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13 May 2013 - Eric Clapton & His Band

Location

LG Arena Birmingham
United Kingdom
Band Lineup: 

Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar, backing vocals
Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar
Chris Stainton – piano, keyboards
Paul Carrack - organ, keyboards. vocals
Willie Weeks – bass
Steve Jordan – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals

Support: 
Gary Clark, Jr.
Set List: 

01. Hello Old Friend
02. My Fathers Eyes
03. Tell The Truth
04. Black Cat Bone
05. Got To Get Better In A Little While
06. Come Rain Or Come Shine (EC & Paul Carrack - vocals)
07. I Shot The Sheriff
08. Driftin'
09. Further On Down The Road
10. It Ain't Easy (Paul Carrack - vocals)
11. Layla
12. Stones In My Passway
13. Lay Down Sally
14. Wonderful Tonight
15. Badge
16. Love In Vain
17. Crossroads
18. Little Queen Of Spades
19. Cocaine
20. High Time We Went (EC & Paul Carrack - vocals)

Show Notes: 

Review by Matt Shirley
Hi y'all as Eric said in the programme, what an amazing night I have seen Eric countless times but last night his solos were out of this world. You knew he was in the mood as soon as he plugged in his grigio grey strat!  From what's could see he was playing it through his twins and straight in to them no wireless pack?? I loved "Hello Old Friend" - such a great starter to the night, "Tell The Truth" was mesmerizing as was "Got To Get Better." Hell, they were all amazing and the best version of Badge, Crossroads and Little Queen of Spades ever! Truly the best 33rd birthday present ever, thanks to mum & dad for the ticket and a very big thank you to Mr Eric Clapton you are the man and still after all these years my idol.

I'd like to thank Eric for his music that has always been there for me in times that have not been some easy and I feel i want to apologise to him as I feel the audience does not always give him the appreciation he deserves. I could see Eric looked a little off during Cocaine at the LG and I wondered if he was feeling a little frustrated with people, I stood up so many times and I wanted others to stop being so up tight and get up. 

Review by Kit C.
Eric played his pewter (grigio silverstone?) EC Signature stratocaster with Fender Noiseless pickups for all electric numbers, with the exception of a black EC strat set up for capo. He was playing through a Fender EC Signature Twinolux. For acoustic numbers, he played EC Signature Martin guitars through an unidentified amp. It was not the Dumble used on the U.S. leg. EC's wah was a Cry Baby, rather than the Vox he's used a lot recently.

Review by Nigel Reeve
Wake up Birmingham. As always I was full of anticipation and excitement at the prospect of seeing EC and his band again and as usual was not disappointed. The 7 piece band (plus the brilliant Michelle and Sharon) brings another dimension to the 50th Anniversary Tour and really gives the set real musical depth. I think Greg Leisz deserves a special mention as his talents really added to the music.

EC appeared at this point to be enjoying it and was feeding of Doyle and the rest of his high energy packed band. The set list was slightly different from that of previous nights but as all EC fans know this is not unusual and it keeps us guessing, apart from that the fact the set list could be clearly seen on the big screen on top of Paul Carracks organ!

After a gentle start with two great classics EC tore into Tell the Truth (one of my all time favourites) and the tone was set for the night. Fever pitch was reached with Got To Get Better In A Little While and this is why I personally like to see Steve Jordan behind the drums as his energy and drive is just too good to be believed. Together with Willie Weeks, who must be probably the most underrated bass player in the world (perhaps not with his peers!), the rhythm section is just so solid and never moves or misses a beat. EC was at his absolute peak on this rousing rendition and it seemed the quiet house was finally getting warmed up.

A brilliant version of Come Rain Or Come Shine with Paul Carrack (who’s style was very reminiscent of the late great Billy Preston) joining Eric on vocals was followed by the return of I Shot the Sheriff with Eric’s solo building as we all know well before the extended sit down set. I always find this enjoyable but my feeling is that the house didn’t? Brilliant renditions of Lay Down Sally, Layla and Driftin were included and for me it’s just an excellent part of the show, where you can see and feel the true musicality of the band

By now I was getting the feeling that the feedback from the house was not forthcoming and it was beginning to tell on EC and the band.
Even a rousing rendition of Badge didn’t get the house moving and to me there was a strange atmosphere, which I recall was similar to the EC and Steve Winwood Concert here back in 2010. Closing out the set were the classics Crossroads, Little Queen of Spades (somewhat shortened) and of course Cocaine with the now famous Chris Stainton keyboard solo bringing the song to a rousing end.

