Eagle Rock [Release date 13.11.15]
Eric and the ‘Albert’ have become synonymous over the fifty years since he first played the venue with The Yardbirds. Now in his 71st year he played his 200th gig there in 2015 and this release captures his 7 night run at the same venue in May.
As is the current vogue the release comes in a bewildering assortment of packages – DVD, Bluray, DVD+3LP, DVD+2CD, and Deluxe Book+2DVD+2CD sets. The second DVD of the latter neatly capturing many of his ‘Albert’ performances down the years including the Cream farewell tour in 1968 and their 2005 reunion. All sizes of grey pound wallets are catered for. Thank you sir, that’ll do nicely.
Whether you love him, hate him, or are simply ambivalent, Clapton’s contribution to the canon of rock can’t be ignored. And in truth the breadth of his catalogue means that there’s something for all men. And let’s face it, what woman doesn’t want to feel ‘wonderful tonight’.
The purity and fluidity of his playing has been undiminished by the passing years and his beloved blues form the centrepiece of this show – his own material confined to a just a handful of numbers – ‘Tell The Truth’, ‘Tears In Heaven’, ‘Layla’, ‘Let It Rain’, and ‘Wonderful Tonight’.
Unlike many of his generation, Clapton still plays with a relatively small supporting cast – a rhythm section of Steve Gadd (drums) and Nathan East (bass), twin keyboards courtesy of Paul Carrack (who gets to take the vocal spotlight on ‘You Are So Beautiful’, and ‘High Time We Went’) and Chris Stainton, and backing vocalists Sharon White and Michelle John.
But it’s Clapton’s fingers that do the talking. Seemingly effortlessly. And it’s hard not to be impressed, even if the blues isn’t your first choice of material. OK, there’s not much rockin’ out, even ‘Layla’ only gets an understated airing , wrapping up the mid-set acoustic section underpinned by double bass, brushes, and some soulful keys and backing vocals. But when he does finally wig out (in the most understated of ways) on ‘Crossroads’, and ‘Cocaine’, it has the wrinklies on their feet and flooding towards the stage.
It’s consummate stuff from a master craftsman. And like all good bluesmen, in this form Clapton looks good go on for another several decades yet. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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