Guitar hero to perform acoustic, electric sets at The State Theatre

Eric Johnson will perform at The State Theatre on Tuesday.
Eric Johnson will perform at The State Theatre on Tuesday. Photo provided

Seven time Grammy-nominated guitarist Eric Johnson will be joined by his band and singer-songwriter Arielle on Tuesday when he performs at The State Theatre for the first time.

“It’s a full band show,” Johnson said. “Arielle is going to open the show ... She’ll do a set, and then we’ll come out with the trio where I’ll play some electric. Then, I’ll do some solo acoustic guitar and then some piano stuff with the band. And Arielle will come out at some point and do a few tunes with us.”

On the guitarist’s latest album “EJ,” Johnson moved to a stripped-down style of songwriting. The guitarist’s first all-acoustic record reveals a more intimate interaction with the audience, as Johnson thinks the songs need to be able to stand on their own without relying on extra instrumentation.

“I’ve always wanted to do a solo acoustic record, so I just thought now is the time to do it,” he said. “It’s stuff I’ve always had in the back of my repertoire but never really committed to a record. I enjoyed pursuing the solo thing, though. You really need to make the song mean something because you don’t have anything to hide behind. The piece of music has got to be worthwhile.”

Johnson’s Grammy Award-winning “Cliffs of Dover” was featured in 2007’s “Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock” video game, which was the first single retail video game to exceed $1 billion in sales. His contribution exposed a new generation of gamers to his skills.

“It kind of changed a lot of the perspective — the people hearing it that normally wouldn’t have,” Johnson said. “It’s weird because when they first called they said, ‘we invented this thing called Guitar Hero, and wondered if you’d like to be a part of it. We think we might sell a couple hundred copies, maybe a thousand copies.’ They had no clue how big it was going to be. It just kind of blew up.”

For Johnson, music is more than just his profession — it’s his language.

“I think (music) is a way of communicating emotionally and spiritually to someone without having to use words,” he said. “I think it’s a little less containing than words, really. It’s just emotional poetry, and to me it’s a beautiful language of the spirit.”

Johnson grew up listening to the classics. His list of influences is a veritable who’s who of the greatest guitarists of all time.

“Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Chet Atkins, John McLaughlin, Wes Montgomery, Charlie Christian — those are a few of them,” he said. “I love Stevie Wonder, a lot. He’s always been one of my heroes.”

Johnson said he thinks that attendees will have a great time on Tuesday, but he also has another reason he thinks fans should buy a ticket.

“I just hope people come out because the whole thing we’re trying to do is make people feel a bit of a healing or joy,” he said. “It’s like going to see a movie for two hours. ... My intention in what I do is to try to transport people somewhere else for a couple hours.”


  • What: Eric Johnson Electric Band
  • When: 8 p.m. Tuesday
  • Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
  • Info: www.thestatetheatre .org