As always, Eric spoke said little to the audience between numbers, but toward the end he said: "I want to thank you for helping me celebrate," he said. "This is the best birthday I ever had."
Review by Andy Washburn
Was at show last night. Unbelievable! Eric continues to play better every time I see him. They way he jammed at the end of I Shot The Sheriff was the best playing of the song I heard. His guest fit in well with every song they they played. Paul Carrack, what a talent. And Nathan East version of Can’t Find My Way Home just blew me away. AWESOME!! I’ve seen Eric play seven times and never recall hearing Let It Rain before. Thank You Eric.
Review by Robert Ender
I was extremely fortunate to be able to have attended both Eric Clapton shows at Madison Square Garden on Friday and Sunday nights. In the program, Eric said, “I swear, this is it”, referring to retiring. After witnessing these shows, I can only hope with all my heart, that he will reconsider that idea. The best artists are usually the most humble and self-deprecating. There are more than a few performers that could and perhaps should, contemplate retirement. They can’t seem to deliver something musical anymore. That doesn’t mean that an artist needs to deliver what they once could in their “prime”. But if someone can still convey the music in some real way, that is what’s important, and validates them still performing.
However, none of that above statement applies to our Eric. For these eyes and ears, I saw a magnificent talent, still more than capable of extraordinary musicianship and all the components that any musician, at any age, should aspire to have. His musical phrasing is still clear, and more than present. When I listened to his playing, it ranged from sublime to powerful, in both lead and rhythm playing. His groove is phenomenal. When juxtaposed with the other guitar players (who are all absolutely fantastic), Eric’s ability to play tightly in the “pocket” is without peer. His sense of time is extraordinary. Even when his volume is down and he’s adding the lightest most delicate phrasing underneath another player, his choice of notes is always very musical, intentional and logical. He wasn’t just “jamming” by adding random notes within a key signature. He’s playing wonderful little musical phrases, some of which could become melodies in their own right. Sometimes he adds chord fragments in progression that are so ear-catching and sweet. Then of course, he can switch gears and play powerful leads, and on quite a few occasions, I was taken off guard by a combination of notes and timing that I’d never heard. I found myself shaking my head and just saying “wow” to myself. And I reiterate, it’s not just the notes, but where he puts them in the beat, the timing, the spot in the 4 bars where he starts, and the places where he takes a stand. This talent is not common.
His vocals, on both nights, were equally wonderful. I would say that not only is he gifted with a great instrument, but I think because of the wide variety of music he’s listened to, played and recorded, especially in recent years, his vocal phrasing is actually better now in many ways. I’m sure singing many of the jazz numbers and standards have enhanced this vocal musicality. You can’t sing “Autumn Leaves” as well as he did on 2010’s “Clapton” album without a gifted voice, tonality and keen sense of phrasing. I remember when that album came out, and the subsequent one with Winton Marsalis, I joyed in playing tracks from both, unannounced, to some of my jazz musician friends. They would listen and say “Man, who is that?!”, he sounds so familiar! They would be both surprised yet not surprised to hear it was Eric. Then they would explain and expand, in the most complex musical terms, why it was so good. They were always well impressed. So all of that listening and love of great music is clearly showing in Eric’s playing and singing.
He also says in the program, “if it looks like I’m struggling at times…”, but again, this is a relative term. Any musician would love to aspire to “struggle” at that level. Musical analytics aside, what was hugely evident is the fact that he really appeared to be having a wonderful time. The band lineup and performance was outstanding. Chris Stainton is such a great player, I love it when he’s in the band. Paul Carrack is such a fantastic Hammond player and vocalist, in perfect combination with Chris. Nathan East and Steve Gadd, well; just about the world’s best rhythm players, Sharon and Michelle are just simply, incredible vocalists. It is such a good band. And these were only the first two shows! The warm-up shows if you will, for the London shows, which I sure wish I were attending.
To conclude, if I had any ability to communicate with Mr. Eric Clapton, I would implore him to stay active. He needn’t “retire” outright if he wants a more relaxed schedule; maybe play 10 select shows a year, 5 shows, but something….
I subscribe to the idea he has referenced, that he has a gift and therefore, a responsibility to use it. “What gifts you don’t use, you lose” as the proverb goes. I’d say this was never truer than it is today, and here’s why.
This music, especially the blues component, is vital, and needs to be out there. It needs ambassadors, but their numbers are waning. With the current failing health of B.B. King, people like Eric and Buddy Guy have an increased responsibility. There is nobody else doing it with such integrity, at this level and exposure, and this is chief among the reasons why it’s so important to keep it going.
