5 May 04
Eric Clapton opened his 6 night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 4 May 2004. The set list brought no real surprises to fans who have been following the tour here on whereseric.com. It continues to emphasize the blues, particularly songs Clapton recorded for his most recent CD, Me and Mr. Johnson. All in all, it was still a terrific night … but when isn’t a night at the "Albert"?
Review by John O’Hara
I’ve been watching the great man ever since I saw him at the Crystal Palace Bowl in 1976 and he has been responsible for many many great memories in my life. That said when I last saw him three years ago I felt he had settled for the easy life as his new albums were not good and his live shows were pretty average. Not any more.
He ambled on to the Royal Albert Hall stage on Tuesday evening with a superb band including the excellent Billy Preston on keyboards and right from the off you sensed he was meant business. Let It Rain and Hoochie Coochie Man eased us in with Walk Out in The Rain and Little Girl. Then the soft reggae beat of I Shot The Sherriff stirred. When it was solo time he really went to town and if there were any doubters among the London crowd they were re-converted there and then. Clearly he was glad to be back in London as he said after this track "we’ve been touring Europe for two months just to rehearse for this gig" and boy did it feel like it.
It was time for some Robert Johnson stuff which I wasn’t too sure about, but it was magnificent and he sang with real feeling from his chair at the front of the stage.
There were many great moments in the show, but for me personally I just loved his pumped up version of Got To Get Better In A Little While, which is from that brilliant Derek and The Dominoes period of his life. That had everyone’s feet tapping 13 to the dozen. We were then transported to the best blues track he does ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman?’ Billy Preston had the audience eating out of his hand with his excellent solo, but the real star was waiting to strut his stuff and once Eric let himself loose on that fretboard there was no stopping him. I defy anyone in the world to live with the 59-year-old Ripleyite when he is in this form. He has never been in better form than this and that is from a man who has seen him as 40 or more concerts.
Badge is a good crowd pleaser and this was followed by Wonderful Tonight, which although a super ballad doesn’t top my list of EC’s all time greats.
The hallowed riff of Layla echoed around the hall as he set about his signature tune and no sooner had Billy Preston’s keyboard his the last note of the reprise than EC was heard shouting "2, 3, 4…" and then it was Cocaine. It was a real rocking version that had the audience on its feet. As the average age gets older we find it a little tougher to get up and dance, but even the arthritic were bouncing around to this.
Moments like these will live with those who saw him forever.
He went off for a well earned break while we stood there demanding more. We got it with Sunshine of Your Love which was good, but by then he could have played Half A Sixpence of the Birdie Song and we wouldn’t have cared.
Last time I saw him he said he was going to retire. In his programme notes he mentioned this and said he would keep on retiring, but more importantly he will keep coming back. To see him in his spiritual home is one of those experiences that is a must for any true music fan. Like a fool I only bought a ticket for his opening night. Next time I’m buying one for the lot. If you do read these reviews Eric, thank-you for what is one of the finest performances I have ever seen.