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Concert Details from NEC Birmingham

Published // 01.May.04

Where's Eric! is going to let the fans tell you about the concert at the National Exhibition Center in Birmingham on 30 April 2004, including one review by a "first-timer". Here's what they had to say:

Review by Ieuan Rees

As I drove to Birmingham NEC I discussed with my brother the mixed feelings I had about the evenings entertainment. I felt a sense of loss when I read that EC was selling 'Blackie' - I felt that the Robert Johnson album was a bit of a cop out. The last couple of times I've seen Eric I had felt that he was taking it easy. I have been one of Eric's biggest fans for more years than I care to remember and I had doubts!

Robert Randolph was excellent - apart from the song involving the violin! Then Eric strolled on stage and tore into Let It Rain. My doubts vanished and I knew that we were in for a great show. Eric has once again changed his style of playing. With a much more edgy feel to his soloing. He is certainly experimenting. He seems to play much better when not accompanied by Andy Fairweather Low. I think that lineup had become too comfortable. Not too sure about Hoochie Coochie Man - although Eric played well. Billy Preston is a joy to listen to. The solo in 'Sheriff' was worth the fifty five pound admission on it's own. Walk Out In The Rain has always been one of my favourite songs and highlighted how Eric's voice has now become as versatile as his guitar playing. Howling and growling with equal accomplishment! A lot of the audience seemed a bit lost during the less well known numbers. The little old gent next to me sat with his arms crossed for the entire 105 minute show.

Have You Ever Loved A Woman produced an inspired fretboard exploration - Eric venturing into uncharted territory. A great version of Badge, a neat Wonderful Tonight then straight into Layla. Eric did not really cut loose until he got into Cocaine. With Eric's wailing Crashocaster ringing in our ears they left the stage. Robert Randolph joined the band for Sunshine and Eric and Randall swapped amazing licks. Into Mojo and Eric is left shaking his head at Robert's amazing playing.

So Eric is playing as well as I have ever seen him - I've been to 30 + shows over 20 years. The show was too short at one and three quarter hours - but I guess we would feel the same however long he played. Really looking forward to going to the Albert Hall now - doubts all gone. Just gotta get a letter off to Eric now - to remind him to hang onto Blackie.

Review by Chris Dalton

My first Clapton concert having been a fan for years…my life was about to be changed.

Robert Randolph and the Family Band were new to me. But I was instantly won over by their incredible energy, particularly on a simply dazzling instrumental rendition of the Hendrix classic 'Voodoo Child'

After a period of intense activity on the stage as technicians prepared equipment, the lights dimmed, and on walked the master himself to riotous applause, already I could feel a chill running through me, the man simply exudes a brilliance that could almost be intimidating.
Straight into an edgy, polished Let It Rain, delivered with poise and a solo consisting of mind - blowing flurries of notes that went soaring into the air from the crashocaster.
Into Hoochie Coochie Man, and the interesting addition of the backing vocalists, giving the song a soul feel. It's always great to hear Eric trying new things out, and for me this latest one worked well…Billy Preston began his solo to a tumultuous cheer from the audience. Eric's solo here was simply the best I've ever heard, the first wailing, crying note piercing through me delightfully, truly brilliant.
Walk Out In The Rain has rapidly become a favourite with me, and the was cemented by Eric's rendition this evening, showing just how much Eric seems to have worked on his voice, exactly how any young british bluesman would want to sound, great version. The perennial favourite Bell Bottom Blues was next, and a return to the 'electric' format of the original. Doyle was able to add some excellent textures using slide guitar, and a gently weeping solo from Eric, showing the amazing range of emotional tones he can coax from a guitar.
Then there was 'Sheriff'. Eric's voice and soloing on this was not only worth the entire entrance fee on it's own, but also illustrated exactly why Eric Clapton is a hero to myself, and so many others, this was true genius. Eric moved and swayed as he slowly built up the kind of solo he made his name on in Cream, I could see jaws hitting the floor all around me. Whatever they fed him before this…I want some.

Then came the Robert Johnson numbers. I'm a huge fan of Robert Johnson and Eric's latest opus in his honour. At this point he swapped Crash 3 for a shiny black strat, and picked up a slide, launching straight into Milkcows Calf Blues, once again, nothing to say except stunning…Eric's voice once again astounded me here, wailing and growling his way through 'Milkcow' and 'Good Friend', any Buddy Guy fans will have spotted Eric's little tribute here, including the riff from 'She's A Superstar' in the solo. This was followed by They're Red Hot, a jazzy number for which Eric uses his blonde Gibson L5 CES, one of my favourite songs from the latest album, and it had me jigging around in my seat and singing along again. Solo's from all the guys here, although he plays it nearly the same way every time, I love the way Doyle the solo here…Eric was visibly grinning during this one. Kind Hearted Woman brought the typical raw emotional performance that EC produces when confronted with a blues standard.

We were then taken all the way back to the Dominoes years with 'Got To Get Better'. Yet more solos to dream of here from Eric and Doyle…Mr. Bramhall seems to be able to push Eric somehow more than the great Andy Fairweather Low can. Into the hits: 'Have you ever loved a woman' brought tears to my eyes, I was wailing and growling along with Eric on this one…Billy and Chris outstanding again, Billy's hammering of the keys sending the crowd crazy - and then once again, came Eric's turn, and he just blew everyone off the stage, simply blistering, utterly gut-wrenching…the way blues should be.

Badge rolled along with it's usual brilliance, the bridge riff evoked the customary cheer from the crowd and another finger burning, heart stopping solo from the man. Wonderful Tonight sparkled once again. I have to admit it stifled more tears throughout this. Layla produced the usual outbreak of clapping and wild cheering, the highlight being Doyle's slide fills during the piano coda: somewhere Duane will be smiling. From there it was straight into Cocaine, Eric was grinning again as the crowd attempted to sing along. Eric blazed into the solo like a man possessed. I'm running out of superlatives.
After a brief spell offstage, the band returned to deafening applause and screams of 'more'. They duly obliged with Sunshine of your Love, done with the usual finesse, save Nathan managing to screw up his vocals on the second verse, the enormous wide smile was an acknowledgement of guilt. Then back came Robert Randolph for 'Mojo Workin' the highlight of this being Roberts searing pedal steel licks which left Eric smiling, shaking his head and happily closing his eyes to listen at the end as Robert played a long, improvised lick between the two final lines of the song. Simply an immaculate and for me, life changing night….

Set List

  1. Let It Rain
  2. Hoochie Coochie Man
  3. Walk Out In The Rain
  4. Bell Bottom Blues
  5. I Shot The Sheriff
  6. Milkcow's Calf Blues
  7. When You Got A Good Friend
  8. They're Red Hot
  9. Kind Hearted Woman
  10. Got To Get Better In A Little While
  11. Have You Ever Loved A Woman
  12. Badge
  13. Wonderful Tonight
  14. Layla
  15. Cocaine
  16. Sunshine Of Your Love (encore with Robert Randolph)
  17. I Got My Mojo Workin' (encore with Robert Randolph)