10 Apr 04
On 9 April, Eric Clapton’s 2004 World Tour stopped in Antwerp, Belgium for a gig at the Sportpaleis. After an opening set by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Eric and His Band took the stage for an outstanding 18-song performance. Lots of Belgian fans have checked in with Where’s Eric!, so we’ll let them tell you all about it …
Review by Harry Schuitemaker:
Being a fan of Eric from 1971 and seen shows over a period of thirty years I went to Antwerpen to see Eric and his band for the 6th time. I have to say that the replacement of Andy Fairweather-Low by Doyle Bramhall II has given Eric a boost that inspires him to do special things on his guitar. After Robert Randolph – who’s music starts to irritate only after a short while – Eric kicked off with an old friend: ‘Let It Rain’. The second song ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ featured some backing vocals which have to be stripped right away! It just doesn’t fit. An electric inspired ‘Bell Bottom Blues’ was followed by a stellar ‘I Shot The Sheriff’! It’s a miracle that a guitarplayer of 59 years old still tries to find the ultimate solo in each and every song. With the current version of ‘Sheriff’ Eric seems to be very near. Brilliant!
Then Eric switched to the section of Robert Johnson-songs. My personal favorite ‘Kind Hearted Woman Blues’ was one of five songs Eric played and it fitted well in the setlist. We already knew Eric was playing ‘Got To Get Better In A Little While’ in the European leg of his worldtour but I have to say I was a bit dissapointed by the performance of the band. It just sounded messy. The next two songs – ‘I Want A Little Girl and ‘Change The World’ – went very well but couldn’t reach the leavel of ‘Have You Ever Loved A Woman’ in which Eric showed his craftmanship with chickenskinsolo’s. ‘Badge’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’ are both old friends and routine in Eric-concerts. Maybe it’s about time both should get a rest and replaced by other gems from the past. Then it was time for Doyle Bramhall II to show what a talent he is when he blended with Eric’s guitar during ‘Layla’. I have heard quite a few versions of this classic but this one comes very close to the one Duane and Eric made in 1970. Slideguitar doesn’t seem to have much unknown areas for Bramhall II. After a solid ‘CocaÃ¯ne’ Eric played two songs during the encore in which Robert Randolph was invited to join in.
Of the Clapton-shows I’ve seen this one’s ranked in the top three. The only minor points of critic concern the backingvocals in ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and a crowd that was very timid at times it needed to be enthoustiatic.
Review by Tim Torrekens:
Last night I want to Ec for the fifth time, 12 years after the first gig. A few years ago (after ‘from the cradle’) I tought eric couldn’t get any better than then. But I was wrong, eric is at his best at the age of 59!! God is still alive. It’s like a good wine: the older, the better.
Let it rain was a nice discovery. An old song, nicely freshed up to start this show. The crowd (18.000 people) was wild from the first note. Hochie Cochie sounded very modern, especially with sharon and michelle in the back. Like all the shows before in this tour i shot the sherif was the first highlight of the evening. I got high from the great solos eric got out of his fingers. This was heavenly.
The songs from mr johnson survived the big crowd. I was a little nervous about these songs because they are so intimate and how would that sound in front of 18.000 people. But the songs were great, only they’re red hot got lost in space. Bell bottom blues and have you ever loved a woman are my favourites and last night I heard them in the best version ever. Eric played like his life was in danger and all the others got their moment of glory (a big applaus for doyle and billy!!).
The crowd got higher and higher when layla and cocaine went ‘crecendo’
Unfortunately the evening went by to fast and before I knew it I was back at home, re-enjoying every note. Eric: we still love you man. Hope to see you soon.
Review by Jens Gabriels:
I’ve seen many performances by EC on DVD and VHS, but this was my first live encounter with the man. I must say, it was better than I could have imagined…EC seemed to enjoy the concert very much and so did we…the solo in I Shot the Sherrif was amazing. The rest of the songs was also unbelievable. Nice work…the best concert i’ve ever seen.
Review by Ron Blank:
This was my first time ever seeing EC. Wow! It was extraordinary for me after all these years listening to him on classic rock radio stations. I was raised on so many Clapton songs in high school that they are ingrained in my memory more than most others. Where should I begin? First, Let it Rain opened the show and was far better than the Rainbow Concert CD which is my only recorded live version of it. The solo in I Shot the Sheriff brought down the house – it went on for at least 3 minutes and it was simply amazing.
The four new songs from Me and Mr Johnson sounded great on stage and were definitely more powerful than the record. Change the World was a great surprise. Have You Ever Loved a Woman was the opportunity for extended work by Chris Stainton, Billy Preston and Doyle Bramhal as well, of course, Eric. It was a lot more intense than the Albert Hall Concert disc of 1991.
After this we got the greatest hits section. I know that fans luckier than me that get to see a lot of shows lament having so many hits in the show. Sorry but they were fabulous for us. To wait that extended, excruciating moment for the solo in Badge was positively joyful. Then the double barrel shot of Layla and Cocaine which is Eric’s signature were absolutely loved by us.