At the second show, sat next to me was a father and his young son; maybe 10 or 11 years old. I was wondering how he’d respond to this music. Much to my delight, he was beaming all night and staring, eyes wide. I’m sure there were others in the crowd. Now if Eric hadn’t been playing the other night, that boy wouldn’t have seen that show. It’s not to say that he’s now going to buy all the CDs he can and become a guitar player. BUT, he will at least have heard this music played first hand, he will know what the difference is between great musicians, and pop stars. He will know it and remember it because Eric Clapton came to New York to play for us. He came to celebrate his 70th birthday and share a musical experience with us. He sees a crowd before him, and when he considers matters of retirement vs. the responsibility of sharing this gift that he has, it’s the experience, emotions and impact that his performance has on the individuals; people like that 10 year old boy, or yours truly. Or you.
I woke up the day after the concert and changed my whole schedule around; I worked on my songs and my studio and played my guitar. Those shows reminded me again what talent is, how important gifts are, and what the greatness of music is.
I for one, thank Eric for coming here and sharing his birthday. I sincerely hope he will continue to share this gift. It is his gift, and when he plays, it also becomes ours.
Review by Ned Newhouse
My review, if you want to post is honest.... It was a very enjoyable show however if you've never seen Eric but you could buy a DVD from the last 15 years watch it and its the same songs, only better and longer. For those that have seen him, he got old, lazy or both. With a man with 25+ albums of material, I understand its harder to play at this level, but why is that defined by playing the same music? Those are two separate things especially since its been going on for a while. I sold my ticket for Sunday at MSG. There is no reason for me to attend- there is no original thinking or playing here.
Review by Geraldine Gately
Incredible concert on so many levels. Eric continues his legacy
Review by John Miller
Amazing show just seemed a little rushed to finish by 1100....guess it was to get Garden ready for hockey game next morning....Eric seemed in good spirits and as always his playing was sublime....Can't wait till Sunday night....Thank you Eric for another amazing night of music...
Review by Amy Bradley
I've seen many a Clapton concert but this was the best by far. I attended both shows ( how lucky am I) he has always been business like but these nights he seemed so relaxed and happy. These were the songs I've always wanted to hear. Heavy on the blues with burning solos whether acoustic or plugged in. Great guests, great venue, great songs, the greatest guitarist of all time equals unforgettable night. Thanks Eric!
Review by Joel Levy
We were not impressed with Mr Clapton’s show on Friday at MSG, May 1 2015 bithday bash. Sorry. Looked like Eric was just going through the motions. His song selection especially acoustic and deep deep blues just don’t work for a NYC big venue like MSG. Maybe Eric should read Mick Jaggers quote today "It's your responsibility to keep the audience entertained and keep them on their toes and keep things going. There's a lot to take on, and it's not without its ups and downs," he said, "but that's your job" and learn a thing or 2 about putting on a show. And especially for 350 to 500 face value. Most of the audience was in a coma and no energy. Sorry I love EC but really? Acoustic layla for 25k New Yorkers on a Friday night? This is not MTV Unplugged with a studio audience of 50 people, this is not a cocktail lounge when you get onto a bar stool and do acoustic blues. Give me a break This is MSG on a Friday night this was EC birthday...no energy. Maybe EC will wake up for the UK shows!
Review by Dean Vetsikas / Philadelphia, PA
What a tremendous show at the Garden on May 1st! Truly overwhelming.
Eric was just exceptional throughout the entire evening. Absolutely masterful work during his acoustic numbers, particularly Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out. The evening felt like a retrospective walk down memory lane with touching tributes to Joe Cocker, J.J. Cale, Pattie Boyd. At the same time, Eric continues to mature into his position as a custodian, mentor and ambassador of the blues, showcasing the tremendous talents of his young disciples Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II, who will be touring together later this summer. The highlight had to have been Eric's climactic solo during Let It Rain with Derek and Doyle. It's always a treat to see Jimmie Vaughan too.
I'm really looking forward to the next Crossroads Festival at MSG (2016?) God willing, B.B. King will be there so that we can all honor him and hear Slowhand and the King play a few more beautiful lines of music together side-by-side. My only regret is that we can't be at Royal Albert Hall to celebrate this tremendous milestone some more.
Happy 70th Birthday to the great Eric Clapton!!!
Review by Wayne C.
I was in town from San Francisco for work and managed to get 8th row seats to see Clapton last night. I have seen Slowhand about 12 times at this point and have collected many concert recordings so I can tell which nights he was on fire. I love Eric Clapton's playing and have been a fan of his ever evolving style for many years.
Andy Fairweather Low performed for roughly 40 minutes beginning at 8pm. He performed a fine selection of covers and originals, mainly blues influenced tracks with Dave Bronze on bass.
I am former professional musician so I am really into watching band's setup and know a few people in the guitar tech world. During the set change I noticed Stevie Ray Vaughan and Santana's former guitar tech Rene Martinez onstage tuning what looked to be a Paul Reed Smith guitar. I remember reading that Rene was the tech for John Mayer now so I knew we were in for some guest stars. I also noticed an SG being tuned, so I had a hunch Derek Trucks was also going to make an appearance. These shows were not being promoted as an Eric and friends concert, so it was a welcome bonus.
