In this Eric Johnson Live From Austin TX 1988 concert review, I’ll tell you what makes this show spectacular. Watching Eric play up-close is a revelation for all serious guitar players.
It doesn’t matter if you play Rock, Blues, Country, or Jazz. Eric will amaze you every step of the way with this 13-song setlist.
Eric showcases his trademark method of using hybrid-picking, harmonics, controlled feedback, and rapid-fire arpeggios to make the music come alive and take it over the top, as you’ve never seen it done before!
If you want to go directly to Eric’s equipment then click here.
Live From Austin Tx: Eric Johnson DVD Snapshot
- Recorded: December 14, 1988
- Release Date: 2005
- Concert Length: 60 Minutes
- Video Format: Fullscreen (4:3)
- Audio: PCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS- 5.1
- Starring: Eric Johnson, Kyle Brock, & Tommy Taylor
- Producer: Terry Lickona
- Director: Gary Menotti
Main DVD Disk Menu:
Audio Setup: PCM 2.0 Stereo and DTS 5.1
Bonus Features: None
DVD Packaging: Standard plastic packaging, with 1 DVD, and informational booklet
Eric’s Austin City Limits Backstory
Many Eric Johnson fans don’t realize that he performed twice on Austin City Limits, once in 1984 and then again in 1988. Although the 1988 show is the subject of this review, here is the backstory on both shows.
The 1988 Austin City Limits Show
This concert was filmed during an appearance on the TV series “Austin City Limits,” on December 14, 1988. It’s actually Eric’s second appearance on the show.
Select songs from Eric’s 1988 performance were originally aired as part of the 30-minute Austin City Limits broadcast format. The video for the entire show was not released on DVD until 2005.
The 1984 Austin City Limits Show
Eric had previously done a show on Austin City Limits on July 31, 1984, when he was 29 years old, as part of the show’s 10th-anniversary line-up. That 49-minute show was also released in its entirety in 2010.
The band members included Eric on guitar and vocals, Rob Alexander on bass guitar and vocals, and Steve Meador on drums.
Here is the 1984 Austin City Limits tracklist:
- Soulful Terrain
- All I Need
- Song For Life
- April Come She Will
- Tribute To Jerry Reed
- I’m Finding You
- Cliffs Of Dover
- Down Here On The Ground
- Bristol Shores
- Spanish Castle Magic
The tracklist for the 1988 show is listed below.
DVD Packaging (1988 Show)
The 1988 show DVD-only product comes as a single disk with standard plastic packaging (the DVD I own).
The artwork consists of a concert photo on the front cover. The rear cover has a short description of the concert and the setlist.
The DVD is NTSC Region Free will play on any NTSV DVD player
This concert is also available as a Digipack CD/DVD package.
Both the DVD-only and CD/DVD formats are available from New West Records.
Songs And Artists (1988 Show)
Here is the tracklist for the 1988 show.
If you’re looking for the tracklist for Eric Johnson’s 1984 Austin City Limits show, scroll up to Eric’s Austin City Limits Backstory.
|2||Love Or Confusion||3:05|
|4||Trail Of Tears||9:22|
|8||Camel’s Night Out||4:16|
|10||Cliffs Of Dover||6:13|
|13||Are You Experienced?||6:43|
- Eric Johnson – Guitar and Vocals
- Kyle Brock – Bass Guitar
- Tommy Taylor – Drums
1988 Musical Performance Highlights
Here are some short comments that sum up my thoughts on the following tracks from the 1988 Austin City Limits show.
From (album): Ah Via Musicom
Eric opens the show with this three-and-a-half-minute tune that is a bit of a boogie in the key of F. It features multiple nicely placed arpeggios in his typical style.
From: Ah Via Musicom
If you like country-style double-stops and steel-pedal bends, then check out this great little piece!
Trail Of Tears
Trail Of Tears is a mellow ballad that features a nicely phrased chord progression and Eric pulling goodies from his bag of tricks. Look out for rapid-fire arpeggios with controlled feedback augmented by tap and harp harmonics.
