01. Key To The Highway
03. Hoochie Coochie Man
04. I Shot The Sheriff
06. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out
07. Tears In Heaven
09. Somebody Knocking
10. Wonderful Tonight
12. Little Queen of Spades
14. Sunshine Of Your Love (encore)
15. Before You Accuse Me (encore)*
Review by Jay Lustig / NorthJersey.com (republished with permission of the author)
NEW YORK – Eric Clapton said he was retiring from touring when he presented 70th birthday concerts in 2015. “I swear this is it, no more,” he wrote in the shows’ programs. To his fans’ delight, though – and no one’s surprise – he wasn’t quite done, and will do at least some limited touring this year: Four shows in New York, four in Inglewood, Calif., and three in London.
Clapton, who turns 72 next week, presented the first of those 11 concerts Sunday night at Madison Square Garden, picking up where he left off with guitar playing that showed no signs of rust – despite reports of a nerve ailment that makes playing difficult – and a setlist that was very similar to those of his Garden shows of 2015.
It seemed like a good bet that he would pay tribute to the late Chuck Berry with a cover of a song by the rock titan, but this did not happen. Nor did Clapton say anything about Berry, who died on Saturday at the age of 90 – though, to be fair, Clapton didn’t say much of anything throughout the night beyond a welcoming “Good evening” and some post-song “thank yous.” (Gary Clark Jr., one of the show’s opening acts, did say, after performing his own “Travis County,” that that song would not have been possible without Berry’s influence).
Clapton’s shows this year are billed as a celebration of his 50 years in music (though he’s actually at 55, at this point), and, indeed, he and his six-piece band covered many phases of his career, reaching back for three songs he did with Cream (“Badge,” “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Crossroads”) and three from his Derek and the Dominoes days (“Layla,” “Key to the Highway” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”), plus lots of solo hits (“I Shot the Sheriff,” “Tears in Heaven,” “Cocaine”).
“Key to the Highway,” a blues standard, was played with an upbeat arrangement, and opened the show. More blues classics followed, including “Crossroads” (with a chugging funk arrangement, similar to what Cream did with it), “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Drifin’ Blues” (part of an acoustic mini-set that also included “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” “Tears in Heaven” and “Layla”).
“Little Queen of Spades,” played second to last in the main set, featured Clapton’s most explosive playing of the night; “Before You Accuse Me,” the second of the two encores, including brief solos by Clark and Jimmie Vaughan (who also played an opening set) as well as keyboardists Chris Stainton and Walt Richmond, before a final, longer solo by Clapton himself.
There were some minor problems throughout the evening: a few flubbed notes at the start of “Wonderful Tonight,” a too-stiff rhythm to “Sunshine of Your Love,” an occasional moment when Clapton ran out of vocal steam and couldn’t complete a line. He’s not the most visually expressive performer; a bit of leaning back during a solo or the hint of a grimace is about all you’ll get.
There is nothing flamboyant about him at this point his career. He’s the rare rock star who doesn’t seem interested in showing you how hard he’s working, but is happy to convey a sense of mild-mannered competence.
But his guitar playing remains a marvel – fast and fluid, seemingly effortless even at its most intricate. The giant video screens frequently showed his hands, close up, and it was absolutely mesmerizing.
That’s what people were paying up to $500 a ticket for, and why people will keep coming back, for as many “final” shows as he wants to do.
Review by P. Rogers
Lucky enough to get tickets and fortunate that living in NY to get the opportunity to see Eric often as he always passes through NYC. This was a great concert, Eric looking comfortable and confident. I think the absence of Doyle and/or Derek actually helped Eric give a better show. With no sidemen to rely on and graciously give solos too, it was just Eric on guitar, so all solos would be his. Eric strolls out casually as usual, waves and smiles to the crown, picks up a dark blue strat(no changing, dark blue strat for all electric songs) and works right into key to the highway, hitting notes with only he does. I was happy he followed with "Badge", a favorite. My wife thought the concert had an "Island feel", I shot the Sheriff and in the acoustic set, "Tears in Heaven" was done in the reggae-ish style he has done recently. Layla finished the acoustic set, breezy and easy. Back to electric for "Somebody's knockin" That song suits him perfectly, I always love it. Before you accuse me with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark was really good, all 3 solo, with Eric taking two with Gary Clark nodding and smiling. Kinda was hoping for a Chuck Berry Song, but no. Eric's voice was great, and guitar better. Jimmy Vaughan starts right at 7:30, Gary Clark Jr. 8;15 or so, Eric a little after 9. Jimmy was good, Gary was great, don't miss him if your going. Well, that's all, thrilled to see him "One more time?' we'll see.
Review by Howard K.
Night 1 was fantastic - 30 minutes from Jimmie and 45 from Gary then 90 from EC- everything stood out. In particular Badge and Sunshine Of Your Love were surprises as they weren't done on recent tours and Before You Accuse Me was a great ending- it sounded like it did on Journeyman - as a keyboard player Chris stainton was another superstar.