12 May 04
Eric Clapton and His Band wrapped up their 6-night stand at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 11 May 2004. Like all previous evenings on the tour, Robert Randolph and the Family Band wramed up the crowd. Surprisingly, there was only one encore song on the last night – "Sunshine of Your Love." "I Got My Mojo Workin’" was dropped.
EC now has a short break before heading off to America for his Crossroads Guitar Festival on 4-5-6 June in Dallas, Texas.
Review by Mark Daley
Over the last 20 years or so I’ve been lucky enough to have seen Eric live on 15 occasions, most of them at the Royal Albert Hall, and for those of you that have booked tickets to see him there in the past you know how hard it is getting through to the box office. If you don’t get connected within an hour or two you’re probably out of luck whether he’s doing one night or 24. Although his performances are always fresh and his playing electrifying, the venues do add the icing on the cake, and the RAH is by far the best place to witness his live act. Eric and ‘the Albert’ kind of go together like strawberries and cream, he always sounds at his best there, and anyone else I’ve seen play there never sounds anywhere near as good as he does. This year we were lucky enough to witness his last night at the RAH, and what a night!
The band that he chose this year was the ultimate in class act musicians, without a doubt the best group I’ve ever seen him perform with. Along with the incredible rhythm section of Nathan East and Steve Gadd, Billy Preston was a great bonus and so entertaining to watch and hear this legend do his stuff on the keys with as much soul and emotion as he did 30 years ago. His second guitarist was Doyle Bramhall II, who had obviously quantum leapt out of Woodstock circa 1969, simply blew us away. He’s Got Cream, Hendrix, the Dominos, Stevie Ray and Led Zep all rolled up in his soul and fingers. He is the prodigal son of Blues/ Rock, and could possibly fill the RAH himself one day. No offence to Andy Fairweather Low, but this guy can hold his own against the best in his chosen business, that being EC and Blues Guitar playing respectively and he pushed Eric even further than he would normally go. I don’t think anyone (alive today) would have done a better job at bringing the best out of Slowhand. In the past the x factor that separated EC from the rest of the band has been him playing from the soul rather than from the head, for the first time in 3 decades someone has stood next to him in his band and done the same, no technical wizardry just pure emotion from both guitars. I was bemused at reading a previous review from the Paris Gig 6th April: the reviewer stated Doyle didn’t play well and suggested that Eric may be missing Andy F.L! Well either Doyle had unplugged his guitar or the reviewer had been smoking some really potent stuff, anyone who witnessed the 36 bar solo he did in’ Have you ever loved a woman’ will know what I mean. Suffice it to say Eric played out of his skin probably due partly to Bramhall and the rest of the truly great band pushing him all the way.
Initially I was apprehensive about this show due to the theme of the ‘Me and Mr Johnson’ album. I was expecting a blues gig rather like that of the ‘from the cradle’ tour. It’s only my opinion but this limits Eric’s creativity in that strictly blues doesn’t show off all of his strengths, including his own compositions. Put it this way; the 3 Kings -BB, Albert and Freddy, along with Buddy Guy are the real deal when it comes to electric blues playing and I dare say Eric can play their music as well as them. But can you imagine any one of these greats trying to cover a Cream or Dominos number? I’ve seen Buddy Guy have a go a few years ago at the south bank and it didn’t work. My apprehension was laid to rest as soon as he opened with ‘Let it Rain’. What an anthem to kick off with. The show had everything a Clapton fan could possibly ask for. 2 hours full of great Songs spanning 37 years. The highlight for most of my entourage was a great ‘I shot the Sheriff’ which ended as usual with THE solo of the evening and a funky ‘Got to get better in a little while’. For those of us who were to young to catch his Domino’s gigs it was the ultimate high just hearing this music that we’ve grown up with and weaned on performed live with every bit the energy that it was thirty odd years ago. Some songs from his Johnson album appeared mid concert and were excellent renditions performed with energy and allowing the entire band to show their virtuosity. I found myself listening to this album from a different view point driving home from the concert. The concert finished as usual with Badge, Wonderful, Layla and Cocaine, followed by the encore of Sunshine. Unfortunately he didn’t do ‘got my mojo working’ as he had at previous European gigs and Robert Randolph from the support act did not join him on stage so there were no guitar duals. We were left wanting more, as usual. Then again we are Clapton gluttons!
On a final note; what a loss it would have been if Eric did in fact retire from live performance after the Reptile tour. He is at his best live and improvised and with the exception of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Hendrix, God bless em, no one has comes close to making electric blues/rock so moving and emotive. Will anyone ever? Judging from who else is out there (with the exception of Doyle Bramhall) it’s not looking promising is it?
Review by Matt Bullard
Ok, to begin with Robert Rudolph and the Family Band are a superb, tight unit who locked into some incredibly contagious grooves. They were the perfect warm up band for Eric as their music and Roberts incredible playing raised the roof of the RAH.