From: This Show
Kyle Brock does a one-minute countrified bass solo that bridges “East Wes” and “Camel’s Night Out.” A must-see for all bass fans!
From: Tones and Seven Worlds
This EJ-style pop-rock tune in the Key of B features beautifully phrased distorted licks with harp harmonics. Not to be missed!
From: Ah Via Musicom
The staccato opening of Desert Rose conjures hints of a “Police” tune. Eric makes it his own by sprinkling it with distinctive distorted licks. I like the way it moves from F to Ab and then back again.
Band Interviews And Backstage Footage
Unfortunately, there is no video of band interviews or backstage footage included on this DVD.
There is a short narrative by Terry Lickona, the producer of Austin City Limits, on the inside of the DVD booklet. It introduces the show and provides a brief biography of Eric.
In addition, there is some info on the rear cover about how some of these songs previously appeared as part of a half-hour “best of” Austin City Limits show.
The stage is arranged in the typical Austin City Limits format. It is well-lit and straightforward, with video cameras placed out of the viewer’s sight.
There is no projected video or special effects of any type behind the band. The focus is always on what’s happening musically.
This is a listing of the guitars, amplifiers, and effects that various band members used during the show. I obtained this information visually while watching the video and through Internet research. I always strive to make this list as accurate as possible.
If you disagree or have something to add that makes it more accurate or complete, I would appreciate it if you put that info in the comment section at the end of this article. I will correct or update it immediately!?
Eric is well known for his love of vintage guitars, amps, and effects, but he often mixes them with the latest technology to get the best of both worlds.
Eric played the same Strat throughout the entire show. From the worn-off finish on the guitar’s “armrest” area on the upper bout above the bridge, it looks like Eric is playing his 1957 vintage Strat, although I can’t be 100% sure.
This is one of his favorites and the guitar that Fender based his first signature Strat model on. He also has a vintage 1954 (first year of production) Strat, which does not appear in this video.
Eric favors red Dunlop Jazz III (Nylon,1.38 mm thick) guitar picks.
Eric is using two late ’60s vintage Marshall Plexi 100 Watt heads and two late ’60s Fender vintage Twin Reverb heads. The amps drive three vintage early ’60s Marshall 4X12 cabinets.
He typically uses the Twin Reverbs for clean rhythm and lead sounds. The Marshall Plexi heads are for his dirty rhythm and lead sounds.
I’ve heard that he runs the Twin Reverb heads in stereo through a single split 4X12 cabinet (2 speakers per head).
Eric gets his exotic sounds from a huge collection of vintage and modern effects that he runs on an impressive-looking pedalboard, which I would certainly love to have!
I can’t accurately name all the effects he uses during the show, but he is known for using the following devices at various times throughout his career. Many of these stomp boxes were not yet available in 1988 for this show.
- Dallas-Arbiter Fuzz Face
- Dunlop JDF2 Fuzz Face
- BK Butler Tube Driver
- Ibanez TS808 Tube Screamer
- Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
- Fulltone OCD Obsessive Compulsive Drive
- Prescription Electronics – Experience Octave Fuzz
- Xotic AC Booster
- MXR M102 Dyna Comp
- Strymon blueSky Reverberator
- Shin-ei Vibe Bro (univibe)
- MXR Flanger/Doubler
- ToadWorks Barracuda Flanger
- TC Electronic Stereo Chorus Flanger
- MXR KD IV Stereo Chorus
- Boss DD-2 Digital delay
- Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man Delay
- MXR 1500 Digital Delay
- Catalinbread Echorec
- Maestro Echoplex Tape Delay
- Dunlop Cry Baby Wah-Wah Pedal
- Vox King Wah-Wah Pedal
For more info on effects, see What Is A Guitar Stomp Box – Attractive, Little, Tantalizing.
Kyle goes way back as Eric’s bass player for the Electromagnets. Here is a fundamental rundown of his equipment. If anyone has more specific info, please leave it in the comments section at the end of this article.
