Venue: Sazka Arena
Country: Czech Republic
Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar / vocals
Derek Trucks – guitar
Chris Stainton – keyboards
Tim Carmon – keyboards
Willie Weeks – bass
Steve Jordan – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals
The Kick Horns (Simon Clarke – baritone saxophone, Roddy Lorimer – trumpet, Tim Sanders – tenor saxophone)
Robert Cray Band
Robert Cray – guitar / vocals*
02. I Shot The Sheriff
03. Got To Get Better In A Little While
04. Old Love*
05. Everybody Oughta Make A Change
06. Motherless Children
07. Back Home
08. I Am Yours
09. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
10. Running On Faith
11. After Midnight
12. Little Queen Of Spades
13. Further On Up The Road
14. Wonderful Tonight
17. Crossroads (encore)*
Review by Pavel Kobersky
Czechs have waited for Eric for nearly seventeen years. 20th of July was the day – sold out Sazka Arena in Prague, audience well over ten thousand, helped with a lot of Polish fans.
Robert Cray started nearly on time and the crowd has enjoyed his forty-minute set a lot. His music was very intensive as well as pure – as my wife said: "this one would be enough for a great concert".
Ten after nine Eric started with Pretending – I doubted before it could be a good opener, but I was proved wrong. During his first solo whole arena sighed – it was a true historic moment :). Pretending was immediately followed by I Shot the Sheriff which again morphed into first highlight of the evening – Got to Get Better in a Little While.
For a DATD admirer as I am hearing it live with Derek Trucks’ slide licks was a feast. In Old Love Eric and Robert shone, Tim Carmon’s keyboard solo was also pretty good. Motherless Children was another peak for me – although a bit lacking in depth, it was very powerful, especially Eric’s and Doyle’s slide unison.
In the sit down set it was I Am Yours I enjoyed the most – again hearing Derek playing Duane Allman’s part was a treat. The crowd particularly enjoyed Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out – I believe that Unplugged album was the one that brought Czech people to Eric’s music and therefore also here.
In the last block soloing during Little Queen of Spades was a thing to remember. Eric’s immersion helped Wonderful Tonight to make it not too sweet but intensive. Then the famous riff cut the heavy air in the arena. Layla was the true climax of the show and Cocaine was just a first encore then.
The very heavy and powerful Crossroads was the last encore with Robert Cray again and made me thinking whether I’ll see such a quadruplet of guitarists again. Well I won’t mind seeing Eric alone again sooner than in seventeen years.
I enjoyed also the band – Steve Jordan’s groovy and powerful drumming on the minimalistic set, girls did a great job too. Unfortunately the sound was not that good and thus Willie Weeks’ lines and Kick Horns’ riffs were hidden a bit.
It was a great concert, focused on the music itself. As the review in major Czech newspaper stated: "Unforgettable evening".
Review by Alan – Germany
Getting Better All the Time
Full disclosure: I’m a longtime Eric Clapton fan and admirer, but it was the chance to see Eric and Derek Trucks together which motivated me to travel to Prague to see the show. For more on the show from a Derek Trucks fan standpoint see my review on the Derek Trucks Stop.
I had seen the first show in Cannes, France on May 5th so I was curious to see how the tour had developed in two and a half months. Both times I was fortunate to have stood in the 3rd row, in Cannes a few feet to the right of Eric, and in Prague to the left just between Eric and Derek. Generally, the sound in front of the stage isn’t evenly mixed, but the chance to see the musicians’ hands, and follow their reaction to each others playing greatly outweighs that shortcoming.
So what’s changed?
First, this time Robert Cray was on the bill. He’s a terrific addition to the show. He’s an excellent singer with an unmistakable voice and he’s a first rate guitarist. I liked all the songs he did. His ability to make the blues topical particularly impressed me – he tells real stories with feeling. We all accept guys from the suburbs singing about their mojos, but Robert sings about real things, broken relationships, gang bangers, and even a guy who joined the army after 9.11. only to die miserably in Iraq. I encourage everyone to listen carefully to his lyrics. The crowd got a bit restless during the 35 minutes it took to setup again after the Robert Cray Band finished, but it was worth it to see him.
