The Tralf, Buffalo
Bit of an enigma is Eric. Sometimes regarded as the guitarists’ guitarist, he continues to gig and record on his own terms. An example being this tour; having already played a lengthy set of dates in support his most recent release, an acoustic CD, this date in Buffalo is part of a tour for his electric band where there’s no new release to promote. None of which prevented a sell out in this 800 seat, rather excellent venue.
First up was Arielle playing a solo acoustic set. It would be easy to take a dig at the hippyish star-child persona but she’s a talented musician with a great voice. Her songs had a little too much whimsy for me until she offered up a beautifully rendered “Blackhole Sun” in tribute to Chris Cornell.
Johnson was backed by Chris Maresh from Eric’s home town of Austin on bass and Joe Travers on drums (yes, that Joe Travers – the vaultmeister for the Zappa Family Trust). They are a tight unit and Travers drum work really drives the band during the up-tempo numbers.
Johnson has always been hard to categorise and flicks between jazz, blues and rock sometimes within the same song. Amongst the early songs are the jangling slightly haunting “Doorstep”, and the the first of 2 cover versions – Hendrix’s “Love or Confusion”; later there is a a solo acoustic version of “Black Mountain Slide”. He also introduces a few new songs, joking that they don’t have names, one of which – “Blues Song” – is a stomping barnstormer, and might also be called “Mama” or “Wolverine Love”. Johnson switched to piano and Arielle joined the band for a few songs before returning to a 3 piece and signature mix of reverberating chords and lightning fast licks on “Desert Rose”, “Manhattan” and “Cliffs of Dover”.
Johnson has always had a reputation for being a perfectionist and favours a traditional fully analogue rig (no wireless) with 4 amps (2 Marshall and 2 Fender) feeding the mixing desk, although he has switched to playing mostly a semi hollow F hole Stratocaster, breaking out a Les Paul for just “Blues Song”. Stage center was a second rig that fed direct to the mixing desk but it was evident he was not finding it to his liking, although it was noticeable just how much clicking and buzzing his main set up created.
A 2 hour set saw the band sign off with a romp through “Zap” to a well deserved ovation, and for me a thoroughly enjoyable night out.
Old and predominantly blokes. Arielle would be about their granddaughters age.
It made me think..
I admire Eric for doing it his way. And for doing it into his 60’s. And that Joe Travers is a shit-hot drummer.