Kyle is playing a Fender Jazz Bass throughout the entire show.
Kyle is using 2 Seymour Duncan heads and a 200-watt Hiwatt head into an SD 2X2 and a 1X15 cabinet. The two “mystery cabs” are supposedly Dietz cabinets with 1X15 EV speakers (?).
Kyle is running a small pedalboard, which he can be seen operating at various times during the show. It appears that he has an Echoplex.
Audio Specs And Sound Quality
The audio codecs available are PCM 2.0 Stereo, and DTS-HD 5.1
The audio quality is professionally recorded, with fair to good audio imaging, depending on your sound system.
Television speakers sound best using the stereo channel.
If you have a soundbar with a dedicated subwoofer, try both the stereo and DTS-5.1 channels to see which works best for you.
The DTS high-5.1 channel will definitely give you the best sound imaging if you have a home theater (5.1, 7.1, or 7.1.4 Atmos) setup.
On my Bose 5.1 surround system, some intermittent white noise comes through on the rear channels on certain songs. It’s subtle but especially noticeable if the listener is situated too far back in the sound field.
Playing the video on my 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos/DTS-X theater system, some center channel sounds are skewed into the right and left front channels, most notably heard with some vocals.
Video Specs And Camera-Shot Quality
The video is recorded in Fullscreen (4:3 aspect ratio)
The concert is pro-shot, as you might expect it to be.
A good combination of closeups and full-stage shots doesn’t include other video cameras in the frame.
Overall, video brightness and contrast are good to excellent with minimal graininess.
All of Eric’s solos are captured in their entirety, without inappropriate break-away to other musicians. Eric’s hands are filmed to clearly show his technique, which is what guitar players really want to see.
My Favorite Songs And Musical Moments (1988 Show)
These are the songs I enjoyed most in the show for various reasons. The entire setlist is fantastic, as is always the case at any Eric Johnson concert.
Love Or Confusion
From (album): Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix cover)
Eric showcases his love for Jimi, as he often does during a live performance, by absolutely nailing this Hendrix classic. Eric’s whammy bar, distortion, and controlled feedback antics are all perfect! This is the closest I’ve ever heard anyone come to conjuring Jimi’s sound!
From: The Show
Western Flyer is a real EJ soloing fest, complete with a catchy opening riff in E and lightning-fast arpeggios, powered by alternating and economy picking.
He pulls it all off with such incredible precision that, at times, it almost sounds like he is sweep-picking.
From: Ah Via Musicom
East Wes is Eric’s hat-tip to the great Wes Montgomery. Eric opens the song with a chord progression in E that he plays, true to Wes-style, with the side of his thumb only. He changes to hybrid picking for the chord melody, followed by his trademark over-the-pickguard tap harmonics and lightning-fast arpeggios.
Camel’s Night Out
From: Venus Isle
This is a real Eric Johnson-style rocker, played in the key of A. I love the way the opening chords drive the entire tune. Look out for lots of harmonic twists and turns along with cleverly interwoven riffs.
Cliffs Of Dover
From: Ah Via Musicom
Cliffs Of Dover is one of Johnson’s best-known and well-liked tunes. It’s a must-play during any live performance! Eric is a true master of using just the right type and amount of guitar effects, and this song really showcases that in spades!
He begins with a sweet chord-melodic passage in G, typical of his live arrangement, and then moves into the iconic opening riffs in E that power the tune.
This is probably my favorite EJ song. If you’re a serious player, it will either make you want to practice more or throw your guitar away, hopefully, the former!
From: Tones and Seven Worlds
Zap is a typical EJ musical outing in F that features prominent bass lines from Kyle. The tune is lightly salted with hints of Eddie Van Halen and Jeff Beck, so check it out!
Are You Experienced?
From: Are You Experienced? (Jimi Hendrix cover)
This tune will simply flaw you! Eric really kills it with every Hendrix subtlety but still manages to make his own musical style shine through. It’s all there, the string-rubs, volume knob swells, controlled feedback, tap harmonics, hybrid picking, and picking over the neck!