The sound and lightening were significantly better this time because they were using the actual Tour equipment. In Cannes I had been right in front of Eric, and his amp & monitor completely dominated what I heard. Thankfully, in Prague it was not as loud up front. Derek’s amp was a bit more prominent (actually that’s a plus for a Derek Trucks fan), but I could still hear everyone else quite well with the exception of the horn section.
As I had suspected, now the band has developed a routine and the show flows smoothly. Understandably, on opening night in Cannes Eric was not very loose and I noted there wasn’t much interaction between him and the rest of the band. Now things have really changed for the better. Eric seemed to have more fun on stage than anyone else. Eric was completely relaxed, happy, and very much into the music. Eric’s singing continues to amaze me: soulful, fresh, and full of genuine emotion. Eric, and his bass player and drummer (Willie and Steve), remain the heartbeat of the band, full of energy and enthusiasm. They may be the old guys, but they don’t show it at all.
Eric was totally into it. Often Eric played backup licks with his eyes closed when others were soloing, and when someone did something special he would break out in a knowing smile and nod his head in appreciation. One especially noteworthy moment was during Cocaine. Doyle was playing a really raunchy solo and Eric was totally into it, eyes closed, playing along and moving to the music. Doyle noticed it and gave head signals to the other guys to check out Eric. This seemed to inspire Doyle to really put down some hot licks, and then they all got a kick out of watching Eric nod along digging it – he was clearly in another place and when he opened his eyes again it was like a dream had been interrupted.
Eric plainly enjoys and respects Robert Cray. Robert came out and joined the band and after his solo Eric turned and bowed to Robert in admiration. At that moment I almost felt like I was at a guitar festival – four world class guitarists right in front of me trading solos – an unforgettable experience. Eric’s guitar playing is always amazing, but he seemed more fluid than he had been in Cannes, probably the result of being on the road and playing routinely.
Eric, Doyle, Derek and Robert each have a unique style. Eric is very intense, with a crisp clear sound, punctuated with lots of feeling and emotion. He has impeccable taste, and never falls out of a rhythmic groove when soloing. Eric demonstrated that he is a complete master of the blues idiom, be it a driving solo or a soft lead played with incredible finesse. And what an amazingly generous and secure musician he must be to give young musicians like Derek and Doyle more than ample opportunity to shine in front of his audience – and the best part about it is that Eric is clearly having a blast playing with these young guys.
Doyle is a lot of fun to watch on stage. Doyle looks like a rock star right out of Hollywood central casting, and he seemed to be the only person on stage aware of the video cameras. But despite that and his bad-boy persona, musically Doyle is totally a team player and one sees quickly why Eric values his presence on stage. Doyle closely follows what’s going on musically and with his guitar work he lays down a great foundation. Musically he is tasteful, restrained and supportive of the other musicians. If he likes or dislikes something, he clearly communicates it with his facial expressions of eye movements, and he tends to make eye contact with other musicians to convey what he is thinking. Once after a Derek solo Doyle actually stopped playing and applauded. Doyle’s solos tend to have a visceral quality to them and he has a very good voice too. I really liked the changes to the set list since Cannes, but I did wish Anyday had not been dropped. People correctly praise Derek’s slide work on that song, but Doyle’s vocal is also great. I guess Motherless Children is a known commodity and thus a crowd pleaser, but I wish they would have dropped it and played Anyday instead.
Derek Trucks was also much changed this time. In Cannes he seemed to be a bit unsure of what his role on stage was to be, but in Prague he was full of confidence and self assurance. His slide playing on the opening Pretending was simply amazing, and throughout the night he was really mixing it up, trying new things and pushing the envelope (even when playing rhythm guitar). All around me people were nudging each other and dropping their jaws during Derek’s flourishes.
