Venue: Izod Center
City: East Rutherford
Country: United States
Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Steve Winwood – vocals / Hammond B3 / piano / guitar
Chris Stainton – keyboards
Willie Weeks – bass
Abe Laboriel, Jr. – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals
Opening night of the Clapton / Winwood U.S. Tour.
Note on venue name: From 1981 – 1996, the venue was named the Brendan Byrne Arena. It then became known as the Continental Airlines Arena until 2007. It is now called the Izod Center. Many people refer to it as the “Meadowlands Arena” as it is located within the Meadowlands Sports Complex, which also includes Giants Stadium and a Race Track.
01. Had To Cry Today
02. Low Down
03. After Midnight
04. Sleeping In The Ground
05. Presence Of The Lord
07. Well Alright
08. Tough Luck Blues
09. Tell The Truth
10. Pearly Queen
11. No Face, No Name, No Number
12. Forever Man
13. Georgia On My Mind
15. Nobody Knows You (When You’re Down And Out)
17. Can’t Find My Way Home
18. Split Decision
19. Little Wing
20. Voodoo Chile
22. Dear Mr. Fantasy (encore)
Review by Matthew Coleman / Jericho NY
The general thought is that after a fantastic concert the crowd should be left speechless and as they file out of the arena where the artists performed an awe-struck feeling should be washed over there faces. I disagree. After a great concert the crowd should be extra garrulous, longing to talk with anyone about what they just heard over the allotted concert time. The crowd outside the Izod center in New Jersey after Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood teamed up for the first stop of the fourteen date tour was particularly chatty and all smiles as they walked away from the arena after a true show of a lifetime.
Outside of the arena, the initial conversation among fans was about the set list. Winwood and Clapton did not simply take their set list from their historical Madison Square Garden shows and copy it, but, they re-arranged it and twisted it to fit a perfect night one of the fourteen date tour. They successfully paid homage to Blind Faith’s one album playing several songs from those days when Steve Winwood was practicing in Eric Claptonâ€™s home in Surrey, England. They covered both Winwood’s and Clapton’s illustrious solo history with selections off the back wall of both of their lengthy recording careers. They really played it all with a few surprises even thrown in which sent the crowd into immediate frenzy.
The night started with the noticeable riff of :Had to Cry Today," which shot the crowd to their feet as everyone imitated the guitar playing of both Clapton and Winwood. Winwood shouted out the lyrics with a wide grin as the band consisting of rhythm masters Willie Weeks on bass guitar and Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums, legendary keyboardist Chris Stainton, and skilled back-up vocalists Michelle John and Sharon White, worked proficiently through the first song. After the last note of "Had to Cry Today," the band took a deep breath and with painted smiles on their faces moved to track two of the twenty two track set list. A successful "Low Down," which was also performed number two on the MSG dates, was followed by the first switch from the MSG concerts. J.J. Cale’s slowed down original version of "After Midnight," was performed by the skilled band and this led the way to some amazingly efficient soloing by Eric Clapton. "Sleeping in the Ground," from the Blind Faith days, was followed by an emotional version of "Presence of Lord," which experimented with delicate vocal interplays with Clapton and Winwood which gave the song its extra kick and transported listeners back to the golden days forty years ago. A few blues tracks followed, "Glad," which was performed during the MSG dates, "Well Alright," back from the Blind Faith days, and a surprising appearance of the always classic "Tough Luck Blues," originally by Big Maceo.
The night continued with performances of Clapton’s classic, "Tell the Truth," which was done quite well, "Pearly Queen," and "No Face, No Name, No Number." "Forever Man," which appeared as song three during the MSG concerts made its tour debut in the twelve spot and closed out an incredible opening set. Winwood and Clapton performed a rocking version of "Forever Man," which was significantly helped by the voices of Michelle John and Sharon White. Both were invaluable to the shows sound for wherever vocals may have lacked at Madison Square Garden they were replaced, with strength, here in the Izod Center.
