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UNITE for UNICEF: Clapton and Mayall Reunite In Liverpool

Published // 21.Jul.03

On 19 July 2003, John Mayall celebrated his 70th Birthday with a fundraising concert for UNICEF. The location was the Kings Dock Arena in Liverpool. John Mayall's Bluesbreakers were:

  • John Mayall - vocals, keyboards, organ, electric piano, harmonica
  • Joe Yuele - drums
  • Hank Van Sickle - bass
  • Tom Canning - keyboards
  • Buddy Whittington - guitar, vocals

John's special guests were Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and trad jazz legend, Chris Barber. There will be complete coverage in the next issue of Where's Eric! Magazine. In the meanwhile, enjoy these reviews from fans who were lucky enough to attend this historic event.

Sound Check Review by Paul Dean / Liverpool

In my dreams I NEVER thought I would ever get the chance to sit in on an Eric Clapton soundcheck. So to be able to in my hometown of Liverpool, was an amazing experience. Just feet away inside the Marquee tent on the banks of the river Mersey was John and his great 2003 Bluesbreakers band (who I had saw in concert only months before at the Liverpool philharmonic hall, with Peter Green). Casually running through some great blues, for the evening show, after about 30 minutes, a figure appeared at the rear of the stage, in white, bermuda shorts, white t-shirt, YES it was EC!

He waited while John and the band finished their casual jam session and came over to John. They  hugged like two lost brothers. It was all smiles onstage, a great casual atmosphere. Apart from the road crew, movie and audio crew there was only 6 of us at this time in the audience! So began an amazing hour or more of some of the most amazing blues. Through the songs from their 1966 classic album, "Hideaway", "all your love", "have you heard", with Eric, saying to John "let's do the arrangement, like we did on the album", and John jokingly replying "do you remember, that far back?" At this point Mick Yaylor joined them all from the left of the stage.

Three british blues legends, within touching distance and the most stunning blues I have ever heard and there was a stunning concert all to come that evening, July 19th 2003, No , tears just PURE HEAVEN, and a date I will remember for a long time to come. Thank you ERIC, thank you JOHN and Mick and of course not forgetting his great band The bluesbreakers. Get to see them when they come to your town.

Concert Review by Stephen Gull

I thought I had to send my humble thoughts regarding the Unite for UNICEF concert . I have been lucky enough to see Eric a lot over the past 10 or 12 years, but I have never heard a reception like the one he received at the Kings Dock in Liverpool, it virtually took the roof off of the arena! Absolutely everybody stood and cheered as John Mayall announced someone he hadn't played with for 38 years.

Maybe living in London has made me complacent over the years. Having seen Eric most years in concert I had forgotten what he means to people. Also having seen Eric regularly at the Albert Hall I got used to certain people (The Champagne Set!) who only go to the concerts to be seen and not for the music. This certainly wasn't the case in Liverpool, where every solo, especially the one during "Have You Heard" was cheered wildly and knowledgably.

A great concert, can't wait for the DVD!

Concert Review by Art Arias

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending this special event that was part of Liverpools 2003 Summer Pops series in which they have a concert a night under a big tent set up besides the Mersey River from June 26 thru July 29. The series showcases a potporri of a variety of acts from boy & girl groups, soul, r&b, classical, rock and tonight, blues.
The weather here in Liverpool is warm but mild and the people are very friendly and helpful in getting around with ease. I made my way down to the docks where this tent was set up and made my way inside to find a small arena setting inside with the stage at one end. My seat was choice in the fourth row center and if I had remembered to charge my batteries to my camera last night I would have gotten alot better pictures and the concert advanced, but I got a few that came out very nicely. The show opening at 8 PM with John Powers, formerly of the local group The La's, and his 3 piece band put on a brief but entertaining 25 minute set. After a 20 minute intermission and just before the lights dimmed, they announced that the reason there were cameras set up in all the convenient locations around and about the stage area is that it was being filmed for a DVD release in the near future, so lucky for us all.

It wan then they announced the Bluesbreakers featuring Joe Yuele on drums, Hank Van Sickle on bass, Tom Canning on keyboards and Buddy Whittington on guitar and vocals on the first couple of numbers which were "Grits Ain't Groceries" and "Jacksboro Highway". Things got a little messy at the start of the second song as Tom Canning went to jump on the electric piano that was set up at center stage where John Mayall was soon to be but after tapping the keyboards he got no sound and trying unsuccessfully to get the attention of their sound crew side stage he just hopped back on the organ to finish out the song and his solo. If I remember right it was here when the band introduced their leader and out came John Mayall wearing a black tank top that said Oklahoma Blues Society on it to sing and play harmonica on "Southside Story". The next song when he trys to play on that same electric piano at center stage is when he fell into the same predicament that Tom had just experienced, no sound. He hits a few keys and looks desperately side stage to get someones attention over and over until finally when he decides to use his harmonica to do his solo a few minutes later it's powered up and working. This song was either "Kids Got The Blues" or the following one "Dirty Water". This is the point of the concert now that he brings out one of the special guests and one that definately surprised me as he announces Mick Taylor, fellow longtime bluesbreaker guitarist to the stage to play on "Somebody's Acting Like A Child" and "Blues For The Lost Days". A 3 piece horn section then comes out to play on "Walking On Sunset" and the highlight of this set "Oh Pretty Woman" that features and call and reply guitar duel between Mick and Buddy at the end.

At this point the whole band leave the stage save for John and this is when he introduces Eric to thunderous applause. It's just John and Eric playing his special Reptile electric strat on "No Big Hurry". John the brings out another friend who happens to be Chris Barber on trombone and all three of them play on "Please Mr. Lofton", after which the whole band return minus Mick Taylor and the horn section and Eric takes the spotlight jumping into "Hideaway" with Buddy and Eric sharing solos towards the end. The next song also goes back to beano days with "All Your Love" and Eric once again handling lead guitar duties with ease. The horn section then returns for what I think is the highlight of the evening as the band starts into an extended version on "Have You Heard" with John passing out solo spots to Tom, Buddy, Chris and finally Eric to bring it on home. Definately a crowd pleaser.
Just as you were catching you breath the band starts into the familiar phrases of "Hoochie Coochie Man" and Eric moves up to the mike to take lead vocal chores, and once again shares lead guitar duties with Buddy Whittington. This is repeated again when the band then launch into "Tore Down" and after the guitar solos finish up, Eric thanks John, waves to the crowd and goes off.

The band then plays "It Ain't Right" and John then calls Mick Taylor back to the stage to play "California" with almost everyone taking a solo. This is when the band call it a night and say there farewells but after some prolonged cheering and footstomping on the plywood flooring, everybody comes out for one last jam on "Talk To Your Daughter" and it is the first time I can remember seeing or hearing about Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor sharing the same stage together and guitar duties.
After that the entire band line up and take their bows, wave goodbye and say goodnight.

A very enjoyable evening of the blues with musicians I never thought I'd see sharing a stage together for reason but I'm glad they decided to do it for this cause and capture it all on film for all to enjoy, I know I did and I hope you will also.