Donning a Sunburst Clapton hit the stage at precisely 9 playing a set of mostly blues standards and covers. Most of the numbers were pretty unimpressive but the wah solo during Pretending which blew Mayer out of the water. John Mayer has a tendency to overplay and has a pretty over exaggerated vibrato that contrasted with Clapton's refined and well executed solo. Mayer played a heavily Stevie Ray Vaughan influenced solo that bordered on plagiarism. I was hoping that this was finally going to be the beginning of night of Clapton playing in the zone. Unfortunately he never really took off aside from a really nice I Shot the Sheriff, with an extended beginning jam that was sublime and ended with a really majestic ending solo. Usually the quality of the playing during Sheriff sets the tone of his playing for the night however again, his playing and song selection was pretty uninspiring until Let it Rain. I didn't really care much for Doyle Bramhall's
work but Derek Trucks and Clapton really pulled the song off well, first taking turns and then trading off each other.
Having seen Clapton over 10 times I was remarking to my friend how mediocre the show was. My friend, who had never seen him before agreed. I'd convinced him to take the train in from Connecticut and enjoy it with me. He was skeptical at first but took the chance. Unfortunately he left pretty unimpressed but he was happy he could say he finally saw Clapton. I kept on looking over to check on his enjoyment level, but my friend wasn't blown away. I can't tell if he was holding back to let the other guests shine or he was shaking it out for opening night. The rest of the night was pretty pretty much uninspiring playing except the two numbers mentioned above. The setlist was also kind of bland, compared to his Blues Tour in 94, the Blues shuffles just got monotonous after awhile, and the song selections were pretty weak. Paul Carrack's contribution of You Are So Beautiful and Nathan East's rearrangement of Can't Find My Way Home did a good job of breaking
up a pretty bland setlist. Seriously, like 1/2 the show's songs sounded the same. Since his RAH run in 2009, his setlists and playing have kind of been trite, and his solos have had rare vestiges of the fire I was hoping to hear last night.
Hopefully night two will be better but I have decided I am not going to attend even though I am still in town.
Clapton Celebrates His 70th Birthday At MSG: Second Show Set For Sunday
By Jay Lustig / Special To The Record
NEW YORK -- Eric Clapton. Two shows in honor of his 70th birthday. Madison Square Garden.
No guests were announced in advance for the shows, Friday and Sunday. But you knew they were coming. This is exactly the kind of event that cries out for guests, especially for someone who has so many ties to so many notable musicians, and has shared stages with so many of them. If you were devising a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game for rock-and-roll, it should be Six Degrees of Eric Clapton. The three-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (honored for his work with Cream and The Yardbirds, and as a solo artist) has crossed paths with virtually everyone.
And on Friday, there were indeed four guests. They weren’t the biggest names Clapton ever has worked with, but they all played guitar masterfully, and helped make the night as memorable as it deserved to be.
John Mayer was up first, on the show’s third song, “Pretending.” Later on, Fabulous Thunderbirds co-founder Jimmie Vaughan played on “Before You Accuse Me,” and Derek Trucks (of the Allman Brothers Band and his own Tedeschi Trucks Band) and Doyle Bramhall II appeared together on “Let It Rain.” And everyone joined in on the encore, a cover of the 1971 Joe Cocker hit, “High Time We Went.”
The show was kind of a miniature version of Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, with Clapton himself, cool in demeanor except when deep into one of his fiery solos, the focal point, and the supporting players (including pianist Chris Stainton and organist Paul Carrack) given ample soloing time as well. Carrack also sang a second song that was a hit for Cocker (who died in December), “You Are So Beautiful,” and bassist Nathan East contributed a beautiful lead falsetto vocal to “Can’t Find My Way Home” (by Clapton’s short-lived ‘60s group, Blind Faith).
Elsewhere, Clapton found room for both blues standards (“Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Key to the Highway”) and megahits (“I Shot the Sheriff,” “Wonderful Tonight”). A four-song unplugged interlude included “Driftin’ Blues” (dedicated to Ben E. King, who died on Thursday), the old-timey “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Tears in Heaven” and “Layla.” “Crossroads” was slower than the famous version Clapton recorded with Cream, but represented a similar brand of churning funk-rock.
The show peaked, late, with the rousing “Let It Rain,” an epic take on another blues classic, “Little Queen of Spades,” and the set-closing “Cocaine.”
Clapton, who actually turned 70 more than a month ago (on March 30), thanked the crowd “for helping me to celebrate the best birthday I’ve ever had,” but didn’t have much to say about the show’s occasion beyond that. He has seven more 70th birthday shows planned for later this month at Royal Albert Hall in London (which he first played 50 years ago, with The Yardbirds) but no other announced touring plans.