When they walked off, the anticipation grew. The stage was darkened and the roadies were frantically dissembling and assembling equipment, Lee Dickinson (EC’s trusted guitar tech) walked on with the Crashocaster in hand, pinching notes and strumming chords on her, generally preparing her for the hand of ‘God’ 🙂
By now the whole place was electric and within a few minutes the man himself walked on followed by his trusted companions and the first thing that grabbed me was musically history present on the stage, EC greatest living guitarist/singer ever, Billy ‘Beatles’ Preston, Doyle ‘Texas guitarist/songwriter and close friend of SRV’ Bramhall, Nathan ‘played with everyone under the sun’ East, Chris’ EC favourite’ Stainton and Steve ‘legend’ Gadd.
These guys have either influenced the course of music or been in the circle of people that have…..it does not get any better than this, just goes to that EC only wants the best around him.
The most earth shattering thing about this show was how powerful EC’s guitar was, the music just consumed everything and everyone in RAH, Eric’s playing was second to none, it really is a force unto its own. I say that because I had the urge to cry and to laugh at the same time, I was sweating and dazed by what I heard and saw. Passion, power, soul, spirit, everything that epitomises the nature of music was there last night in EC’s playing and his band responded by playing their socks off to what amounted to a life changing experience for me, I am not over reacting!! His voice was so warm and soulful, this man must have accepted now that as he nears 60 he truly is a Legend, the greatest guitarist in the world, no more questioning who he is. People mention him in the same breath as BB and Buddy, they are living legends, he always seems embarrassed if people equate him to them but you can’t deny that fact when he plays the way he did last night.
Doyle Bramhall is a phenomenal guitarist , playing his blues licks over EC’s Badge and Cocaine was a joy to hear and gave me goose bumps, his solo in ‘Have you ever loved a Woman’, simply outstanding.
The Robert Johnson songs were beautifully played and very powerful, the man that has inspired EC the most got a beautiful tribute paid to him via Eric’s versions of his material.
In summary, this tours set list has been (for me) the best for a long time and I want to thank EC and his band for the most incredible evening, no one does it better, people like EC only come along once in life time so I urge anyone who hasn’t seen him yet to go see the phenomena that is ‘Slow Hand’.
Review by Ian McCormack
Having attended last nights closing show I am happy to confirm many other peoples views on this tour that EC is certainly playing with more urgency and fire than I’ve probably ever witnessed in the 150 + concerts I’ve attended. Without detailing every track, the highlights for me were the solo on ‘Sheriff’ that literally took the roof off and sent tingles down my spine. Doyle’s amazing fret work on HYELAW and Billy Preston who is simply a master of his craft. Badge was also given a new injection of life and really kicked as did Sunshine.
The minus’s of the evening for me were that I don’t really feel that 17 songs and 110mins(with a single song encore) represented fair value for money. The set was at least 5 songs short of what could have been reasonably expected for £55 (well over £60 with booking fee). Although what was played was fantastic the set did need maybe White Room, Can’t find My Way Home, Change The World etc to balance it out (just my opinion)
When you consider that McCartney last year played a 35+ song set of nearly 3 hours and tickets were £40 it rather highlights the situation.
The other rather negative point is that EC couldn’t even be bothered to introduce his fantastic band to the audience. I know that EC has never been the most communicative person on stage but I thought this was pretty unprofessional…
However, overall I guess these are minor quibbles because the undeniable fact was that last night EC was indeed ‘God’ once more
Review by Darren Currington
As a EC at the RAH virgin I was never going to be disappointed with any performance and also it being the last night at the hall we all new it was going to be a special night.
Firstly Congratulations on choosing such a fantastic Support act in Robert Randolph and the family band, the guy was so full of energy and new exactly how to get the whole crowd going and warmed up for the main event. It was just a shame that most of the people there that night were still in the bar as they really were good.
After a quick change of the stage and “the Rug” being rolled out it was time for God himself! Bursting into Let it rain then on to Hoochie Coochie man (Please don’t use female backing vocals in this EC the song doesn’t need it!) then walk out in the rain. The band moved on to I want a little girl and everyone got there go at soloing Eric, Chris, Billy and Doyle. They all new just how to work the crowd and the song, Next up I shot the sheriff the best I have ever heard this song and there is not a word to describe the solo at the end, truly amazing.
They then moved on to the Robert Johnson set which as always was played sitting down (EC needed the rest I think, the way he had been moving around the stage so far) after that straight back up and into Got to get better in a little while which was followed by Have you ever loved a woman, this for me was the song of the night Eric’s soloing was truly fantastic again and when Billy Preston just dropped the song right down you could tell he was having fun with the crowd. Even Doyle had a go at making us all gasp in anticipation, you knew it was going to explode again you just didn’t know when, but when it did my god it nearly took the roof off. Badge Wonderful tonight and Layla again all had great solo’s and I think EC surprised himself with the way he was playing. Cocaine was fantastic with everyone on there feet dancing and singing EC played a brilliant solo with the sound of his cry baby ringing out all around. The band went off stage to a standing ovation and seemed to take forever to come back. Finishing on sunshine of your love was excellent and again you couldn’t fault the playing at all.
In conclusion this is the best band EC has played with, they were so tight and new exactly where everyone was going, I think Steve Gadd should have a special mention he knows just how to make songs groove and give them that little bit extra. Enjoy your retirement at the end of the year Eric and see you next year when you return
Clapton is GOD