The rest of the band just seems to disappear (no offense, guys). What a way to close the show! You’ll probably listen to this tune at least 1 or 2 more times before calling it quits.
What You Might Not Like
There’s not much to dislike about this concert video, but here are a few things you might consider.
No Backstage Footage
I really like watching backstage concert footage. It definitely adds to the enjoyment of the video and can give you a better idea of what particular equipment was used in the show.
No Band Interviews
Band interviews can offer insight into problems that occurred during the concert’s production, performance, and filming. It’s great to get inside stories directly from your favorite players, and it’s one of the first things any true fan looks for in a music video.
The DTS-5.1 Surround-Sound Has A Few Minor Issues
The DTS-5.1 audio has some intermittent noise and mixing issues. For more specific information, read the section above on Audio Specs And Sound Quality.
Overall, the sound is well-mixed, especially by 1988 standards.
Important Things To Know
Here are two things you should be aware of before you drop some cash on this DVD.
Available As A DVD, And A Combo CD/DVD Package
This concert is available as a stand-alone or CD/DVD package from New West Records. I own the stand-alone DVD, which was the only available option when I purchased it, but the combo package is the best choice for the money.
There is also a streaming option for music only (MP3).
Beware Of Poorly Recorded Copies
There are a fair number of pirated or bootleg copies of this video available for purchase on various websites.
The video and audio are typically substandard, and in some cases, too poorly done to be worth a look and listen.
Also, it is illegal to purchase these copies, and it could cheat the performers out of well-deserved income.
Is This Concert Worth Purchasing Or Streaming?
If you’re a guitar player and you don’t like Eric Johnson, then chances are you’ve never heard of him up until now. If you enjoy watching “best of the best” axe slingers do their stuff up close, you should definitely purchase or stream this concert.
It’s all here, all the guitar virtuosity you could ever hope for, and then some! Apart from dazzling technique, this concert has a tracklist covering a wide variety of musical styles, so there’s something for everyone.
There’s no excuse for not owning a copy of Eric Johnson Live From Austin Texas!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most popular questions and facts about Eric Johnson.
When Did Eric Johnson Start Playing Guitar?
Eric started playing the guitar at age 11.
Who Were Eric Johnson’s Early Guitar Influences?
Eric has been influenced by various ground-breaking musicians, including Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, Jerry Reed, Chet Atkins, Bob Dylan, Mike Bloomfield, Jimi, Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
What Other Bands Has Eric Johnson Played In?
Eric joined a fusion band in 1974 called the Electromagnets. Eric left the Electromagnets to form a trio called the Eric Johnson Group. Eric also worked as a session guitarist for acts like Cat Stevens and Carole King.
Final Thoughts On The Eric Johnson Live From Austin TX Concert
This concert is one of the best examples of a live performance by Eric Johnson. Eric makes pulls off seemingly impossible phrases with such style and finesse that he makes it look easy.
I think the announcer for the show says it best: “Now, here’s one of the most incredible guitarists around in any style of music -Eric Johnson.”
The concert, recorded in 1988, included several songs from the yet-to-be-released album Ah Via Musicom, which hit the retail market in 1990.
It’s fun to watch Eric conjure unique sounds through a mix of vintage and modern equipment that will make you want to head to the nearest music store to add more toys to your arsenal.
Of course, there’s much more to Eric’s sound than guitars, amps, and effects. His sound is powered by his talent and perfectionism, which is virtually unequaled by other guitarists.
There are so many incredible tunes in the setlist that it can be challenging to pick your favorites.
Every guitar player can learn something from watching this DVD. I highly recommend you get yourself a copy and then prepare yourself for the show of a lifetime!
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this review, have any questions about this video, or want to give your critique of the concert. I will be happy to help you.
- Have you seen this video before? What do you think of the setlist and audio/video quality?
- Which song do you like best?
- Do you have a favorite Eric Johnson video? Which one and why?
- Would you buy this video after reading this review?