The band appeared to leave the stage somewhat disheartened and whilst the set list was showing 2 encores we only got one, High Time We Went, a Joe Cocker classic and played with high energy and fantastic tempo. We missed out on Sunshine which for me was very disappointing but perhaps I can understand why. I may be totally wrong but even the best performers’ in the world need positive feedback from the house and sorry to say that in my opinion is was just not there last night. Was that the reason we only got one encore, no customary bow and goodnight from the EC and his band? I will leave you to judge.

For me, EC and whatever band he chooses will never fail and all I can say is that if he is true to his word and stops touring in 2 years when he reaches 70 then we will all be sorry. In the meantime please let’s all savour and enjoy every possible minute as we are truly privileged to be able to witness one of the greatest musicians of all time play live and with a great band. I will be fortunate enough to see them all again at the Royal Albert Hall in a few days time and I am absolutely sure we will see a different smiling band, it’s nice to be appreciated.

Massive thanks to Eric, Doyle, Greg, Paul, Chris, Steve, Willie, Sharon and Michelle for another great night for which the memories I will personally cherish and add to all the others you have given me. Come on Birmingham wake up and smell the roses you may not get (or deserve) another opportunity!

Review by Robert Reed / Walsall
Eric's band is totally amazing and were really on top form, Steve Jordan particularly standing out for me, little stabs and accents strategically placed. Really creative drumming and persussion on the quieter acoustic section really held my interest for that bit where it could’ve easily strayed a bit too mellow for my liking. Doyle Bramhall II has been one of my fave players for a while now he was great, particularly his solo in Little Queen of Spades, where he quotes Albert King's big bendy stops!

Eric was great, myself preferring the full band when he was playing electric guitar and the creative solos, really taking in how he was building them up slowly and just taking off. A real lesson. There’s so much dynamic range in his signature Stratocaster and the sound guys did a great job highlighting this.  I loved the amount of blues in the setlist and Badge, Gotta Get Over, Got To Get Better and Sheriff were amazing

I have a little gripe with Paul Carrack taking vocal duties on the final song. "High Time We Went" isn’t a song I’m familiar with and Eric has plenty of suitable songs to choose from that would’ve fitted perfectly that he could sing, which is why of course we we’re all there. That being said, the Ray Charles cover earlier in the set, "Come Rain Or Shine" was brilliant and his Hammond contribution was great. I’m a sucker for a good Hammond. Greg Leisz’s contribution was also exemplary.

On the screen when showing Paul Carrack, the setlist was plain to see, showing they planned Sunshine Of Your Love followed by High Time for the encore. We only got High Time though and there was a funny feeling around wondering what’s going on as many had obviously seen the planned setlist? Had the venue said he didn’t have time a la Springsteen at Hyde Park? Had the band decided to swap the order and end on Sunshine? Had the band just run out of time, extending earlier songs? No one was sure til the house lights came on whether we’d get another song and they were a few audible disconcerting grumps from the crowd around my seats. Eric on the last song, though he was playing great, at the end of just put his guitar down and walked off, not thanking the crowd at all and quite frankly seemed a little peed off. Presumably at not having the time to add Sunshine in? No-one is the wiser. It is a shame for whatever reason that we didn’t get Sunshine.

I have contacted the venue on their Facebook page to see if they might comment:
Robert Reed - what's the deal with Clapton tonight - 13.5.13?? there was a song not played from his setlist on the encore and he seemed unhappy at the end? Did you guys cut him short on his pre-retirement tour? Not good if so, musicians are human beings not robots and song from real musicians will differ in length from night to night. Some clarification would be good, £75 a ticket and all that?
LG Arena Birmingham: Hi Robert, it’s at the artist’s discretion as to the songs they perform and as you probably know they don’t always stick to the intended set list. We weren’t aware of anything happening backstage, he was on stage for the times we were informed before-hand; 8.35pm – 10.35pm.
Robert Reed: OK thankyou, I appreciate the response

Gary Clark Jr was excellent support, I love his stuff. From our seats he and his band could be seen watching Eric play and we were wondering whether Gary might guest on Crossroads as he has done in the past but that didn’t happen.

Review by Adam Varney
An interesting thing was that sunshine of your love was on clearly visible on Paul Carrack and Chris Stainton's setlists via the screens but unfortunately it was ultimately dropped from the encore; its possible that time was a factor as the show was precisely 2 hours but as it was only just gone 10.30pm it was a shame that one was dropped.

Other than that it was a fun and entertaining night although having seen Eric 9 times (in my 27 years) i would say that he seemed to be taking more of a back seat solo wise (possibly intentionally) than previous tours when the balance between Eric and the rest of the band had been just right, i think this is due to the inclusion of the wonderfully talented Greg Leisz who was fantastic but as per Erics generosity to showcase the individual band members, Leisz would take a solo where EC usually would therefore leaving less time for Eric to really get going in most songs. Standouts for me were an incredible Got to get better, a very energetic stones in my passway and some fantastic playing from Eric on Crossroads plus it was a pleasure to get to see hello old friend performed live. Its also fantastic to see Doyle back as a member of the band after his absence the last few tours as he can always be counted on the bring a restrained excellence in both his rhythm and lead guitar playing.

I'm not sure if this is of any interest but i would like to include Gary Clark Jr's setlist from his outstanding support slot.
When My Train Pulls In
Don't Owe You A Thang
Please Come Home (my personal highlight of the night-superb soloing)
Ain't Messin' 'Round
If Trouble Was Money (Albert Collins Cover)
Bright Lights

Please keep up the fantastic work on the website and the magazine which I have been a long time subscriber of.

Review by Darryl Lane
The programme for the 50 Years Further On Up The Road tour lists Erics 3000 gigs since 1963. It is interesting reading, apart from the early days of London clubs when there seemed to be a show every night, and the marathons run by Cream, Claptons arena shows really kicked off from the mid eighties after his success at Live Aid.

He performed for three nights at the NEC Birmingham in January 1990, before he resided for 24 nights at the Royal Albert Hall. Today, as with the previous visit when touring with Steve Winwood in 2010 to the now named LG Arena, Eric cannot sell out a show. It is probably why he did not visit in 2011.

Sad though it is to see the rear stalls curtained off, one still expects the artist to do his best for the audience that have paid and turned up. The omen was good, as Eric, ever mercurial seemed in good spirits and the show got underway with a welcoming Hello Old Friend.

He has a tight band with him at the moment, and they share the load as string and keyboard players all get a crack of the whip while the great Steve Jordan, counts them in with a grunt behind the tubs. The man does not need many cans to make a noise, what a great drummer he is. With Willie Weeks he makes a great rhythm section and the concert to see in full would be the Eric Clapton trio that performed three numbers at the 12.12.12 charity concert last December.

The Dominos numbers (Tell the Truth, Got To Get Better) where particularly good, and as I was fortunate enough to be front and centre, Eric clearly seemed to be lost in the moment when he performed his solos.

The acoustic set was well received, but some of us would like to hear Layla fired up again and the longer EC  remained seated the less he seemed involved.

I don’t know what got to him, maybe the chaps on the front row who kept leaving for pints, or the lack of crowd reaction ( The Birmingham crowd have never been boisterous, but last night they were quietly appreciative) but Eric slowly withdrew, and even though the good music kept coming certainly with Come Rain Or Come Shine and the highlight for me being Little Queen of Spades the Birmingham crowd got a lot less.

Gotta Get Over, Blues Power and Sunshine were cut.

When the band left for the encore, the crowd clapped and stamped. All we got was High Time We Left, and Eric meant it, he shot off as if he had to train catch with a half hearted wave to the loyal fans that have kept turning up for decades. It was shabby treatment and there were some boos.

Erics programme notes close with him writing; ‘I sincerely hope you have a good time and earnestly look forward to giving you your moneys worth.’ We got two hours and for that we should be grateful, and Eric should be, to his fans.

Review by Simon Catchpole
Interesting that this gig seems to have produced a good deal of feedback so quickly. It really was a strange experience in some ways! A game of three parts.

