Review by Steve Proctor / North Carolina
Charlotte / Raleigh Show Comparison
It was easy for me to compare Eric Clapton's first-ever performance in Raleigh to his first performance at Charlotte's Bobcat Arena. I was in exactly the same seat in each venue! The setlist was a fan's dream come true. My 35th Clapton show was graced with seven songs I had never heard before! "After Midnight" is a Classic Rock staple that, like "Forever Man" and "Let It Grow," has been under represented in live performances. Other songs, like "Motherless Children" and "I Am Yours," are delightfully obscure songs that I never expected to hear live.
Most of the band members are familiar to Clapton fans. Steve Jordan is an amazing, aggressive drummer. Willie Weeks is less flamboyant, but certainly capable. I do miss Nathan East's stage presence. Derek Trucks is simply
phenomenal. The Charlotte audience in particular seemed to appreciate him. =Allman Brothers T-shirts were everywhere.
Most of the electric guitars Eric played were Stratocasters, although a sunburst Gibson ES-335 was used for "After Midnight," "Little Queen of Spades" and "Further On Up The Road." After being seen in Duluth, Raleigh and Charlotte, the ES-335 failed to make an appearance in Birmingham. Doyle played Stratocasters and a Les Paul. Derek stayed with his trusty Gibson SG.
I was completely satisfied with the Raleigh show. "After Midnight" totally rocked. The first solo was one of the finest I have ever heard Eric play. "Little Queen of Spades" went on for a full fourteen minutes. "Motherless Children," with its triple slide guitar attack, was magestic. It was good to finally hear "Further On Up The Road" live! "Wonderful Tonight" will always be in the setlist. because it was a huge hit that causal fans want to hear it. Fine by me, but it's position between "Further On Up The Road" and "Layla" totally killed the momentum.
As good as the Raleigh show was, the Charlotte show was even better. Eric was already playing as he walked onstage, like he couldn't wait to get started. He was more animated than usual, smiling during other band members' solos and chatting with Doyle and Derek between songs. It is difficult to single out individual songs, because Eric was "in the zone" all night. "Got To Get Better In A Little While" was played with more fire, approaching its showcase status from the 2004 tour. Eric always burns on the slow blues numbers and "Old Love" (with Robert Cray) and "Little Queen of Spades" were no exceptions. A surprising and moving moment was when Eric dedicated "Anyday" to the late Carl Radle and his family. Some of his family members were in attendance that night.
Doyle had some great guitar moments, but Eric's fiery playing really seemed to ignite Derek. During "Cocaine," he played a solo that sounded like a wounded animal. It started so strangely that Eric and Chris Stainton looked his way in surprise.
The Who have long made recordings of their concerts available. It is painful for me to think that the Charlotte show will never be heard again. It would make a good disc for those who join ecaccess!
Review by Domenick Branciforte / Charlotte NC
Before the show I was apprehensive - Eric Clapton with 2 (sometimes 3) other guitarists and 2 keyboards. After all, I want to hear Eric not some overstuffed jam. Last night in Charlotte I was completely turned around.
The greatest surprises of the evening were the wall of guitar numbers during the show. Motherless Children was fantastic with 3 slide guitars electrifying the arena for the best version I could ever hope to hear. Layla was fully restored to the guitar epic that originally amazed us.
The crowd favorite was Wonderful Tonight. A shortened version from other tours but still beautiful. The acoustic set also worked really well â€“ Running on Faith is the one that still playing in my head. As far as the setlist, in my opinion, drop Cocaine, add a Blind Faith or Cream song and "thank you" for adding Anyday. Overall a good mix of hits and album cuts, old classics and new.
Derek and Doyle did a great job partnering with Eric. Eric amazed us on his Strats and his ES335 without a single pedal or wah-wah. Instead of hitting a pedal for a different effect he'd turn to Derek who'd play the wah, echo, flange, chorus parts and then pass it on to Derek for some tasteful or gritty slide work. Eric seemed to truly enjoy sharing the stage and stood watching and smiling and while the others soloed. Chris Stainton found his place to play and contribute some great rock and blues keyboards - after Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen this 9 person band probably seemed a bit small. Chris plays his classic boogie without ever making it sound like something you've already heard. Tim Carmon's keyboards added texture and depth to the arrangements. Willie Weeks and Steve Jordan were amazing. They drove the wide arrangement of styles and rhythms that Clapton presented,
energizing the faster arrangements and tastefully underpinning the slow.
