MEN Concert News: 29 April 2004

After a short warm-up set by Robert Randolph and the Family Band, a man stepped on-stage at the Manchester Evening News Arena and proceeded to tell the crowd Eric had gone off for a meal and proceeded to sing, "Would you know my name if you saw me in Bolton?" And after with a few more great one-liners, comedian Peter Kay warmed up the crowd even further for Eric Clapton and His Band!

Fans had this to say about the concert on 29 April 2004:

Review by Elly Roberts

Awesome, amazing, unbelievable, but more importantly – influential. That’s the verdict on Clapton’s triumphant return to the British stage at Manchester’s Evening News Arena. He’s overcome drug and alcohol addiction, lost a son in tragic circumstances, married three times and yet he still manages to soldier on. The world of Eric Clapp, aka Eric Clapton, hasn’t always been a happy one. As he rapidly approaches 60 on March 30th next year, the guitar god is still fighting fit. He may well have ‘ shot the sheriff ‘, and put on a few pounds, but he hasn’t shot his deputy just yet. His new ‘deputy ‘, unknown protégé, is the sensational American, Doyle Bramhall 11. Pole position is something Eric Clapton has enjoyed for almost four decades – but his crown is seriously under threat – he was clearly stirred but not shaken by the young hot shot who’s snapping at his heels.

Maybe he was just impressed, and he had every right to be as he introduced him into the fold. Having such competition at close proximity made the legend pull out all the stops in a performance that will go down in history as one of the ‘ greatest guitar nights ever. ‘ The multi – Grammy winning singer – guitarist and mega – grossing live performer was greeted by 15,000 people, who once again had come to pay homage to the master axeman. The arena came to life as the laid back legend grinned his way to centre stage, but privately, may have had the smile wiped of his face by the end of the night.



The 17 song setlist delved into material from the 60’s, Cream’s’ Badge’ and’ Sunshine Of Your Love’, JJCale’s ‘ Cocaine ‘ and Bob Marley’s ‘ I Shot The Sheriff ‘ from the 70’s. Nothing from the 80’s and only one from the 90’s – ‘ Wonderful Tonight .’ Songs lifted from his recent CD, a tribute to Robert Johnson, ‘ Me And Mr. Jonhson ‘ impressed me the most. They allowed ‘ Slow Hand ‘ or ‘ EC ‘ to dig deep into his technical repertoire, and he needed to. Bramhall, left handed, wearing a Hendrix – style shirt, was more than a match for him in every department, and at one time I thought he might steal the show.

He introduced the long forgotten Wah Wah sound, growling effects and some pretty stylish bottle – neck. So, Clapton effectively reined him in with a masterclass display. When their counter and complimentary playing kicked – in it was quite stunning to witness. Many times it felt like a Blues jam, and probably was, as they bounced off each other. When the head tilts back, and shoulders rise, it’s time to look out, because he’s bound to unleash a powerhouse display – and it’s always special. His Stratocaster got a right old pounding, as he bent the strings into submission with his nimble fingers. Of the three nights I’ve seen him, this was his definitive gig , proving that competition is always good. The remainder of the band, Billy Preston on organ, Chris Stainton on piano provided lashings of Gospel, as did singers Sharon White and Michelle John. Permanently smiling and long time cohort, bassist Nathan East was as solid as ever, forming a formidable partnership in the rhythm section with Steve Gadd’s sticks. Best bits were, a lengthy solo in ‘ Sheriff ‘ which turned the track on its head, the full version of ‘ Layla ‘ which sent everybody into raptures 32 years on, and the slow ‘ Kind Hearted Woman Blues .’ There’s nothing flash about stage presentation, and Clapton is a man of few words : “ Good evening “, “ Thank you “ and “ Goodnight ,“ and that’s about it. He always leaves the guitar to do the talking.

Leaving the stage to a standing ovation, he looked as if he’d never broken sweat, but I hope he doesn’t have nightmares. Try to sleep EC Eric ! The programme was great value for money, a retrospective which included a single from the album, and access via the internet to the album.