The concert started sensationally! I really thought it was going to be the best I’d ever seen and I’ve been lucky enough to  see many Eric shows over the years. The band are terrific and Eric was singing brilliantly and playing the best I have seen him for a long time – and not just during the solos, sensational as they were, but in the rhythm playing as well, complex, emotive and really driving the band (even with an acoustic in his hands for ‘My father’s eyes’). It was interesting, and one of the other reviewers alluded to this, that although it is a large band, it felt almost that we were seeing a fantastic guitar, bass, drums trio with added decoration. No disrespect to the other musicians, but Eric was standing in a very close triangle with Steve Jordan and Willie Weeks and they were stunningly tight and forceful – this was definitely not Eric ‘strumming ‘till the solo’ witness ‘Got to get better in a little while’; sheer genius – Great set list and did I mention the solos- superb doesn’t cover it!.

Then came the acoustic section, which I felt went on far too long and maybe is where the problems set in. I read other reviewers say that in their opinion Eric became disgruntled at the audience response during this part.  This may or not be true ( I thought Doyle looked unhappy from the start?) but I think this could be partly down to misjudging the audience and what is being presented to them in the acoustic part . The song choices were all laid back (and dull – Lay down sally, Further on down the road – a slight song from a slight album not improved by being done acoustically) and there were too many of them to hold an audience’s attention, especially after the incendiary electric beginning to the show. I also thought Layla was a wasted opportunity – I confess I don’t like the acoustic version: a bit of fun on the unplugged album but doesn’t really compare to the electric version – and the band has Greg Leisz, I can only imagine what he could have done with Duanne Allmans parts on his Lap steel! The LG Arena is a big old shed and was a bit cold too, this coupled with Eric’s lack of communication with the audience ( I know that is his way, but even a few words helps) and it is no wonder that attentions wondered, I know mine did. It was a palpable relief when he stood up and strapped on the strat again.

The final segment was a return to form and there were some truly great moments - Badge, Little Queen of Spades, Crossroads, featuring not only brilliant Eric but also Chris Stainton and Paul Carrack playing. However, even sitting halfway back I could tell that something wasn’t right. Eric seemed to be getting more and more disinterested as the gig progressed and appeared positively churlish when it came to the end and the encore.

Obviously, I don’t know what went on: If it is true that Eric was unhappy with the Birmingham crowds response, I have a few observations. It was an older age group crowd, inevitable I would think – not only was this a celebration of 50 years of gigging, but the ticket prices were high £75 is lot of money to people especially young people. Older people are less likely to make vast amounts of noise.  That is not to say that they were not enthusiastic! You only had to see the queues at the merchandising stalls where people myself included spent at least the ticket price again on T shirts etc – though I baulked at £12 for a mug! And £50! Yes £50 for a poster… - to see that the majority of the audience were real fans. if they choose on a Monday night to sit in rapt attention and applaud politely as people around me were (at least until ¾ through the acoustic part) then that is their choice. Eric has been a performer for 50 years, he should know this – he should also know that to whip any crowd into a frenzy it helps to talk to them and not to drop the pace for so long that it is difficult to pick it up again. That said there may well have been an entirely different explanation for what happened, but it is a shame that the gig ended as it did.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that his was a bad show – it absolutely wasn’t.  Eric played and sang beautifully, with a fantastic band and as ever there were great long sections that left me euphoric and dreaming of a live album / DVD to capture it forever. It was a shame that this wasn’t all the way through and that the end was a strained / strange. Still, I hope there will be many more gigs and tours from Eric!

Review by Hiroshi M
I was there. I don't want to call it an "off-night" but it could have been better. Yes, MUCH better -- if the audience had been more responsive and encouraging. Of my forty years' attending of Eric Clapton concerts, this was certainly one of the most quiet nights -- even THE most quiet night maybe, and I came from Japan where the crowd is generally known to be reserved, more or less, you know what I mean?

Whether the dropping of Gotta Get Over, that is positioned in the early part of the set, is attributed to the audience is debatable, but the decision not to give Sunshine Of Your Love for encore was clearly made due to the underwhelming response throughout the show from the floor -- or so it seems to me, at least.