Once again Eric put together a show that sounds a different from his previous tours and still delivered something classic, reminding us why we listen in amazement to his songs.
Review by Arnold Deal / Hickory NC
Clapton did it again! Clapton and company came to Charlotte Bobcats Arena and blew the crowd away. Robert Cray with his cool tones and voice is truly a pleasure to anyone who is a blues fan. Cray was smooth and very bold with his solos, always a crowd pleaser. After about a hour or less of Cray the stage was set for Slowhand.
As the lights went down and I saw the band come out I knew from the start these men were men on a mission. They cranked out the first chord of "Pretending" and all I can say was I was all smiles. I never thought of that song being played with a slide guitarist but Trucks pulls off anything he does with grace and a killer poker face. Next was I shot the Sheriff nobody was sitting for that.
I really love the fact EC is doing his Derek and the Dominos stuff this time. That hands down is one of my favorite groups of the 70's and also some of Eric's best work if I say so myself. So when "Got To Get Better In A Little While" came on I was so amazed. I saw Clapton two times in 2004 and those where amazing shows but all the songs that he played tonight that were on the set list for 2004 sounded completely different. It didn't sound like the same man playing. It was brilliant how he can rework a song like that.
"Old Love" has always been a cool song and with Robert Cray coming out to lend a hand with four guitarist at the same time I was pretty sure I had died and gone to guitar heaven. I never really thought Tim Carmen fit and really didn't care for his work on that song.
Over all my favorite songs had to be when Eric brought out the Gibson ES-335. Clapton might be a Strat man but he sure could get that Gibson to scream. Doyle had a great night but I feel like if he would cut out half the effects on his guitar he could sound so much better. As for Derek Trucks that man is amazing and to think the stuff he's doing is done only with his fingers and no pick.
My only complaint is that I had to go home. The band is hot and I really like the fact that he is mixing it up a bit with the old stuff and a almost completely different band ( something I think was well over due.) Clapton does his best with fresh guys playing with him and it really shows this tour! Eric thank you so much for a excellent show and please come out with a DVD of this tour.
Review by Steve O'Rourke Sr
The crowd were mostly the AARP generation (like myself) . The energy started out pretty intense with "pretending". The show was incredible from a pure rock-blues sense. All of the musicians in the band are at the top of their game. However since Eric is who I paid to see perform, I found myself wanting his backup musicians to be just that, backups and less in the forefront. They performed admirably but they're solo's took up too much of the precious time that could of been used to perform more of the great "slow hand" songs, which far too many were unheard this evening. This is only the second time I've had the privilege to see EC live ( the last was in the early 70's) and as passionate that I am about his music, I came away with this same feeling. All said though he is still "the man".It was also fun to take my 12 year old to his first rock concert.
Review by Dean Letorney/ Charlotte NC
My wife and I both attended Eric's show in Charlotte and enjoyed every minute of it . It was over 20yrs ago the last time I saw Eric in concert and like fine wine his guitar playing seems to get better over time. In addition I must complement him on his selection of band members the best guitar performances I have ever seen at one show, this tour is a must for every guitar player.
Review by Steve Norris
I have waited a lifetime to hear Eric Clapton do "Layla" Live. It was the greatest concert experience I have ever had.
No frills, no bullshit. Just the greatest guitar solos and keyboard performances I have ever heard. Clapton is simply fantastic. The audience in Charlotte was older, but really appreciated what they were seeing. When they did "Crossroads" it sent a shiver up your spine.
Review by Jeremy Moretz / Hickory NC
Being only 20 years old, I have been limited to the number of times that I have been able to see Clapton play live. I attended the concert in Greenvile, SC in 2004, and was astounded by the live work that Clapton and his band produces. The concert in Charlotte on Tuesday night was nothing short of amazing. Coming from an aspiring guitar player, this concert was a "clensing of the ears," so to speak. From the first chords of the night in "Pretending" to the last note of "Crossroads," everything seemed to flow together and come across with true feeling.
