Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Clapton concert reviewed

Eric Clapton delivered a fabulous concert last night at MCI Center. My fans know that EC remains a major influence in my music career, and this was the first live Clapton concert I've gone to. The unimpressive Robert Randolph & Family opened for them (I believe the Westcotts opened for them at Ram's Head. Right, Jeff?). Robert plays a lap steel, but it was too loud and obnoxious.

Clapton went on stage at 8:30 pm. No signs of Andy Fairweather Low, Jerry Portnoy, and Billy Preston (they were probably sick or went on other tours). "Hoochie Coochie Man" never sounded the same without Portnoy's wailing harp rhythms and solos. Clapton kept his usual members: Nathan East on bass, Steve Gadd on drums, Chris Stainton on piano, and a very good Tim (didn't catch his last name) standing in for Preston on organ and keyboards. Two background singers. And the new addition Doyle Bramhall II on slide guitar. But why Bramhall? Him inexperienced and his solos shy and uninspired. And he's not really into the blues. I scratched my head all night trying to figure out why Clapton hired him for the tour.

Then, EC did a tiny tribute to Ray Charles singing a jazzy "I Want a Little Girl." Did an acoustic set promoting his new CD Me & Mr. Johnson, with the band shining on "Kindhearted Woman Blues." Again, the absence of Portnoy made this set a little lacking in feeling. The highlight of the show was a Clapton favorite, Freddie King's "Have You Ever Loved a Woman" with fantastic solos from everyone in the band (though it takes Bramhall four verses to get there). He did all his famous songs too: "Cocaine," "Sunshine of Your Life," "Badge," "Wonderful Tonight," and "Layla" (thank God it wasn't the unplugged version). A wise decision to end the concert with Muddy Waters' "Got My Mojo Working" with a screaming (yet annoying) Robert Randolph lap steel solo (You can see the annoyance on Clapton's face).

Overall, a tight concert with no bullshit or small talk. It was pure music with heart and energy. It's funny how people in the audience reacted most positively to the blues except I'd wager that a lot of them don't even know they're listening to the blues. The people behind me screamed, "Clapton is God" but didn't realize Clapton is actually making a blues statement.

The American audience needs to be educated. Thanks to Clapton for keeping the blues alive.

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