To begin the greatest sit down I have ever heard at a concert, Steve Winwood performed a cover of "Georgia on My Mind," which was sultry as ever and the emotion that was emitted with simply him and his piano and voice was unmatchable. "Driftin" came next and as my friend Josh mentioned after the show, the crowd was even starting to get into it shouting "you play it," during the bluesy song. Not only was the band having a good time, but also the fans were feeling it. An amazing version of "Nobody Knows You When youâ€™re Down and Out," followed and Clapton and Winwood, both on the guitar, put as much feeling into the song as they could.
Then something weird happened. Clapton started fooling around with the guitar and came dangerously close to the chords of "Layla," on his Martin acoustic. So close that he played the song, sending the crowd into an uproarious "YES," and my friend into a craze which almost took off my neck. Acoustic "Layla" was something remarkable. The feeling Clapton put into the guitar mixed with a wonderful ending solo by Winwood on his acoustic, mixed with the fan sing-a-long made for one amazing song. And, how to finish off the acoustic sit down set. Well, "Can’t Find My Way Home," of course. Winwood still sings beautifully and his wonderful voice was expressed in the lyric and music of my favorite Blind Faith classic.
As the sit down set came to a close and the crowd recovered from what they just heard Clapton and Winwood played "Split Decision," and prepared the crowd for the epic adventure of "Little Wing," and "Voodoo Chile," which came next, back to back, and absolutely blew away the crowd. Describing them as powerful performances is an insult. The combination of the rising, emotional solos in "Little Wing," and the heavy drums, belting voice, and guitar precision in "Voodoo Chile," was almost too much to handle. Thankfully, next on the list was "Cocaine," which only provided the crowd with a keyboard bashing solo by Chris Stainton which stood out in the song. The band then exited the stage and after a rousing, long lasting, applause came back to perform "Dear Mr. Fantasy," which was incredible in its own right and just left the New Jersey crowd longing for more music.
A must see concert indeed. A rare set list combination too good to miss. And, best of all, the faces of Clapton and Winwood were priceless. Fans outside the Izod center made sure to mention that this was the youngest they have seen Clapton look in years. Why? He was having fun jamming with his old buddy and a great and intimate band. The band left the stage laughing with each other and saluting the crowd who cheered wildly for them on this tour debut. The biggest story of the night may not be the music or the band, but, the fact that Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood have traveled back in time and have gained the youth and musical prowess of years past.
Review by Flip Brown / Burlington, VT
If Eric, Steve, and the band have some kinks to work out, it sure as hell wasn’t apparent in the first stop of their fourteen date 2009 North American tour. This is what musical friendship and camaraderie looks like and sounds like – big smiles between songs, trading off vocals and guitar licks, and the sheer joy of an evening playing some tunes that they used to do together, and songs that they admire from each other’s catalogs.
I had to good fortune as a teenager to see both Cream and the Spencer Davis Group, so I go back a ways with these guys (my wife says, "You and Eric are best buds – too bad he doesn’t know it!"). The show started with a "Had to Cry Today", the first track on the 1969 Blind Faith album and featured Winwood on guitar. After a couple of Eric’s tunes, they revived "Sleeping in the Ground" with Steve on keys that was added to the 2001 deluxe Blind Faith package. This was followed by another of their classics – "Presence of the Lord" that had Steve and Eric trading melody lines in a call and response on the last verse. The only rough spots were the standing waves and booming low-mids of the boxy IZOD Center. While the mix improved by mid-show, Willie Weeks Fender Precision basses and Aguilar tube head were often lost in muddiness.
Eric had his simple set-up – two Strats, one wah-wah pedal, one control pedal to send the amp output to a Leslie, and the miked Fender 1957 Tweed Twin Reissue. Amazing how many of my guitar-playing buddies try to balance the sound of six or eight pedals, when the master relies on the basics.