I enjoyed seeing the interplay between all of the band members. Doyle, Derek, and Eric have an interplay that is paralleled no where else that I know of. The ability to take classic cuts from the albums and mold them into what was played on Tuedsay night, that is true ability. As a keyboard player as well, I enjoyed hearing the fills and solos that Chris provided on the piano. The work of Tim on the organ and keyboards fostered the sound that filled the arena, and Willie on bass completed the amazing interplay of the band. What we witnessed on Tuesday night was a band that was meant to play together. Everything about the band was right on, and it really added to the concert experience.
I understand how other reviewers may feel about the set-list. However, coming from a fan who has only been able to see Clapton live now for two times, I was thoroughly pleased with the choices. I can understand how some may want to see standards dropped for other deep cuts that Clapton should play, but I, having limited chances, enjoyed that ability to hear such classics performed again. After a few more concerts, I will more than likely join the crowd in wishing to hear other deep tracks included.
Overall, especially since I am an aspiring guitar player, I was engulfed in the solos that Clapton provided, along with those of Derek, Doyle, and the other band members. I have seen many of Clapton's DVD's, and listened to many of his live CD's, and what I experienced on Tuesday night was unparalleled to many of those shows. It truly was an "ear-opening" experience.
Review by Rich Lyman / Charlotte NC
I must confess I had not seen Eric Clapton play live since the late 1970's when he toured with George Terry. It's not that I didn't like his music, it's just that he wasn't playing anything I really wanted to hear live. Everyone has some sort of musical awakening in their lives when they suddenly realize some really great music is being played and who is playing it. For me, that was around 1970 when Joe Cocker was doing his Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with an incredible all-star band that included future Dominos Jim Gordon and Carl Radle. Layla was released shortly thereafter and I nearly wore out a pair of Sennsheiser headphones trying to figure out just who was playing what in those multiple layers of overdubs. The next year, I saw the Allman Brothers play when Duane was still alive and Layla started to make more sense to me. After Duane died, I assumed that Layla was something that could never be recreated, a shooting star that burned out in a dark sky. The emotions and raw talent would never reach confluence again.
But, I was wrong. Tuesday night my sixteen year old son and I witnessed something truly special in Charlotte, NC. As the crowd filtered in, Robert Cray performed a brief and somewhat desultory set, and it seemed the audience really did not know who he is. Cray is one of the youngsters of a fading generation of black bluesmen. He grew up listening to Albert Collins and Freddie King and has created his own style of playing that is clean and crisp. It's just a shame that only white people listen to, and, for the most part, play the blues anymore. I doubt if anyone in that crowd would have gone to see him unless Eric Clapton had been there. His most well known song, "Smoking Gun,"can make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, but he didn't even play it. So, while the stagehands changed equipment, I bought my only beer of the evening and waited for what many of us came to experience: a chance to get in the time machine and go back to 1970 and hear live one of the greatest albums ever made: "Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs."
I had heard some comments that Clapton doesn't play much lead any more and is content to sit back and let the younger guys play. Wrong again. When the lights came back up, the arena exploded with the opening chords of "Pretending". To Clapton's right stood Derek Trucks, hunched over his guitar, barely looking up, trading lead with the master. To Derek's right, one of the icons of white boy Texas blues, Doyle Bramhall was holding the rhythm. If you have never seen Derek Trucks play, you owe it to yourself to be convinced of what most have already come to believe: Trucks is one of the top guitarists in the world. Whether he is playing with his own band or with the current version of the Allman Brothers, he is a virtuoso. Completely devoid of flamboyance and the histrionics that many less talented players often display, he calmly plays with the skill of a surgeon. Using all five fingers and eschewing the pick, he can do things others only dream of. Early in Hubert Sumlin's blues career, Howling Wolf advised him to "give up the pick, boy." Sage advice for almost any guitar player. What is more incredible is his slide playing. If you have ever tried to play slide guitar, you know just how difficult it is to coax a sweet tone from the glass tube grinding against the strings. Trucks' Coricidin bottle exudes a sweetness with the ease of Pooh bear dipping honey from a jar. He is simply amazing.