Robert Randolph’s presence on Sunshine of Your Love and I Got My Mojo Working in the encore was inspiring and a great new way to hear the songs. That added crunch from Randolph’s pedal guitar was great.
The band are all awesome musicians in their own right. Eric obviously knows whom to pick to take on the road. The song catalogue he has to choose from is enormous and for a 2-hour period I was entranced. I’m glad that I went.
Review by Frederick Defraeye:
Amongst he crowd there were surprisingly young people (I, myself, am 22). It’s nice to see that Eric still appeals to people of all ages. I saw Eric performing for the first time in Ghent, three years ago. I thought I had seen and heard the best concert in my life. I was wrong. I did yesterday evening.
The setlist was identical to previous nights, except maybe for some changes in terms of order.
In came Eric with a smile on his face and carrying his beautiful Crashocaster (the new graffiti-guitar he’s been using on the European tour; the one with the black pickups). Moments later Let it Rain burst out of the speakers. The song really rocks in a live setting and does the job as a show opener. Great slide work by Doyle by the way. Apart from some seventies recordings, I had never before heard this one live.
Next was HCM, which was really very much enhanced by the backing vocals of Ms John and Ms White. I Shot the Sheriff was next : what can I say, this is a classic. The last live version I heard heard/saw was on the Hyde Park DVD. The intro has changed and, although I liked the slightly melancholic Hyde Park-type intro to the song, I really dig the straightforward reggae intro they did last night. Eric’s guitar solo on this one may well be the best, most unbelievable, most jaw-dropping solo I had ever heard. It was so full of dynamics, powerful and still perfectly suited the uptempo reggae-rhythm. BBB was very nice, and I must say that I still like it best like this, in the electric version. The song featured a beautiful guitar solo by Eric. Then Eric announced a set of songs «from his new album, called Me and Mr Johnson ». First, there was Milk Cow Blues (Eric doesn’t mention anything about a ‘calf’) . Powerful intro to this one, great slide solo by Doyle and perfect vocals by Eric. Next was WYGAGF – solid – followed by T’RRH which was swinging, but which, in my opinion would better suit smaller venues. Finally, there KHWB featuring some of the best blues guitar work you’ll ever hear.
Next was GTGBIALW. This is, along with Let It Rain, are wonderful additions to the setlist. They bring back that ‘seventies funk feel’ to the stage. The song – along with ISTS – featured one of the most piercing, funky guitar solos I’ve ever heard. IWALG was smooth and had everyone in the crowd gently nodding. Great vocals by Eric on this one.
Change The World had Eric starting on acoustic and ending with a terrific solo on electric guitar. Then came HYELAW with some pristine blues guitar by Eric and a round of solos by the other band members. Along with KHWB, this was the blues-highlight of the evening. Badge and Wonderful Tonight were pretty standard. Wonderful Tonight no longer has the reggae arrangement at the end, which I do think is a pity. Then on with crowd pleaser Layla, complete with the piano/guitar outro. The only downside during this song was the lighting, which was so blinding that I could barely look at the stage. Cocaine really rocked and featured some solid backing vocals by Ms John and Ms White.
Finally there was the encore :
When Eric came back on, he started playing something that sounded like the (intro) chords of ‘Willie and Hand Jive. For a moment there, I thought we were in for a surprise, but it merely served as accomponiment for the introduction of the band members. Sunshine of your love was great with unbelievable guitar duels featuring Eric, Doyle and Robert Randolph. I Got my mojo working was a delight. Robert Randolph played a lightning fast lapsteel solo with a very weird combination of effects (I thing a mixture of phaser/flanger and wah).
Steve Gadd and Nathan were solid as ever, although Nathan’s bass lines couldn’t be heard very clearly, but this was due to the mix and the less-than-great acoustics of the Sportpaleis. Billy and Chris really delivered. Doyle did a great job. I don’t understand the occasional criticism on his playing. He really impressed me with his slide work, his mastery of the wah-wah pedal, and has a terrific guitar sound. Moreover (and for the guitar players in the crowd), I was quite surprised to see that Doyle has his strings mounted in inverse order on his guitar, i.e. the thick E-string was where normally you’d find the thin E-string and so forth. Eric’s playing was absolutely flawless and at times fiercer and more inventive than I had ever seen or heard before. His guitar solos may not be as LONG as they used to be, they make up for that by being plain SOLID and VERY INVENTIVE. At no point in the show did I have the impression that Eric had run out of ideas. And as far as his voice is concerned, Eric is like good wine : he just gets better with age. Eric was clearly enjoying himself : he was genuinely amused when at one point Billy Preston stretched his solo somewhat and played over the first notes of Doyle’s slide solo.
I (along with most Belgian fans I gather) really do hope that Eric pays us another visit sometime in the future. EC rules!
The complete set list was: