Venue: Ford Amphitheatre
City: Tampa Bay
Country: United States
Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar, backing vocals
Chris Stainton – keyboards
Pino Palladino – bass
Ian Thomas – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals
Robert Randolph & The Family Band
This was the opening night of a 27 date Summer Tour. Eric’s band for this summer tour had both new personnel and some familiar faces.
Robert Randolph – pedal steel *
01. Tell The Truth
02. Key To The Highway
03. Hoochie Coochie Man
04. Little Wing
05. Double Trouble
06. Don’t Knock My Love
07. Outside Woman Blues
08. Nobody Knows You
09. Rockin’ Chair
10. Motherless Child
11. Travelling Riverside Blues
12. Running On Faith
13. Motherless Children
14. Little Queen of Spades
15. Before You Accuse Me
16. Wonderful Tonight
18. Cocaine (encore)
19. Crossroads (encore) *
Submitted by Andy Zwick / New York City
[Ed. note: Andy Zwick has been a long-time contributor to Where’s Eric! Magazine and subscribers will be familiar with his insightful and hard-hitting reviews from past tours (check out his Winwood / Clapton MSG Shows review in Issue 40). Here are Andy’s brief impressions of opening night and answers to some questions sent to him by WE! Editor Tony Edser.]
For now here are the answers to the four burning questions you’ve got for me: yes, yes, no, and yes. And the questions are:
(1) Was Eric’s playing as spirited as it was in February at Madison Square Garden?
(2) Did the new rhythm section equal or exceed the Weeks / Jordan machine?
(3) Did Eric keep "Voodoo Chile" in the set?
(4) What about "Double Trouble"?
Now that I have your attention, here are a few additional thoughts:
As the reviewer who griped about Eric’s repertoire for most of the late 1990s and early 2000s, let me be the first to say that any set which begins with classic Dominos (Tell the Truth), Freddie King (Getting Ready version of Key to the Highway), Muddy Waters (Hoochie Coochie Man), Jimi (Little Wing), and Otis Rush (Double Trouble) exceeds all expectations.
Eric was on fire from the outset and the pace did not let up. Doyle’s playing was tremendous. Each successive tour since 2004, he and Eric have reached a higher level of comfort alongside one another and the reward for us is more vigorous interplay. Simply put, they really jam.
Beyond the five blockbusters mentioned already, other highlights were Outside Woman Blues (Doyle arrangement, like at Crossroads 2007), Motherless Child, Travelling Riverside Blues, Motherless Children, and Little Queen of Spades.
Of the two surprises in the set, Don’t Knock My Love and the acoustic Rockin’ Chair, the former fared best.
The crowd in Tampa was receptive and energetic. The musicians were also in high spirits. Eric, Doyle, and the rest of the band ended the first night of their 2008 tour with expressions of joy, flashing smiles to one another and to an audience that was captivated by their performance.
Submitted by Frankie / Tampa Bay, Florida
Just got back in from the show … and what a show. EV-ER-Y-THING … from the set list, to the band, the soundmen and balance … professionalism at its best. Clapton is at the top of his game … phrasing (guitar and voice), tonalities, timing … incredible mastery. See him hear him on this tour!! Hats off to Chris Stainton, too, who’s solos and ever-present backup artistry display what keyboard is all about. We spen last night (Friday) with B.B. King in Clearwater and tonight with Slowhand. All the best students someday go beyond the masters, generation to generation, fathers to sons. Blessings to them both for all the depth of passion, all the dedication to our blues tradition.
Submitted by Ross Bartow / Tampa Bay, Florida
Eric set aside the "soft rock" playlist in favor of driving and acoustic blues. Most songs were from the 60s and 70s and did not disappoint the over 15,000 in attendance. Doyle Bramhall II on guitar and Chris Stainton on keyboards gave tremendous solos leading into Eric’s magical solos. Music critics will have to think twice before questioning his playlist and ability to deliver into his fifth decade as a "guitar god". After this show … is’nt it time for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to induct Eric for the fourth time as a member of Derek and the Dominos?