Support act, pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and The Family Band were excellent. Brilliantly sought out to compliment Clapton’s heavily Blues influenced set, he romped through some high – energy material. Technique was top of the agenda, and his dextrous skills were much appreciated by the fans. Better known in the States, he’s bound to have made a big impression on the European tour, and will no doubt be in great demand after this showing. He joined Clapton for the last couple of songs, and fitted in perfectly.
Search the web – type Robert Randolph, and view various sites.



Review by Matt Walmsley

A surprising start to Eric’s set tonight as the band walked on stage followed by Lancashire’s finest comic Peter Kay, guitar in hand saying Eric had gone off for a happy meal and we’d have to do with him … ‘Would you know my name…if you saw me in Bolton’. After some chat to the audience and a pop at the tickets prices in comparison to his shows, he introduced someone who had been like a father to him for the last 25 minutes…Eric Patrick Clapton.

Enter EC, and straight into Let It Rain. Its good to see a full electric set again after so many years spent sitting down. The usual tour set list. Obvious highlights had to be I Shot the Sheriff , with the most incredible solo that built and built. It was good to see Eric ‘off on one’ so early as the head rolled back, the eyes closed and those fingers moved. Kind Hearted Woman and Have You Ever… both gave ample opportunity for soloing by the other band members. Doyle is the perfect complement to Eric. Got to Get Better and Layla sounded the closest yet to the Dominos line-up, as Doyle’s slide work replicated the sound and style of Duane Allman so well.The best and loudest ‘Badge’ I’ve ever heard which finally got the crowd to their feet.

Any criticisms? Got My Mojo isn’t perhaps the greatest one to finish with, and the 2 backing singers added nothing to the evening and certainly weren’t missed during their absent periods from the stage. A hugely appreciate audience in Manchester, and we look forward to seeing it all again soon.



Review by Darryl Lane

The arena was near to capacity crowd when Robert Randolph entered the stage. He played a twelve-string pedal steel guitar with ferocious abandonment and sported a very fine corduroy hat. The bass player tried very hard to sing like Beyonce but lacked the hair and legs. Their set included an impressive instrumental of ‘Voodoo Child’. It was a good opening act.

There was much anticipation as Eric’s’ band took to the stage, and when the great man himself sauntered on with his guitar he appeared to have gained a considerable amount of weight. It was, after all, Northern comedian Peter Kay of ‘Phoenix Nights’ fame. He was met with tremendous applause, and he got the crowded stirred up with a gag or two and a sing-a-long and then introduced Eric. ‘He’s been like a father to me…for the last twenty-five minutes, so here for fifty-four English pounds Mr Eric Clapton!’

The crowd went wild and EC drove straight into ‘Let it Rain’ the concert followed the same set list as previous gigs for this tour. The great thing about the concert to those of us who have seen him for many years was the inclusion of golden oldies.

‘Walk out in the rain’ from ‘Backless’ was joyous and infectious. I sang every word. ‘Sheriff’ was simply awesome, the solo was not of human origin it came from somewhere else! ‘Got to get better in a little while’ a tour de-force, was a track played live in the seventies even though Derek and the Dominos split before it got released as a studio track though it appeared on the ‘Crossroads’ compilation released in 1988 (his 25th anniversary year, this tour celebrated 40 years in the business!)

The band was very good, Doyle Bramhall offers so much more than good old Any Fairweather-Low and Doyle looks the part, man. The hair, the wild shirt, and a left handed player to boot. Has Hendrix returned? Chris Stainton has been round the world, never mind the block, sterling work on the keyboards as too Billy Preston who wore a very nice duck egg blue woollen jumper. Is he Stevie Wonders father/ brother/auntie? Nathan East, Mr Dependable, smiling as ever, and Steve Gadd solid on drums, plus two hefty lady backing singers who ‘gave it some’ and swayed a lot.