Most slide players tune their guitars in an open chord (an open E in Derek’s case), but switch to a conventionally tuned guitar when not playing slide. Derek does not switch, so it is fun to watch him play chords – he has an amazing reach. I especially liked his solo on Crossroads and I was not alone. Robert Cray came out and joined the band and was standing next to Eric when Derek took his solo. Robert had a huge smile on his face and was clearly knocked out by what Derek was doing. Eric was looking in another direction until Robert motioned to him to check out Derek. Clapton turned and joined Robert Cray in smiling. That was another unforgettable moment.
The crowd up front was very appreciative of all the musicians’ solos, and generally applauded after each. As in Cannes, Chris Stainton’s keyboard solos were real crowd pleasers.
Finally, I’m so thankful to Eric for enduring the rigors of a world tour so that we have a chance hear him live. Let’s all hope Eric puts out a DVD of this tour which captures the magical performances and great chemistry of this band.
Review by Martin Endl
What a great gig at Sazka Arena! Robert Cray Band cranked up the evening and we all knew that it would be an EVENT. After 9:00 p.m. Chris Stainton’s piano overture started powerful and modern sounding version of "Pretending" from the "Journeyman" album.
Unfortunately the sound in the Arena wasn’t so good at the beginning and it took the sound engineer some time to get a well-balanced sound. The Kick Horns, as well as the 2 vocalists, were pushed back by the sound of 3 guitars and the rhytm section.
Eric’s stratocaster had a unique sound. His guitar produced splendid strong tones. It was recognizable that Slowhand is in great form. Then "Pretending" turned to Bob Marley’s "I Shot The Sheriff" and the crammed Arena aplauded. The reagge song was followed by marvellous version of "Got To Get Better In A Little While" which was my favourite from this evening. I was totally impressed by the teamwork of all guitars and vocals. When the song ended, it was time to greet the audience. Eric said "Good evening" and that was half of all 4 spoken words which were said during the show:-) Eric is known to be not such a talkative guy, but all other words are unnecessary anyway.
There was just brilliant music and nothing but the music.
Robert Cray was invited once again on stage to perform "Old Love" with the band. So we could see both authors of this tune side by side. It was also an occasion to hear superb solos by the "southern" guitarist Derek Trucks and the keyboard-player Tim Carmon and also Robert Cray of course. "Motherless Children" was a great opportunity for the guitarist Doyle Bramhall to show his bottleneck abilities when he and Eric cut nice slide duet together.
The acoustic set calmed the audience down so it was possible to hear a pin dropping on the floor. The set began with the new song "Back Home", which was the only one from the new album. It was a pleasant change after the rock tunes. Well-accepted versions of "Nobody Knows You" and "Running On Faith" from the "Unplugged" album ended this part of the show and another "loud" set could begin. "After Midnight", the first J.J.Cale’s song of this evening, sounded like the version from the 70’s. And Robert Johnson’s "Little Queen Of Spades" showed how blues should be played.
And of course – "Wonderful Tonight", "Layla" and "Cocaine"… The first one was accompanied by the lights from lighters and cell phones.. It seems that we live in 21st century:) The highlight of the evening "Layla" had a great final part with splendid Derek Trucks’ guitar riffs sounding like the old licks played by Duane Allman on the original record. It is obvious that Derek was trained by the Allman Brothers Band.
And "Cocaine"!! I have never heard a better version before. Great work of the rhythm section! Steve Jordan with Willie Weeks made fantastic groove. Robert Cray joined the band on stage for the encore "Crossroads" and he sang the first verse and the third verse sharing the microphone with Eric. Wonderful!
This concert fulfilled all my expectations. Eric played and sang with extraordinary energy. It was one of the greatest gigs I’ve ever been to. I hope that the Back Home Tour will come out on DVD so that I could commemorate this evening.. Looking forward to see Eric Clapton once again soon.