Submitted by Tony / Tampa, FL
Eric Clapton kicked off his 2008 tour Saturday night in Tampa with a blues-filled set that really pleased this fan as well as the 15,500 in attendance. I’ve been able to see Eric several times at both Crossroads Festivals (Chicago and Dallas), the Cream Reunion performances and on several of the past tours. Unlike his recent past tours, he is playing a selection of songs steeped in blues history instead of hits, which is what is so great about his Crossroads Festivals. Eric showed off his blues chops for a solid two hour performance that left the crowd wanting more. Ending the show with the classics Layla, Cocaine and Crossroads. Looks like another great summer tour; enjoy it! Hopefully we will get one more crossroads festival out of eric and his friends next year.
Submitted by Scott Cavell / Largo, FL
I went to the Tampa performance last night. I really can’t say that I was very happy with his show last night. His concert started with a front band that played for about an hour before Clapton came on stage.You need to know that this tour is really a Blues show. Other than Layla, he really didn’t play any of what I would consider the favorites of mine until the encore. He played Crossroads and Cocaine. No Badge, Pretending etc. Just thought concert goers should what they are paying the big bucks to hear.
Submitted by Molly / FL
It was the 5th time I have seen Eric Clapton and it was so fantastic to hear him play mostly blues again! I saw his concert "Nothing But the Blues" in the past and feared that that would be it. Eric Clapton played last night like he played years ago. His age has only added class to his performance and it shows that Eric will always have the talent and consistency in his performances that we all love. What a wonderful evening. I hope he receives emails like this to know how much his fans appreciate him.
Submitted by Donald Gibson / St. Petersburg, FL
Considering the diversity and scope of his career, Eric Clapton could – with minimal effort – deliver a concert chock-full of radio hits and popular album cuts from his catalog. There’s certainly an abundance of such material to mine, yet ostensibly and repetitively trying to please the most casual of fans often comes at the expense of the artist’s own passion. To his credit and to the benefit of his audience, Clapton treated over 15,000 at Tampa’s Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday night to music that most resonates with him – namely the blues, in its various shades and expressions – which translated into a stirring, and at times invigorating, two-hour performance.
In just the first three songs – Tell The Truth, Key To The Highway, and Hoochie Coochie Man – Slowhand suggested that a blues-rich evening lay in store. With back-to-back shots of Little Wing and Double Trouble to follow, he obliterated all remaining speculation. He capitalized on an aggressive new rhythm section consisting of bassist Pino Palladino and drummer Ian Thomas which suited the thick and gritty tones of songs like Outside Woman Blues and Before You Accuse Me. Such a solid foundation underscored Clapton’s intense guitar work, as on Motherless Children and on a potent cover of the Wilson Pickett gem, Don’t Knock My Love, which resounded especially strong. Guitarist Doyle Bramhall II provided ample complement to Clapton’s chords and riffs while keyboardist Chris Stainton seamlessly filled out the sound.
During a sit-down segment, Clapton alternated between electric and acoustic guitars, offering inspired renditions of songs that included Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Motherless Child and Running On Faith, the latter yielding a most appreciative ovation.
Far from seeming compulsory or halfhearted, Clapton ultimately rewarded the audience with some of his most familiar works, as Wonderful Tonight preceded Layla to close the main set. He returned to the stage to deliver a raucous version of Cocaine before barnstorming through Crossroads, which featured opener Robert Randolph on pedal steel.
While not one of music’s most predictable live acts, Eric Clapton is among its most sincere, which justifies – even when he plays rather obscure material – the deference afforded him by his audience. On this night, he summoned a thrilling performance by focusing on what he felt rather than what he felt obligated to play.
Submitted by John (JP) and Anne Palmer / Phoenix, AZ
Flew into to Tampa on Friday night from Phoenix, AZ and joined 15,500 of our closest friends at Ford Theater for the kickoff of the ’08 North American and European Tour. It was as if we had stepped into a Blues Time travel machine. Eric went back to the roots of his musical influence and he took us with him. Never have we been so fortunate to be a part of the the songs performed on Saturday night. (Tell the Truth. Motherless Child, Hoochie Coochie Man, Outside Woman Blues, Wonderful Tonight, Little Wing, Layla, encores Cocaine and Crossroads) Anne and I have concluded that each show that we see is different in its own way. I can only guess that the music will get better as the tour goes along. Everyone is in for an enjoyable time. Now we can only hope that he heads to the west coast after Europe.