‘Bell Bottom Blues’ was as beautiful as ever and Eric’s playing and enthusiasm was a joy to behold. Slowhand says very little but I could tell that he was having a great time up there. He was almost dancing.

He deserved better attention, because when ‘Milk Cow Calf Blues’ kicked off, dozens of people left their seats. I found this a great distraction and very annoying. Bored Girls waiting for ‘Wonderful Tonight; blokes getting more pints, grannies off to the toilet, and this went on for the rest of the show.
How impolite, but if you have paid the ridiculous price of £54 for a ticket I suppose you can please yourself, but I felt embarrassed for Eric who played his little heart out. Show a little respect folks, the man was playing for you, though the crowd were generally extremely appreciative.

‘Kind Hearted Woman’ was greatly cheered by those of us in the crowd who recognised a good thing when we heard it. ‘Wonderful tonight’ did arrive much to the relief of many. ‘Layla’ performed its usual role but the encore of ‘Sunshine of your Love’ was enhanced richly be Robert Randolph. The closing track ‘Got my Mojo Working’ was a real foot-stomper that got the full house wanting more.

I have seen Eric perform many times since May 1980 but for my eighteen-year-old student daughter it was her first time and she was over-awed by the fifty-nine year old musician who leaves his contemporaries standing.
There is absolutely no way I could have missed this, the show was fantastic.



Review by Mark Rushton


That was how I felt after the MEN show. Eric seemed lacklustre on the last tour, But last night however he seemed to be on a mission. With a superb sound system, he really delivered the BIG guitar thing we all want. The set was the same as Newcastle, but the intensity was, well, intense. ‘Sheriff’ was fabulous in his solo build up, with Steve Gadd driving out the rythym as only he can, Eric deserved the ovation at the end of the song. Has Doyle Bramall lit a fire under Eric, because his playing was reminiscent of a younger Clapton. No offence to Andy, but a change onstage seems to have really done the trick. Billy Preston… organ player,made it look so easy. Steve Gadd…drummer supreme and Nathan as rock like as ever.

The start of the evening saw the band walk onstage with comedian/clapton fan Peter Kay, who did a five minute intro with some good comedy and a classic put-down to a heckler. Eric dedicated ‘Badge’ to him.



Review by Thomas El Basha

I attended the 29th of March E.C. Concert, and what can one say other than Wow! (with a big exclamation mark at the end). It was full of surprises. The weather in Manchester throughout the day was Horrid, but that didn’t stop thousands of devoted fans attending the superb show. The opening act was impressive with starring a Gospel oriented Robert Randolf & The Family Band. Before exiting they performed a delightful cover of the classic "Voodo Chile" by Jimi Hendrix.

An interlude followed so that the fans could replenish their drinks, and smoke a couple of fags to calm their senses in anticipation for the man himself.

The lights dimmed down, and a figure walked up onto the stage and took hold of the new Crash 3 strat. As expected, the crowd was ecstatic crying out for clapton to commence. The spotlights then came on, and my initial reaction to the figure was "what the hell, he sure has gained wait". It took 2 to 3 seconds for me to realise that the figure now exposed was none other the Hillarious Bolton Comedian Peter Kay with his all too poopy face.

Peter Kay: Uhhh, Eric’s at Greggs, and so I’m here filling in for him

The crowd was gobsmacked and the laughter was contagious and could be heard throughout the halls of the MEN Arena. Peter goes on to posit some of his eye tearing jokes, including his famous "Garlic Bread" Joke from the "Live in Blackpool" stand up comedy session. He then introduces Eric and exits. Eric has a smile on his face and will last throughout the night.

Having read some of the reviews on the website, I was expecting "Let it rain", but having not heard the song for so long, my system was realy stuck in limbo for the first couple of seconds trying to identify the riffs Clapton was playing. The version of the song was fresh and full of energy; energy I thought would have faded away by now. It was nice to hear some old clapton come to light again in this day of age.