It’s tempting to look at Friday’s show as some kind of passing of the torch, especially in the cases of the relatively youthful Mayer, 37, and Trucks, 35, who have been widely hailed as two of the greatest guitarists of their generation. And with the news breaking, Friday, of both Ben E. King dying and B.B. King being in home hospice care, it was hard not to think about the fact that we often end up outliving our musical heroes.
But Clapton played so well and radiated so much happiness and contentment onstage that he seemed destined to be doing this for many more years to come.
Eric Clapton Joined By John Mayer, Jimmie Vaughan During 70th Birthday Celebration At Madison Square Garden
By Jim Farber / Source: New York Daily News
How do you sum up 70 years of solos and songs?
If you’re Eric Clapton, you do so with a little help from your friends.
During the guitar god’s 70th birthday show at the Garden Friday, Clapton varied his set by bringing on four guest axemen at select intervals—Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Doyle Bramhall II and Jimmie Vaughan (brother of the late Stevie Ray).
Other than that, Clapton party varied little from a typical performance by the legend. He employed his long-time band, including drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Nathan East, who have played with him for decades.
He framed his two hour set with the same songs that bookended his tour last year—beginning with “Somebody Knocking On My Door” and ending with “High Time We Went.” And he delivered the material with his common ratio of inspiration—balancing passages of fiery brilliance with many muted by excessive tastefulness and restraint.
Clapton’s sole acknowledgement of the show’s purpose came right before the encore. “Thank you for helping me celebrate,” he said. With typical understatement, he didn’t mention what he was celebrating or what year it marked.
(In fact, Clapton blew out 70 candles on his birthday cake back on March 31st. He will give eight other shows to mark that milestone, including a gig Sunday at the Garden, followed by seven at London’s Royal Albert Hall in mid-May).
Clapton’s set list on Friday provided a quick survey of the styles he has explored over the years, from electric blues to the acoustic kind, stopping in between at British psychedelia, Southern rock-soul, Tulsa funk, reggae and pop. He likewise ticked off songs from his time with Cream, Blind Faith, his Delaney Bramlett-produced solo debut, and his long solo career since.
As always, Clapton’s leads found a more expressive voice than his singing. He also cleared ample space in the songs for the enthusiastic keyboard work of Chris Stainton, who, at times, matched him solo for solo.
The rest of Clapton’s band represents a triumph of professionalism over inspiration. They’re rock solid supporters of his approach, but they don’t challenge it. Consequently, their groove chugs dutifully without ever achieving a thrilling churn.
Luckily, the star’s high points reached high enough to remind fans of why he became a legend in the first place. Sometimes, the guest guitarists helped spur him to that.
In “Pretending,” John Mayer delivered a long and stinging lead, answered by a sustained example of Clapton’s trademark cry. During a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me,” Jimmy Vaughn splayed his big fingers over the guitar neck, hammering the notes with exciting emphasis. That inspired a fluid counterpoint from the star attraction.
On his own, Clapton choreographed a solo in “I Shot The Sheriff” as long, and full of character as the essential song. He kept turning the melody upside down, and inside out, as if to get a better look at what made its construction so wondrous.
Clapton could also soar in softer moments. While Nathan East could not hope to capture the robust vocal of Steve Winwood’s on “Can’t Find My Way Home,” Clapton’s guitar burrowed into the song’s essential beauty.
The show plodded during a four song acoustic set which included the slow, and deflating, take on “Layla” he first created in the ‘90s. Other moments sank in sentimentality, including a run at “You Are So Beautiful,” sung by keyboardist Paul Carrack, and a dip into the always gooey “Wonderful Tonight.”
At least “Beautiful” offered tacit acknowledgment of the recent passing of the legend who first sang it, Joe Cocker. So did the “High Time” encore, a song Cocker co-wrote (with Stainton). At another point, Clapton directly mentioned the passing of Ben E. King, who died on Thursday. He dedicated “Driftin’ Blues” to him, though the connection to King exists only in the song’s title, not its sound.
The evening found its peak when Clapton had the strongest accompaniment. During 1970s orgasmic “Let It Rain” Clapton traded solos with both Trucks and Bramhall, hinting at the multi-guitar British/Southern mix he forged with Duane Allman in Derek and the Dominoes. Their solos both reflected and contrasted each other, finding a perfect rapport. Clapton brought out all four guest guitarists for “High Time,” suggesting a mini-version of the mega axe line-up he brought together at the Garden two years ago for the Crossroads Festival. (That epic event closed with the same song).
Some years ago, Clapton played an entire Garden show with Trucks and Bramhall. While the performance Friday didn’t have the sustained fire that night had, in passages it proved Clapton, at 70, can still burn.