Winwood pounded out the opening of the Traffic gem "Glad" on a concert Yamaha piano, and Eric somehow mimicked Chris Wood’s old sax parts on his signature black Fender Strat. "Well Alright" was next, and featured a spooky, psychedelic synth solo from keyboardist Chris Stainton. After a Robert Johnson tune the unmistakable start and stop of Derek and the Domino’s "Tell the Truth" kicked up the rock energy a notch. Drummer Abe Laboriel, Jr., looking like a cross between a mean Sindbad and a happy Buddha, was masterful in driving the band through the night – always rock steady with a stellar command of tempo.
Eric then sat down for the lower key "No Face, No Name, No Number" which showcased Steve’s vocals, followed by "Pearly Queen". Things picked up again with "Forever Man" – a song Steve wanted Eric to add to the list. Then the rest of the band cleared out and Winwood sat alone at the Hammond B-3, setting the organ stops for the church sound, with the rotating Leslie speaker cabinets behind him. He performed a sweet and soulful "Georgia" as a solo piece, and brought the crowd to its feet in appreciation.
An acoustic mini-set followed with Clapton finger plucking the daylights out of his Martin, as the went through "Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out" from the Domino’s sessions, the unplugged version of "Layla", which got a big response (personally I prefer the hard-charging electric version), and the last Blind Faith classic of the evening, "Can’t Find My Way Home", which had the crowd singing out on the title line.
Clapton got wired again, and "Split Decision" from Winwood’s extensive solo library was next. The show built to a crescendo as Eric positively soared on the Jimi Hendrix classic "Little Wing". It was pure Clapton at his best – the exquisite phrasing; the skillfully bent, held, and released notes, and the raw emotion that rang from his strings. As I thought about his role in the evolution of the music that feeds my soul, and of all the folks like Jimi who are no longer with us, poignant tears spilled over and ran down my cheeks shamelessly. Once again the music had swept me up, and once again I was participating in this community ritual that is part of the mystery of being a human being.
A non-wah wah version of "Voodoo Chile" was next, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the experience of playing on Hendrix’s original Electric Ladyland sessions flashed through Steve’s mind. They took it as a blues song, which gave Eric even more space to soar. Steve strapped his mint colored Strat back on for the raucous "Cocaine", which ended the show. A long wait brought the band back out, and "Dear Mr. Fantasy" closed the show.
Clapton was clearly the band leader, giving the visual clues, but Winwood added an energy that I’ve not seen in Clapton’s last few tours. The mutual respect, and the combination of writing, singing, and playing skills made for a powerful yet somehow relaxed evening.
The jazz guys showed us the way –playing well, well into their sixties, seventies, even eighties. The way these two virtuosos played tonight, I see no reason why they can’t continue making magic for a long time to come.
All-in-all a very special evening with two of the greats. Thanks, guys.
Review by Big Tom / Milford CT
I was at opening night and having a great seat to what was a special event. The show started at 8:17 and it was just unbelievable. Eric, Steve and the band walked out ready to play.
Starting off with Had to Cry Today was a great way to start the show. Following with not one, but two JJ Cale tunes made me smile. Lowdown has become a real favorite since I saw Eric and Steve play it last year at MSG. And After Midnight was a real treat! Presence of the Lord – the dual vocals of Steve and Eric was moving. And I like seeing Eric use effects like his Wah-Wah pedal. No Face No Name was great since it is a song I have never seen Eric play.
I can’t go thru every song, but I will tell you that I have never seen Eric play better than he did on Little Wing. Watching him must have made Jimi proud and it gave me chills all over. And Steve’s vocals, guitar and keys make him so versitile and underrated in all three areas. You can tell they were pushing each other and seeing the smiles on their faces made it just a great night.
