Fans of guitar hero Eric Johnson know his love of tone and his reputation for speed and dexterity, all of which is on display on his new release Europe Live. Johnson recorded shows with his trio at Amsterdam’s Melkweg along with two dates in Germany at Die Kantine in Köln and Bochum Zeche, and a Paris show at New Morning. The collection’s 14 tracks draw from throughout Johnson’s career and include two new compositions: The mesmeric “Intro” that opens the set, and then rollicking rocker “Zenland,” celebrates his side-project Alien Love Child with its million and one arpeggios. Johnson reveals his skills as a singer on such numbers as his soaring, blues-tinged salute to his hometown, “Austin,” and the airy ballad “40 Mile Town.”
Johnson and company test the limits during a stunning nine-and-a-half minute interpretation of John Coltrane’s “Mr. P.C.” on with bassist Chris Maresh and drummer Wayne Salzmann each taking jaw dropping solo’s. An acoustic guitar rendition of “A Song For Life” which he initially cut on his debut studio album, sits nicely in the center of the set as a welcome palette cleanser, followed by the Jeff Beck like space funk “Fatdaddy” from his most recent release, ‘Up Close.’ At eleven-and-a-half minutes the multimodal suite “Last House On The Block” might seem to some excessive if it wasn’t so riff-tastic. Johnson closes the main set with his Grammy-winning instrumental “Cliffs of Dover” performing the bouncing rock shuffle with fresh, vigorous energy. Two encore numbers close out the disc, the countrified rock jam “Evinrude Fever,” and the atmospheric “Sun Reprise,” which finds Johnson paying tribute to all the guitar gods who have come before.