Venue: Reunion Arena
Country: United States
Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack
Opening night for Leg Two of Eric’s massive Reptile World Tour – it’s also the first concert in the United States for this road trip.
01. Key To The Highway
03. Got You On My Mind
04. Tears In Heaven
05. Bell Bottom Blues
06. Change The World
07. My Father’s Eyes
08. River Of Tears
09. Going Down Slow
10. She’s Gone
11. I Want A Little Girl
12. Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
13. Travelin’ Light
14. Hoochie Coochie Man
15. Stormy Monday
17. Wonderful Tonight
19. Sunshine Of Your Love (encore)
20. Somewhere Over The Rainbow (encore)
Review by Craig Hopkins
Eric played Reunion Arena in Dallas on May 10 to open the North American leg of the tour. The band was EC, Billy Preston, Andy Fairweather Low, Steve Gadd, David Sancious and Nathan East. Doyle Bramhall II did not join EC on stage.
Bramhall II (his drummer father was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s songwriting partner) opened the show with a high energy, guitar-driven, 30-minute set which pleased his oldest fans. Bramhall, formerly of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Arc Angels and vaious bands supporting his own CDs, lost a little steam as his focus moved from guitar oriented to songwriting during the late 90’s. With the new band Doyle Bramhall and Smokestack, the guitar playing is back with a vengeance, while still accompanied by excellent songwriting.
Eric came out and played a set very similar to the last few weeks of the European tour. Got You On My Mind moved up to the number 3 spot, but otherwise no great surprises. I’ll send the complete setlist when I get a chance to listen back to the recording. I was surprised that the first five or so songs were performed on acoustic guitar while seated. Eric coaxes a lot of energy from an acoustic guitar, but on such a huge stage, it would have served him well if he could have stood. I was in the fourth row, and his hands were hidden from view by his monitors.
As long as I’m on a rant, whoever designed the lighting should be strung up by their little toes! There were three rows of bright lights behind EC, the lowest row being on a direct sight line from the audience on the floor to EC. There were a number of songs where, from 50 feet from EC, I could barely see him at all because of the bright backlights shining right in my eyes. I almost felt unsafe driving home after staring into spotlights for two hours.
Anyway, the show was great. A friend who accompanied me, seeing EC for the first time, said it was better than he expected. I took that as an excellent endorsement, considering he is not one for acoustic guitars or the pop ballads. I tend to like a much wider range of EC’s later work, so I enjoyed the whole thing. It was a treat seeing Billy Preston – in my opinion the "Sixth Beatle," behind George Martin of course.
For those into the minor details, EC wore a white cotton shirt, untucked, jeans and Nike athletic shoes. Wow, the new Fender with the sort of art-deco paint is gorgeous. I’ll bet the Fender Custom Shop is getting some orders (I’m assuming that’s who painted it).
Review by Bill Main and Vince Mendieta
Last night’s concert at the Reunion Arena in Dallas, Texas was the third time I’ve been lucky enought to catch the opening show of an Eric Clapton US Tour. Opening night shows, especially in Dallas, are always a special treat- last night was no exception. Eric has commented in interviews, to audiences in Dallas, and to me personally that Dallas is one of his favorite cities in the United States. The audiences there adore him and he always responds with a tremendous effort. Last night was no exception, Eric was absolutely brilliant. The opening act, Doyle Bramhall, was playing in his home town and appeared to put everything he could into his set. When he was finished the crowd gave him a wonderful response with a very loud round of applause. However, when EC tore into an inspired unplugged version of "Key To The Highway", the crowd fairly roared their approval and he was visibly pleased, smiling and nodding his head. From that point on, Doyle Bramhall was totally forgotten by all.
Although my seats were quite a distance from the stage, two large video screens allowed me to clearly see his every movement. Eric was joined on stage by the band: Andy Fairweather Low on guitar, Nathan East on bass, Steve Gadd on drums, David Sancious on keyboards, and the newly added Billy Preston on keyboards, and led them in a lively rendition of the title song of his new album, "Reptile". It was wonderful to see the Dallas crowd embrace the new material, as many in the audience were standing and swaying in time to the song. Eric smiled broadly, and fairly ripped through the solos. At the song’s completion, Eric addressed the crowd by saying it had been a "few years" since he’d been to Dallas and had been rehearsing there all week. He finished by saying "I had to come back for the ribs, right?", referring to the barbeque spare ribs available all over town. This brought a roar of approval from the proud Texans in attendance, and set the tone for the rest of the unplugged set consisting of "Got You On My Mind", "Tears In Heaven", "Bell Bottom Blues", and "Change The World". "Bell Bottom Blues" was especially well received, as this was the first time I can remember EC playing this song in a concert I’ve seen in America since 1974 or 1975. Many in the crowd around me were singing along with the vocals, smiles on their faces.