Abe on drums is killer!!! and Chris’ playing was right on. Willie on bass and the girls made it so complete. There was not one bad song and I wish I could go see another show! I have seen Clapton since 1974 and I have been to hundreds of concerts in my life. This one was in my top 3 of all time! Hey Eric and Steve – do an album together again! Thanks for a great night.
Review by Paige Schector / New Jersey
First show of the 2009 Clapton/Winwood Tour and, once again, it was in my backyard. This time at the former Continental Airlines Arena turned Izod Center, a place that was my home away from home whenmy beloved New Jersey Devils played there.
A few things had changed since the previous tour incarnation. Namely, I had met Mark while hanging with some Clapton friends prior to, during and after his Jones Beach show a year ago. We have been to many many concerts since, but we had never sat together for an EC show.
I considered the MSG shows to be in the upper echelon of concerts I’ve ever seen, and I was expecting a lot this time around. Didn’t know if there would be setlist changes (there was some "tweakage") or how the addition of backup singers would affect the balance (not too harshly as it turns out, but still unnecessary). "Had to Cry Today" was a nice opener, but it wasn’t until the fifth song ("Presence of the Lord") that everything started to come together. Truth be told, it wasn’t a lot like the MSG dates. That had a different vibe, and only "Presence," "Glad / Well Alright," "Pearly Queen" and the first part of "Can’t Find My Way Home" seemed to be in that vein.
A lot of that came from the change in drummers, I feel, from the more retro-sounding Ian Thomas at MSG to the hard-hitting Abe Laboriel Jr. MSG’s show-stopper "Voodoo Chile" took on a more palpable drum feel, even "Little Wing" did as well and the latter featured the most incendiary solo of the night via Mr. Clapton. (It also provided for a couple humorous moments when I flicked a Bic lighter during the song and two different fans approached me to say I was showing my appreciation "old school," like in the days of yore.) By contrast, "After Midnight," "Tell the Truth" and the crowd favorite of the night, acoustic "Layla" were serviceable, but not particularly memorable. The Buddy Miles tribute from MSG, "Them Changes" was changed to one for legendary blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin ("Tough Luck Blues") without missing a beat.
Winwood’s Traffic numbers "Pearly Queen" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy" came off well, and as EC did in his recent Allman Brothers stint, his style is beautifully suited to those numbers. In turn, Winwood delivered some great vocal chops while trading vocals with Clapton on "Forever Man" and even "Cocaine."
EC seemed almost resigned to do his solo number, "Driftin’" even slouching into his seat after Winwood brought the house down with his solo signature song "Georgia on My Mind." But as usual, Clapton punctuated the acoustic version with notes that resonated strongly throughout the building.
The crowd was appreciative throughout, and for the first time since those MSG shows, there didn’t seem to be any conflict between fans who wanted to dance their way through the set and those who wanted to just
sit and soak it all in.
The festivities ended surprisingly … for me at least, when my man proposed following the final notes of "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and the crowd’s roar of approval. After I regained consciousness, I was given a Ring Pop (orange, yummy) and the option to choose my own ring. A most engaging end to a wonderful night at the … OK, I can finally say it … Izod Center.
Review by Marc Bicica / Bayonne NJ
I was fortunate enough to be present for the July 12th 1969 Blind Faith riot, uh, I mean, concert, in NYC. Between then and now I have attended no less than eight Eric Clapton concerts through the years, but have not once, since that Blind Faith show, seen Steve Winwood live.
The concert at Izod Center opened with Had To Cry Today and I could not imagine that forty years had passed in the interim. Where Clapton’s voice has matured, mellowed and in my opinion, improved with age, Winwood’s opening burst sounded precisely note for note the same as I remember: powerful, youthful and full of a brashness and joy that immediately set the stage for a night of excitement, virtuosity, and more than a touch of nostalgia. They mixed up their set with songs from Blind Faith, Traffic, as well as from Winwood’s and Clapton’s solo careers, throwing in a couple of blues standards and a remarkable version of Voodoo Chile. Oh yes, and at one point, left alone on stage, Winwood at the keyboard graced us with a stirring rendition of Georgia on my Mind.