The Johnson songs were good, but somehow I felt nothing new was being offered, just a revamp of old songs that were hard to discriminate. "Milk Cow Blues", "When You’ve Got a Friend", "They’re red Hot", and "Kind Hearted woman Blues" were fair and somewhat reminiscent of the "From the cradle" catalogue of songs. The only Exception was "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" who’s approach was simialr to that of "Have you ever loved a woman". The solo’s throughout the Johnson songs were interchanged between Clapton and Doyle Braham the second. Doyle’s Slide work was excellent, and Clapton held his own pretty well.

The two gems in the concert would then emerge, first with "I Shot The Sherrif", and "Got To Get Better in a LIttle White". Clapton was on top form for these two songs, soloing throught with great use of the Wah Wah Peddle. "Got To Get Better in a LIttle While" was given a new leace of life, and the funk was with clapton in "I Shot The Sherrif".

I was expecting an acoustic set to come following these songs, but clapton abstained and instead went forward and played "Bell Bottom Blues" which sounded great, especially with his two backing singers Michelle John and Sharon White.

Billy Preston was playing superbly and never failed to please the crowd with his phrasings on the organ. He acted as the extra "umpff factor in the band". His best playing was during "Have you ever loved a woman", a true crowd pleaser.

The last couple of songs were expected. Wonderful Tonight was as always wonderful, but regretfully looses it’s extended ending.
For Laya, Eric refrainded from teasing the audience with one of his spurious intros, and went straight into the main riff. Clapton solos on "Layla" keep getting better and better. The outro to the song was delightful in that Doyle was playing slide, using essentially the same riffs as "Duane Allman" in the orignal studio version of song. Layla quickly ended with the famous piano riff played by Chris Stainton, and in came Cocaine, and by now the crowds were hanging on the edge of their seats for the Wah Wah Solo; It was not dissapointing, and once again Clapton showed he still has the stuff, and that it takes more than age to take it away from you, and if anything, age seems to be refining this man that was once called "God".

Badge which Clapton usually dedicates to Harrison was dedicated to Peter Kay this night. There were two encores at the end with Robert Randolf as guest.

In summary, the night was mixed with the old and the not so old catalogue songs of Clapton. He was in a good mood, and that smile that was first evoked by Kay remained throughout the night. His playing was amazing, and at times was very fresh with new ideas being introduced, especially on "I shot the sherrif". It was a pleasure seeing the man, and I hope this won’t be his last tour, because if anything, the man keeps getting better and better with age. He has accumilated alot of wisdom throughout his career, Let’s hope he will still play and let us share in the beautiful music he produces.



Review by Nadja Teichert

I thought it can’t get much better than Zurich. But it did. After the intro by Peter Kay EC came on stage with a smile (!) on his face and started the set with the known songs. He missed a line or two in "Walk out in the Rain", though it did not affect the song. Bell Bottom Blues was not as melancholic as in Zurich and seemed a little hasty, but still great. Then came "I Shot the Sheriff". This is probably the best solo I’ve heard in a long, long time. EC did not want to stop and it was absolutely mind boggling. "Milkcow Calf Blues" is one of the great songs in the new CD (turn up the volume!) but received mixed reactions here. And the audience!? Hello!! It this how people in Manchester behave at concerts (hey, front row people – how can you show up late AFTER EC started playing!! I’ll take that ticket off your hands anytime). The rest of the set was also incredible. It seemed less Doyle and even more EC this time. "Kind hearted..", "Got to get better.." and "Have you ever.." sounded fantastic. EC could drop to one song I could never get attached to: "Wonderful Tonight". It does nothing for me and the solo is practically the same. The finishing with Randolph on stage was not as committed as in Zurich. "Got my Mojo.." was a little shorter and band was not as engaged as in Zurich. An overall great concert with a long to be remembered solo in "I Shot the Sheriff". I’m looking forward to May 10.

Where’s Eric!
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