Submitted by Amy / Sarasota, FL
I have always wanted to experience Eric in the flesh and last night was it. Seeing a Clapton concert was on my bucket list of things to do before I died and he did not disappoint. He was amazing. He can truly make a guitar sing like no one else can. With age, he seems to have relaxed and seems to absolutely enjoy what he is doing. I can honestly say that the two hours that he played felt like 15 minutes. He is a bluesman extraordinaire and I was absolutely privelged to have been in the audience last night.
Submitted by Coleman Taylor / Cocoa Beach, FL
This EC show was Rock and Blues.He is the Strat Cat. I loved it. The show at Ford Amphitheatre ,Tampa was a guitar players dream, pure Eric ripping on the guitar, no fluff. Just plan and simple rocking and blues guitar. The stage has a nice back drop that brings the band in closer and intimate. Eric went right into the l songs no time between them, no talking. Eric and the band looked they were have a good time and I have never see Eric walk around the stage so much.
The sit down part of the show was just so good.Eric played 6string, 12string and the electric.The video for the show was directed very well, like the Crossroads shows (I went to both of them) no MTV stuff here, on there hands and guitars or faces when singing. The sound system was really great: clean,l oud,and clear, also good projection on the backdrop. I have seen EC for 40 years. I loved the band with Derek Trucks, I would have to say this is just E.C burning on the guitar and that’s what I want to see.
The show was about 2 hours. It is a must see show if you love guitar playing and EC. Robert Randolph was a good choice for opening and the Crossroads jam was a treat. I loved Little Wing.
Submitted by Jim Paterson / Bradenton, FL
Last time I saw Eric live was 30 years ago back in Glasgow, Scotland and man, he is probably better now than he was back then. This was a 2 hour guitar lesson for any aspiring guitarist. Kudos to the band and great to see Crossroads with Robert Randolph – my highlight of the evening. Great concert!
Submitted by Rob Nanney / U.S.
My girlfriend and I attended the Clapton show. The first for her, the third for me. I must say that the show was amazing. If you were expecting a lot of Clapton hits, this wasn’t the show for you. But how could you not love the bluesy, fluid powerful riffs; backed by a solid rhythm section. Clapton’s playing was precise, clean and very tasteful. A few treats included a soulful solid Little Wing – a nice treat as the sun set to the right side of the theater as a nice breeze blew through the seats. We were treated to several acoustic numbers with a serene, yet building rendition of Running on Faith. Dueling slides warmed the Florida air even more during Motherless Children, a song I’d not heard in quite some time. Yeah there was a lot of blues, but blues is Clapton, and he’s a master. The sound mix was excellent and the night was ended with an absolutely screaming hot three way lead between Clapton, Bramhall and Robert Randolph on steel petal slide. Fantastic!
Submitted by Jim / St. Petersburg, FL
The show in Tampa as stated before was a blues tribute. I wish that would have been known prior to my upgrading of tickets. Yes, I am a die-hard Clapton fan, seen him a dozen or more times. But I want to hear him play the songs that made him a commercial success, guess that makes me uncool. Unlike many of the reviews, I got the feeling the crowd was not pleased. Looking up at the lawn there was no energy. All in all a very disappointing show.
Submitted by Rob Hudson / U.S.
What a great show!!! This was the 8th time I’ve been able to see Slowhand and he hasn’t slowed down a bit. His playing was as good and powerful as I have ever seen. Loved the setlist and my personal highlights were Double Trouble and Motherless Children. The rhythm section sounded as though they have been on tour for months. I had the most incredible seats. 3rd row center stage.
The only thing that i was really disappointed with was the snobby and lazy fans in the front sections. I was standing and trying to enjoy the show. I had never had the opportunity to have seats like that. I wanted to really enjoy the show and I was hit with ice numerous times and yelled at for standing, singing and dancing. Last time I checked, that’s what the shows are all about. That was very unfortunate, but nothing can taint the memories I will forever have of seeing Eric that up close!!! Keep up the great work on the website!!!