"Pretending" left no doubt as to who was the front man in the talented ensemble. Clapton was sharing the lead, but it always came back to him. His runs were melodic and effortless. I read a recent quote that he feels his playing has declined in the past few years. As the English would say, rubbish, pure rubbish. He is as fluid as he ever was. Buy a copy of the Cream reunion DVD and see for yourself. Next up was Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" which might not be the best song from "461 Ocean Boulevard," but probably the best known. I remember as a teenager having to translate the lyrics to my father as we were driving in the car listening to scratchy AM radio. "He shot the sheriff, but not the deputy?" was all my father could make out. It was a difficult task for me to try to explain the duality of the crimes namedin the song.
As a prelude of things to come, then came a funky version of "Got to Get Better in a Little While," which was an outtake from the original Layla sessions. Several different versions can be heard on the recently issued single CD of starts and stops that never made it onto the original double album. Clapton had just about hit rock bottom during Layla and the lyrics of "Got to Get Better" touch on his yearning for the salvation that he could not find in drugs or stolen love. Don't you know what's wrong with me? I'm seeing things I don't want to see. Sniffing things that ain't no good for me. I'm going down fast, won't you say a prayer for me? Robert Cray then returned and quietly stepped on stage for "Old Love," a classic of modern blues. Cray showed his skill and tone in an extended solo that Eric gladly made available to his old friend. Cray is at his best in that environment when he can just play without having to worry about singing or carrying the band. Four of the greatest blues guitarists in the world stood together, none willing to show up the other, but to just interpret the song as they felt.
At last, what I had waited 35 years to hear, a song from Layla done live: "Anyday." Clapton has always said that Layla is one of his favorite albums to listen to and that it takes three strong guitarists to pull it off live. When he plays it, he says he listens more to the other guitars than to his own playing. During the recording of "Layla" in south Florida, Clapton was half way thru the album when he went to hear the Allman Brothers play. As the story goes, Clapton squeezed up next to the amps and when Duane Allman looked up to see his idol sitting in front of him, he froze and stopped playing. Dickie Betts figured Duane had broken a string and picked up the lead. After the show, Clapton and Allman formed an instant friendship and Duane was invited to sit in on the remainder of Layla. One of their first collaborations was "Anyday," an incredibly intense song of anguish and hope written by Clapton and Bobby Whitlock. Duane's contributions were immediate with the addition of his slide to the opening bars. Derek Trucks may be the only human on the planet who can pull those notes off with the same intensity as Duane Allman. But, what made "Anyday" such a powerful song was not just the guitars, as great as they were, but Bobby Whitlock's agonized vocals. To ask Doyle Bramhall to sing that part is like asking Jackson Pollock to recreate the Sistine Chapel: it just wasn't going to work and it is both unrealistic and unfair to expect Bramhall to match that intensity. Bobby Whitlock sang like someone was taking a jack hammer to his soul, and whatever drug or alcohol induced state he had worked himself into in order to scream these lines; To bring your woman back home after she's left you for another, You've got to be a, you've got to be a man should not be attempted by any man. But, Truck's slide work, with the fervor of an air raid siren, and Clapton's timeless playing carried the song and, for a brief moment, it was 1970 again. Before they launched into "Anyday," Clapton dedicated the song to Carl Radle and his family, who were in attendance that night. A very gracious gesture to his old and dear friend.
Again, the luxury of having three excellent slide guitarists was evident in another song from "461 Ocean Boulevard" as drummer Steve Jordan broke into a march cadence for "Motherless Children." In what could have been a sad acknowledgment of his own childhood, Clapton has always played that song with joy and pride. The change in mood and tempo was a good segue to the "sit down," set that was to follow. Clapton strapped on an acoustic guitar to perform his new "Back Home" which, while beautiful, is the kind of song that I have not paid to hear live for the last 30 years.