Eric's playing was impeccable as ever (he was "on", definitely), and there was a great potential that this could be another magnificent night, but the music seemed to be absorbed into one big black hole that was the LG Arena. I was in the third row, dead center on the floor, and as the show progressed, Eric started to look more and more irritated.

Not an off-night. An unfulfilled night so to say. What was promised to come didn't, ultimately.

Review by Pete Grimshaw

I know it’s taken a while for me to comment on this show (May 13th) but I really didn’t know how to. I can only say that Eric and his band were excellent all through. But, I felt the audience were, on the whole, poor ! My only disappointment was not hearing “Blues Power” and “Sunshine of your love” in the encore. This I felt maybe was Eric’s reaction to a cool audience. I felt the work Eric and the band put in was worthy of a better reception. I felt it a brilliant show and I loved it, so sod the rest! This was the 24th time I have seen Eric and I look forward to the 25th!

Review by Andrea Rossi / Magione, Italy
Consider that it was the first time I had a plane trip and I went to England! The emotion was so great, and it was so much to see Eric get on stage. After years and years of listening daily, Eric has become part of my life, and see it in front of me did not seem real!

“Hello old friend” was very beautiful, dusted off directly from the 70s, suitable piece for opening the show. It continues with “My father's eyes”, also dusted off after several years and arranged in semi-acoustic. It was not supposed to play it ever again according to Eric. Exciting.

Change of guitar, we go electric. A gritty Tell the truth with the first solo of the evening Eric warms an English audience for my taste a bit cold.
Based on preceded the setlist I was expecting “Gotta get over” and instead introduces Eric Black cat bone. First surprise of the evening, but I still think to myself that maybe they have some surprise in store for us after.The highest point of the concert is reached for me “Got to get better in a little while”! A fiery performance of this old song, played at most. The intro of wha-wha with his Cry Baby is amazing, then the rest is not far behind. 8'45'' of pleasure. Not as bad as “Come rain or shine” sung with Paul Carrack, with good phrasing of Clapton. My dream was to hear live “I shot the sheriff”, and I'm satisfied! Other highlights of the evening, a truly inspired solo by Eric, I would say one of the best of the tour.

Change set, we go acoustic. A usual “Driftin”, than a well played new “Further on down the road”. Pretty but maybe not indispensable “Ain’t no easy” always sung by Carrack. Layla was impeccable, every member of the band played a solo, and Eric delivered shorts notes at the end. Unfortunately, there is no comparison with the electric version, and I do not explain why they played only on the first date of the tour in Phoenix. “Stones in my passway” is not one of my favorites, but obviously when EC play a blues piece, you cannot be disappointed. The same for “Lay down sally”, not a my favorite, although I liked this version! Also good the acoustic arrangement of “Wonderful Tonight”, although similar to electric, however, it gave a breath of freshness to the song. However in my opinion, 7 acoustic songs are too many! Better way to me is to play 3 or 4 songs, then the emotional wave of the public in my opinion starts to drop.

EC takes up the Strat again and we go with another surprise: “Badge”! So far this song had always been alternating with Sheriff, and so was a real pleasure to listen both of them. Beautiful version and very good solo from Eric. I would have gladly changed “Love in vain” with something else (“Old Love” par example, or every other old tune), “Crossroads” was solid, well played version and with another nice solo by Eric. Then the usual “Little queen of spades”, with solos from the band. Very well played, but why not alternate this song with “Stormy Monday” or “Have you ever loved a woman”?
“Cocaine” seemed to me a little deflated, I think this was the one with shorter solo by Eric I've ever heard live on this song (one minute poor) and the whole song is played a little tired (5 minutes, shorter than the 6’’ and more usually played live).

Then the band comes out and I expect the return for the encore of “Sunshine” and “High time we went”. Instead they go back and do only Hight Time. At last Eric goes away without saying anything, without embracing with the band and thank the audience. I confess that I was disappointed about this. I do not know the reasons for this hasty closing. A concert is always emotion, and an Eric Clapton concert for me is ecstasy. Can I find myself in disagreement on the choice of a few pieces, but I think the right way is to put the soul in peace and enjoy what Eric give to us. And it is always so much stuff.