Submitted by Michael J / Liberty, WV
My wife and I were quite pleased with this kickoff nite of his 2008 tour.Traveling many distant miles I have had the pleasure of seeing EC at various venues across the country. 7 to be exact, the last being CR2 in Chicago last summer. The Tampa show was excellent. He and his band were spot on, pulling some gems out of the closet that even the most ardent Clapton fans probably havn’t heard in awhile. Eric soared thru solos and hs band mates (as usual) were awesome. Doyle played with great fire as his sideman. And Chris’s solos on the keys are always fantastic! RRFB opening the show is a great choice for an opening act. We are lucky enough to be seeing EC up in Cleveland later this month.
Submitted by Peter Ryan / Anchorage, AK
Down in Tampa from Alaska on business and I find out EC is playing! What a nice break from the long Alaskan winter! We got good seats, center, real close. What would he do? Glad to see a smaller band than usual, means more EC to me! The lights dimmed at about 8:45 and there he was,longer hair than usual and a little grayer. Nice and warm in the arena with a cool breeze wafting thru occasionally.
"Tell the Truth" to start – shades of Chicago, 1970, my second show. This was show number 21 for me and I must say, he’s at the top of his game.Strong, clear and confident, he took command of the stage and arena. By "Little Wing", I was in tears from the raw emotion of it and absolutely stunned to see it from so close. The sit down set was very satisfying, with "Running on Faith" a highlight. "Motherless Children" blew me away! More tears, this time, of pure joy! It was summer of ’74 again! "Double Trouble","Outside Woman’s Blues","Layla" – killer show, searing EC solos, solid backing band. Good lights as always. Fun to see the age range, with children and I suppose, even some grandkids in attendance.
Well worth the trip from Alaska, he just keeps getting hotter! Great birthday present, which was 3 days earlier. I first saw Eric with Cream, almost 40 years ago! He’s even better now!
Submitted by Judy / Brandon, FL
From the first note of "Tell the Truth" I knew we were in for a fantastic show. Clapton performed many of the Derek and the Dominoes songs that I remember from the early 70’s and to tell you the truth (pun intended)…I never thought I would hear him play them live. The standards such as "Layla" and "Cocaine" were played with so much fun and energy that even though we’ve all heard these songs a million times they never grow old. The same can be said of Clapton, who played for 2 solid hours and didn’t stop between songs…each segued into the next with flawless precision. To those of you who have tickets to the tour…have a great time!
Submitted by David Kessler / FL
The Tampa show was superb. A good sample of the EC catalog – some from Cream, Derek and solo with emphasis on the blues. We were also fortunate to have seen Bruce Springsteen in Tampa on April 22. So two big concerts in about 10 days. The comparison I make here is not "better" or "worse" but just my observation of the differences and appreciation of both. "The Boss" was energized by the audience and by members of his band. The band members interacted with each other and with the audience. They all seemed to be having a good time with one another and in performing. Springsteen’s set list was not fixed in stone. For example, the list called for "Spirit in the Night" but The Boss "called an audible"…holding up both hands, all ten fingers spread wide, and the band moved into "10th Avenue Freeze Out." The Boss recognized the individual solos and when it was over, introduced the band. In between songs there was comment and during the songs, Bruce moved around and greeted the audience on all sides of the stage.
EC is different. While The Boss takes energy from his audience and there is a genuine feeling of collaboration, EC gives the audience permission to watch him work. And his work is at such a high level of technical, creative, and artistic music, that the audience feels privileged to be included. There are no comments to the audience other than an occasional "thank you" between songs. There is no apparent interaction or acknowledgment of the band, except for Chris’ keyboard solos and there are no band introductions. The transition between songs was seamless even for the "sit down session". It appeared to me that the only joy outwardly expressed by EC was when Robert Randolph joined for "Crossroads". EC sets his standards and meets them. One goes to an EC concert not for the showmanship, but solely for the music. And the music is just great.
My favorites of the night were Outside Woman Blues, my all time favorite Running on Faith, Traveling Riverside Blues and Rocking Chair which I had not seen before. In my view, Wonderful tonight was the only weak selection, but I guess he has to include it because some expect it. Personally , I think it is time to put it away. Seeing EC is always an outstanding event for me and three days later, the music is still in my head. Great show!
Opening was Robert Randolph and the Family Band who also opened the 2004 tour. Their set was tight, fun and too short.
