a chair facing the drums but I couldn't see the front to tell which kind of amp it was. It didn't look like a Marshall head, so it could have been anything I suppose. He had a small approx 12 channel mixer on the stage to his front right with a JBL power monitor behind it and another rectangular monitor to the front left, but I couldn't tell what brand it was. I'm curious if this portable-ish mixer is used every night, or if he had to forego having someone run the sound board because the place was so small.
He played a three color sunburst Strat with a rosewood fingerboard that sounds like one others have mentioned before on the board. It's definitely an older/vintage Strat and not a new signature variation. I don't know if this is one of the stolen guitars returned earlier this year or if he had this previously. He played the guitar for the entire first set and Encore and then switched to a black EJ signature guitar with the maple neck for the remainder of the set. You could definitely hear the difference in the two guitars with the maple being a little more bright/punchy and the rosewood a bit warmer. He used his Dunlop Jazz III picks for the whole show as far as I could tell. I can say without hesitation that it was very loud, actually probably too loud for anyone's long term hearing. It's been 8 hours since the show and my ears are still ringing. That's really my only complaint about the show. I think they could have easily dropped 15-20 dB and no one would have had a problem hearing them well. I'll remember my ear plugs next time. // 9
Perfomance: 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 was able to read most of the set list as it was lying on the stage to the left of his pedal board):
01. Summer Jam
02. My Back Pages
04. Angel - he really rocked out on this tune at different points, I thought he was in one of the new pop punk bands by the way he was just slamming his hand to play chords during the solo, this was really high energy.
05. Country - he referred to this as a country and western tune, the set list on the stage just titled it as country.
06. Brilliant Room - I can't distinctly remember which of these next two tunes was which.
07. Morning Sun - I think this was a slow blues a la Robert Cray with Eric's powerful tone, very nice. I really hope this gets released.
09. Good To Me - told the audience, here's a song you can tap your foot to. And we did.
11. Austin - great tune, beautiful chord changes and a great melody, I hope it appears on the next album.
12. Guitar Solo - 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. The slow intro portion was definitely the highlight for me.
13. Cliffs Of Dover
14. Little Bit Me, Little Bit You - cover of Monkees tune, he made a joke that Neil Diamond wrote it, but their cover version was more like the Monkees. I looked this up on youtube and his version definitely rocked a lot more.
15. Bristol Shore
16. Zap - as he walked off stage after this Encore I held up my copy of the May '86 Guitar Player with Eric on the cover that I had brought and Eric came straight to me and grabbed the magazine and signed it with a sharpie I was holding. He looked me in the eyes and I mouthed Thank You (our collective ears were still ringing at this point) and he said You're Welcome with a smile and walked off stage. He came out and asked if we would rather hear a Hendrix tune or a Celine Dion tune. I was holding up two fingers to indicate both, but he looked at me and said, "Oh, you want to hear the Celine Dion, okay." He then walked over to the Marshall stack and proceeded to create some feedback for a few seconds and then he came back and cracked some jokes about her name, like it was Cackle Dion or Crumple Dion or something like that, it was hard to hear clearly. I guess the joke was that her music was no better sounding than feedback, but I may have missed some of the joke.
17. Wind Cries Mary
18. Manic Depression - this wasn't planned because he walked over to Roscoe Beck and Tommy Taylor and told them what the next song was going to be.
19. Instrumental - perhaps Mystery (how ironic).
21. Red House. // 9
Overall Impression: Little Rock AR, USA, 7 August 2006. Overall it was a fantastic show. The band seemed to really enjoy themselves (especially Eric) and they responded to the high energy of the crowd. Eric seemed much more lively than I have seen him on videos and the two previous shows I had seen him play live at. He had an ongoing banter with one of his roadies (blond haired, tall, lanky looking guy Who someone else at the show was saying is actually a very good player in his own right) most of the night and would look his way off stage and then put on a few dance moves or perform the old forearm over the front of the neck trick that he talks about in his Hot Licks video as a way of looking cool. At one point during the encores he took his guitar off and set it on the stage and used his left hand piano/Stanley Jordan style while picking with his right hand for a few licks. I think this was more of the banter as opposed to a new approach to playing. After his first Encore he had picked up a pile of guitar picks sitting in front of the drums and instead of just throwing them to the crowd, he individually handed each one out to the fans in the front (you know, the guitar players who must stand in front and watch his every move), so I scored a pick that way. It's a blue pick with EJ on one side and Electromagnets on the other. I don't know if this is the kind people talk about receiving with Bloom. I bought Bloom from Amazon within the first week it came out and I didn't get one so I don't know. He definitely didn't use these to play with. My impression with the set is that he continues to find new ways to play his old tunes and that he has written some very good more bluesy sounding new songs that really fit his tone well and indicate that his songwriting continues to improve. I am very hopeful about potential new releases, especially with songs like Austin and the slow blues a la Robert Cray (Morning Sun, I think) that are some of the better songs I think I have ever heard from our esteemed Mr. Johnson. // 10