Next Eric did his set from the Pilgrim album which consisted of "My Father’s Eyes", "River Of Tears", "Goin’ Down Slow", and the new Clapton classic "She’s Gone". I was in Dallas in May of 1998 to see the Pilgrim Tour, and it was obvious that the Dallas crowd now considers those songs essential listening- each number was met with cries of approval and thunderous applause upon completion. Eric was coaxed to higher and higher levels of performance after every song. He delivered piercing solos during "My Father’s Eyes" and "River of Tears", and very soulful guitar work in "Going Down Slow". However, "She’s Gone" was something special! I have heard EC live fifty-five times now, and I consider this song in a class with "Cocaine", "Bad Love", "I Shot The Sheriff", and "Layla". The version Clapton played in Dallas last night absolutely tore the roof off Reunion Arena! Eric’s Guitar sizzled. During solos, he threw his head back, closed his eyes, arched his back, and traveled to that place he goes when he has become one with the music. I don’t need to say any more, all of us know what I am talking about. Only Clapton fans know of these magic moments, that’s why we love and admire the man so much. The abrupt conclusion of the song was met by a deafening roar of approval by the frenzied Dallas crowd. I have seen concerts all over the world, and realize that American crowds are totally different than almost all others. Crowds in Europe show respect and admiration by beautiful moments of almost complete silence, and by applause at the proper time. U.S. crowds show appreciation and respect by deafening clapping and cheering- I guess it’s a cultural thing. Add to this the rowdy nature of crowds in Texas- Texans love to party, and you’ve got an almost electric atmosphere.
EC next slowed the pace a little with a beautiful jazzy rendition of "I Want A Little Girl" off the new album. This was followed by well received "Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight", and a smouldering version of J.J. Cale’s "Travelin’ Light", both also from the new album. I don’t know if it was planned or not, but these songs allowed the crowd to rest a little, they created a kind of calm before the storm, a storm which blew in with the opening bars of "Hoochie Coochie Man". Let me say that although I live in Texas, I am not a native Texan. I have lived here for almost twenty-four years and can tell you that Texans consider the blues part of their culture. Freddy King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimmmy Vaughan are only a few of the Texans which illustrate this legacy. When Clapton plays the blues, he is loved by each and every fan of that form of music expression in this state. EC always reacts with burning licks in any blues song he performs here, and "Hoochie Coochie Man" was no exception. As if that wasn’t enough, Eric drove the crowd wild with his extended guitar into into "Stormy Monday Blues". It was obvious that he was carried away as well, as you could see the amused surprize on the faces of Andy, Steve Gadd, and Nathan as Eric extended the intro beyond the rehearsed start of the song. Once again the solos were a thing of beauty, EC soaring to that place only he can go. The most beautiful part of the experience was that he took the audience with him- you could see it on their faces.
The crowd barely had time to rest when Eric’s guitar growled out the opening riffs of "Cocaine". This fairly ignited the crowd and everyone leaped to their feet roaring approval for this classic. The frenzy the song created lasted until EC quieted them with one of his most loved songs, "Wonderful Tonight". This song is absolutely adored in Dallas. The crowd brought out lighters, sang along, and many couples were slow dancing in the aisles to this beautiful love song. Eric broke into a warm smile everytime he looked at the crowd, and saw the evidence of their obvious approval.