Trucks and Clapton then huddled for the next cut from Layla, "I am Yours." I've often wondered if Duane Allman had been influenced by Hawaiian steel guitar music as this song sounds more like it came out of the South Pacific and not South Florida. Trucks again demonstrated his incredible skills with the slide, nailing note after note. Like Duane, he has the remarkable ability to play in the last two frets where there is no room for error. There is no room, period. My sixteen year old, an accomplished guitar player, stared in awe at the big screen visual of Truck's dexterity. Returning to classic blues, the group jammed on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out," followed by one of Clapton's many songs of redemption, "Running on Faith."
The chairs were pulled off the stage and everyone plugged back into their amps for "After Midnight," the JJ Cale standard. Cale has always been grateful to Clapton and says he "would be selling shoes" if it were not for Eric's covers of "After Midnight" and "Cocaine." It was back to blues with "Little Queen of Spades" and "Further on Up the Road." Doyle Bramhall shined thru both numbers with extended solos. Bramhall learned his chops with the Brothers Vaughn and Clapton hasoften said that Stevie Ray was the greatest guitarist of his time. My son commented on his custom made left-handed guitar. All the controls were in the right place, but the guitar was strung upside down. Like so many lefties starting out, Bramhall apparently learned to play a right-handed guitar upside down and has continued to prefer the reverse stringing.
Enough of the blues and back to love as the band slowed it down for Clapton's, "Wonderful Tonight." Many couples got up and slow-danced to this song of love written by a drunkard as a sonnet of gratitude to an indulgent and forgiving wife. We should all be so lucky.
In 1970, Derek Trucks' uncle Butch was hanging around the Florida studio when Duane Allman came up with those seven opening notes that would forever define Layla. I don't believe in destiny, but is it possible that 36 years later it was meant to be that young Mr. Trucks would be playing those same opening notes in tribute to a band that carries his name? I don't know and I don't care. All I know is that magic was created on that stage. I had heard Truck's play "Layla" as an encore in an Allman Brothers' concert and was transfixed. His slide work was sublime, coaxing even more beauty from an already perfect melody. Now he was up there with the master, filling a role made famous by one of the legends of guitar, and creating a new legend. In the original recording of "Layla," there are no fewer than seven guitar overdubs but none of the parts are overdone. They all contribute to the story. Clapton is right in that it takes at least three accomplished guitarists to perform it properly with all the different subtexts and nuances. Everyone played together perfectly. Chris Stainton's piano interlude was dead on and glued the song's parts together. I got what I came to see.
The worn-out "Cocaine" followed and Clapton says it is now an anti-drug song. I would hope that someone who spent several years in a self-imposed prison of drug and alcohol abuse could come out with a stronger message than "that dirty cocaine." His veiled message to avoid drugs seemed to be lost on some of those around me as the police hauled off a semi-comatose reveler. I think my son got that message. I am extremely fortunate that my two teenage sons not only have good sense but enjoy the music I came up with. They have rummaged thru my CD
collection pulling out the jewels I discovered a long time ago. Although I have officially entered "geezerdom," they still listen when I tell them about the concerts I saw when I was their age.
obert Cray returned for the encore and we were treated to "Crossroads." We left as they were still playing as my son had the PSAT's the next day and I had a funeral to attend. Reality set in again as we trudged down the wet street to the car. I thanked him for going with me and he just smiled and said, "that was great." He was right.
Review by Rebecca Sullivan
My name is Rebecca (Becky) Sullivan and I took my 15 year old son to see Eric perform in Charlotte, NC on 10-17-06. I have to say that this was the most amazing concert I've ever been to. One reason why it was so special, is because I'm the daughter of Carl Radle, Eric's bassist from Derek and the Dominos and the Eric Clapton band. I was reading some of the other articles that concert goers wrote, and I was thrilled to see that a few of them heard Eric dedicate the song to us. I was fortunate enough to talk to Eric before the show and he told me not to be upset if he forgot to dedicate a song to my father, but not only did he dedicate "Anyday" to Carl, he included me and my son. I think this will be an experience that my son won't soon forget! I know I'll never forget! The music was phenomenal!!!!!! The enthusiasm from the crowd was unforgettable! It's amazing to me that Eric has been playing for as long as he has, and he just keeps getting better! I know that anyone that was there, had the night of their lives. I truly believe that was the concert of all concerts!!! Thank you!