Submitted by Richard Sutton / Indianapolis, IN
I was very fortunate to have been able to make it down to see the Tampa show last Saturday night. This was the 23rd Clapton show for me and ranks at the top of the list. Eric’s singing and playing were inspired and his set list was exceptional. It was evident that he was having a great time and really enjoying playing this mix of songs with such a talented group of exceptional musicians. Like a fine red wine, Eric just gets better and better with time. I took a buddy (who is younger and had not seen Eric in concert before) to this show and now he understands why I named my dog Layla and my son, Derek. No synthesizers, no overkill on the lighting, no loud distortion just great music by the greatest rock / blues guitarist of all time.
Submitted by Nick / Tampa, FL
For most of the show I had the impression EC was just going through the motions. I left with a lingering disappointment. Maybe if he had extended the pre-encore build-up with Badge and Sunshine of Your Love or something.
I love the blues so the selections he played were not a problem for me. I was especially happy to here Key to the Highway, but some of the tunes definitely begged for some blues harp onstage. The band, other than keyboards, seemed a bit sluggish or not altogether, which makes sense as this was the opening night of a new leg of his tour with new band members, but I expected a tighter bass and drums and just a tighter overall band. Anyone who saw Springsteen recently or Dylan’s extraordinary band will know what I mean.
I agree 100% with David Kessler’s observations (above) comparing the Springsteen show to this one. I would add that seeing Clapton play the blues always reminds me of a British gentleman putting down his cup of tea and playing – I hardly get the feeling the playing is challenging him or inspiring him, except for a few numbers, namely Double Trouble, when he stepped back for the main solo and closed his eyes and pulled some incredibly fluid riffs off his Stratocaster, and Motherless Children.
I also play guitar and really enjoyed the emphasis on the solos and the camerawork for the big screens, showing his fretwork up close. I last saw EC in the 1970s after his rehab and he played a show in Florida with Santana. They came out together and did Little Wing, and unfortunately EC was not playing that well at the time.
Over the years, especially with the release of From the Cradle, his live performances have featured much more of his solo work, which is what most people paid up to $115 to hear Saturday night.
One song that crept up and bit me was Wonderful Tonight. It sounded good in the 1970s but has sounded a bit schmaltzy since then. However, when he started playing it, I bet I was not the only one in the crowd thinking about their partner back in the 1970s and all the years in between. I had a similar feeling with "Running on Faith" – what a beautiful song. I am glad he did not do Tears from Heaven. It would not have fit the show. The sit down music was entertaining and a bit different, listening to EC sing something that Louis Armstrong used to sing (Rocking Chair). He reminded me a little of Leon Redbone!
The opening of the show was really nice. With two backing vocals, the band evoked the Dominoes sound for Before You Accuse Me, but there was little passion in the performance. The next four numbers seared with some of EC’s finest playing of the night. I just wanted so much more. Maybe I should not have seen the Winwood set lists, opening with Had to Cry and closing with Can’t Find My Way Home – that is what many would have loved to hear.
One day I would love to see him go into extended jams (preferably with Steve Winwood) and to explore jazz. I drove home with the impression he needs to challenge himself more in order to find more passion in his playing. What do I mean by passion? Ask those who saw BB King the night before in Clearwater – that man sends electric prayers to heaven when he wails. I want EC to raise the hairs on my forearms! I want my $115 worth!
Submitted by Cheryl and Tino / North Port, FL
If this is any sign of Eric’s current tour, then I want to be at every stop! His performance is flawless. Class, Class, Class! Wouldn’t you just know it, Eric has a way of picking the best! His accompanying artists are top of the line: Doyle Bramhall II – guitar and backing vocals fits right in, Chris Stainton – keyboards, a class act all of his own, Pino Palladino – bass, who is well noted and having played with many "Greats" and famous for his fretless bass guitar, Ian Thomas – drums, Michelle John – backing vocals Sharon White – backing vocals His sound system was perfect makes me want to crawl right into those speakers and live the rest of my life there. His set list was enough to accommodate all ages, he certainly gives us all of our money’s worth with a show that lasts 2 hours and 50 sweet minutes!
[Ed. Note: Eric Clapton’s set runs about 2 hours, with opening act, with Robert Randolph and a short break to move equipment between sets, the entire evening lasts just under 3 hours]