The roller coaster of emotion soared upward again when the slow guitar intro of "Layla" ended with those unforgettable opening riffs. This was the first time in the U.S. since 1992 that Clapton has played the full electric version of that tune and all of the anticipation of the crowd was loosed in the first few seconds of the song. The roar of the crowd virtually drowned out the opening bars of the tune. Once again they were on their feet, clapping along with the music. Eric played the song at a bit slower tempo than I last remember, but his solo growled and echoed throughout the arena. By the time he finished the song, he looked like he had expended everything he had, but his face showed nothing but pleasure. The applause was long and loud. Chants of "EC, EC, EC, EC…." reverberated around the stadium. The cheering was renewed when EC and the band returned to the stage to do "Sunshine Of Your Love", and the hauntingly beautiful "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". The look of absolute delight on most of the faces in the audience during the latter song reflected the fact that most of us have grown up watching "The Wizard Of Oz" on television during the holiday season, and were very appreciative of EC’s version of that song we’ve all learned to love.
I left Reunion Arena a satisfied Clapton fan who felt I was part of a special moment. I will be seeing EC again tomorrow night in San Antonio, and again on Monday in Houston. I can only hope that those shows are half as good as last night. The San Antonio show is in a much bigger arena, and that may do something to kill the intimate mood I felt in Dallas. Only time will tell, and I will share those moments with all of you.
Review by Rod Nunley
First off, I was very disappointed to see that Doyle Bramhall’s sound problems have not been fixed during the tour break. He grew up here, so we know how good this guy really is, and it’s a shame that people elsewhere aren’t going to find that out. Please give him another chance if he comes through your town again.
A couple of songs into tonight’s show, Eric remarked to the audience that he’d been in town for about a week, saying, "We came in early to get some ribs." His comments were telling on two fronts. First, he’d clearly been working on the show with the band, because there were no first-concert glitches. The band was tight, in mid-tour form. Second, Eric was in a good mood. Like most people, he plays best when having fun, and he was clearly enjoying himself. The result was top-notch play on his part.
Eric continues to defy convention in arranging his shows, and it continues to work. He starts off quietly instead of with a bang, plays new stuff early, and changes up arrangements of familiar songs. Yet for the most part, it’s all successful.
The show started with an impressive solo version of "Key To the Highway", and EC’s playing may have been the best he did all night. Finger-picking on a steel-string Martin must have been tough even on the famed Clapton fingers, but he was absolutely flawless. Deft, dextrous, and dazzling for a guy who says his fingers need time to limber up at the start of a show.
The early highlight for me was "Bell Bottom Blues". This isn’t a song he’s played a lot in the past; I’d never seen him play it before. At first, it wouldn’t seem to lend itself very well to an acoustic treatment. But Eric played it with enthusiasm, Although acoustic, it was a hard-rocking arrangement, and recalls his rollicking arrangments of "Change the World". The latter played just as well this time around as on the "Pilgrim" tour.
To be honest, I wish Eric had cut down on the "Pilgrim" material. A slide-less "My Father’s Eyes" was fine, as was "Goin’ Down Slow". But "River of Tears" wasn’t as passionate as in 1998.
As expected, it was when the subject turned to blues that Eric really hit his stride. The blues numbers were absolutely first-rate, and this section provided the second highlight: "Stormy Monday". I don’t know if Eric was inspired by playing the tune in its author’s home town or not, but this song had something extra. It rivaled "Key To the Highway" for best guitar work of the night.
Eric’s closing "greatest hits" section is getting a bit predictable, and apparently is the least appealing part of the show to Eric, too. I got the distinct impression he felt obligated to play these particular songs. He’ll never get away from "Layla", of course (the second part of the song was lackluster), but maybe it’s time to dump "Cocaine", "Wonderful Tonight", and "Sunshine Of Your Love" in favor of something else. He’s got plenty of great material to choose from (Eric, if you’re looking in — "Let It Rain"). I give credit for trying something at least a little different on "Sunshine" — timing the signature riff to the off-beat. Of the "greatest hits" this was the one Eric seemed most interestesd in and played the best.
I wasn’t sure how "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" would come off. A decade ago, it wouldn’t have worked at all, but Eric’s improvement as a singer made this surprisingly effective. A strange choice, but very well-sung.
The core of the band was solid as always. However, I was disappointed that Billy Preston wasn’t featured more prominently. Everyything he was doing was more interesting than David Sancious’ mostly pointless synthesizer noodlings.
Eric himself was fluid and powerful. He may be getting older, but his guitar playing has not suffered at all. He may well be better than ever right now. When he wants to, he can still play inspired and inspiring guitar, and for the most part, he did that in the Dallas show.