Eric Johnson ambles into the Circus Maximus Theater, located in Atlantic City's Caesars Hotel & Casino, and hops on stage. Dressed casually in baggy jeans and a comfy cardigan sweater, the legendary guitarist has just spent a leisurely early afternoon checking out New Jersey's famed Boardwalk Empire.
"I can't believe it's November," Johnson says in a soft Texas drawl as he runs a hand through his touseled mound of hair. "Must've been 65 degrees or something outside. I actually went to the beach, and with this sweater on, it almost got downright hot. Not that I'm complaining - it was nice."
Johnson and the rest of the stellar cast of performers on the fall run of the Experience Hendrix tour (the lineup includes Steve Vai, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Johnny Lang, Billy Cox, Susan Tedeschi and Living Colour, among others) have been having a blast during the past few weeks. "This might be the best Hendrix tour yet," says Johnson, a veteran of several such excursions. "Everybody's been playing their hearts out. It's been really cool."
Johnson likes what he's hearing from his amps. © Joe Bosso
Even so, with only a few dates left, Johnson admits he's looking forward to heading home to Austin to kick back for the holidays before he takes part in the second leg of the Guitar Masters tour in early 2011. After that, he says, he'll turn his attention to promoting his brand-new album Up Close. "I'm so happy that the record's done and how well it came out," he says. "I've got to get a band together and get touring. That should be a lot of fun," he says with a chuckle.
As he often does, Johnson has arrived at the venue early, a good hour before the other musicians are due for soundcheck. "I like a little private time on stage," he says. "It gives me a chance to get my rig together the way I want. Plus, it's a great opportunity to play some riffs, do a little jamming. Sometimes you get a song idea that way. I can play in my room, but there's no substitute for hearing yourself on stage and getting that nice big wall of sound coming at you."
With MusicRadar on the scene, Johnson graciously provides an exclusive walkthrough of the guitars, effects and amps he's been using on the Experience Hendrix tour (see the video on the previous page). "I might change some things around when I go out and play next year," he says, "but this setup has been serving me well. I try to keep it as simple as I can." Hearing his own words, he cracks a smile and says, "Of course, simple to me is always complicated to everybody else."
Johnson makes some last-minute tweaks to his pedalboard. © Joe Bosso
And remember, in several weeks Eric Johnson will take part in a very special MusicRadar interview in which you get to pose the questions! Click here for details.