Eric Johnson, Adrian Belew

Live shot

Eric Johnson
Eric Johnson (Photo By Gary Miller)
Adrian Belew
Adrian Belew (Photo By Gary Miller)

Eric Johnson, Adrian Belew

Hogg Auditorium, Aug. 27

Adrian Belew and Eric Johnson: doppelgangers? Both six-string savants are 50-ish, both first evoked tongue-wagging in the Seventies, both are touring behind new albums with their trios, and – unfortunately given Hogg's cavelike acoustics – both have a reverb/echo fetish. On hiatus from prog-masters King Crimson, Belew sampled from his new discs Side One and Side Two, displaying the fireworks that excited Frank Zappa, Laurie Anderson, Herbie Hancock, etc. Belew erected intricate wrought iron sculptures with sound – until his complicated guitar rig crapped out, deflating the sails of an otherwise cruising catamaran. A consummate performer, Belew salvaged by inserting George Harrison's "Within and Without You" into a song, closing with Crimson classic "Three of a Perfect Pair." Some Belewisms were lost in reverberation, but this didn't keep Austinite/Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto and the 1,199 fans packing the 1933 hall – thankfully scheduled for a full overhaul – from relishing the dream double-bill. Johnson also favors complex gear, but home court advantage helped his sound. Even his gossamer vox translated in the 20-song, two-hourish concert, one of his last before hitting Japan. The paper thin rocker may have issues in balancing perfectionism with album output, but Johnson excelled on stage: shimmering chordal sheets, plucky chicken pickin', jazzy phrasing, dagger-sharp arpeggios, bluesy slurs, harmonic chirps, and shit-hot sheer melodic flight. Johnson plays above the 12th fret like Wilt Chamberlain above the rim, and makes sixty-fourth notes appear as effortless as falling down. The set list drew organically from the recent Bloom – wisely upbeat instrumentals like the stellar "Columbia" – and the platinum and Grammy-earning Ah Via Musicom, with "Desert Rose" shining. Rabid fans brought Johnson, drummer Tommy Taylor, and bassist Chris Maresh back three times. They answered with a very Johnson-esque rendering of the Beatles' "Drive My Car" and Jimi Hendrix's "Manic Depression." Given such all-around amazing musicianship this night, make that "Manic Expression."

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