The drummer and bassist who, I’m sorry to say were unknown to me, created a thunderous bottom and a solid platform from which the two stars put on a dazzling display of musical pyrotechnics in a magnificent duel of virtuosos. The encore, for example, was a version of Traffic’s Dear Mr. Fantasy which seemed to threaten to shake the Izod Center to its foundations.
Review by Sam Vona / Highland NY
Last night at Izod represented my 13th set with Clapton since 1998 and it’s pretty high on the list of performances. Something happened for me last night and that is that it’s the first time that the show wasn’t solely about what Clapton was doing. And I think that’s got to do with him not having to front everything with this lineup.
‘Voodoo Chile’ wasn’t about Clapton’s frantic playing but about the way the ensemble went from quiet, superbly careful playing to explosive energy 3 times over the 12 or 13 minutes. Sure, Clapton’s wah-wah solo on ‘Cocaine’ was superb. Winwood’s different angle on the solo was refreshing and Chris Stainton’s left me wishing there was more opportunity for him to shine.
Sure, there were several standout Clapton moments. For example, I have only seen him display the utmost level of care and intensity as he did on ‘Driftin’ last night one time before. It’s like he was living the meaning of the song. That was during Robert Johnson set during the â€™05 tour at MSG. The treatment of ‘Little Wing’ was simply breathtaking.
The drummer substitution was a definitive plus. He’s quite hard hitting which really seemed to drive everyone. Not to diminish the previous drummer. This was just a step-change.
My two gripes with the set list. First, the acoustic treatment of ‘Layla’ felt like pandering to the light FM crowd to me. That treatment has such less spirit than even the most lethargic electric treatments that I found my mind wandering. The second gripe is one change in the set list. That was the exclusion of ‘Them Changes’. While I thoroughly enjoyed their performance of it at MSG last year, its removal left a gap in the set list of a song with such a strong groove. Part of me was hoping they might sub in ‘Got To Get Better In a Little While’. True, their treatment of ‘After Midnight’ was more ‘groovy’ then the totally blistering treatment last year, but, the ‘Them Changes’ groove was definitely missed.
Willie Weeks was too low in the mix. At least on the floor next to the mixing boards. Another reason to add ‘Got to Get Better…’ is so that he can stretch out a little and give us the funky bass solos we so love him to do.
Review by Von Wolff / Chippewa Falls WI
I road my bike from my Hotel across the highway from the Meadowlands, to the best concert performance in my 40 something years of concert going. It was Clapton and Winwood live at the Meadowland’s IZOD Center. The music, lights and video were awesome. I am still singing "Dear Mr. Fantasy" to myself all day at work.
I have always thought of Winwood as a keyboard player but Wednesday night he proved himself excellent on guitar as well. At one point, he sang "Georgia on My Mind" as he performed solo, while kicking the bass pedals on his Hammond B-3. You don’t see bass pedal used very often, outside of church.
Several legs of this sound system hung from the ceiling in a semicircle, creating a very evenly distributed, clean sound. It was not like in the old days where hugh stacks of speakers blocked the view of some people; at this concert, everyone had an unobstructed view. The backdrop was a transparent array of LEDs that created cool patterns alternating with live video. Two huge rear projection screens provided continuous live video with lots of close-ups of Clapton’s hand-work and Winwood’s dazzling fingers on the grand piano or Hammond organ. The live video did not get piped to the LED displays for several songs, but when it did, the first image was of the full length of Clapton’s guitar neck. So what you saw was a guitar neck stretched the entire width of the stage, about four feet high. Stunning!
Clapton’s hands were like the hands of a gun-slinger. After he plays a riff on the high frets of his guitar neck, his left hand comes down the neck, as if he is taking a breath, then his hand comes back up the neck to the location where he wants to start the next riff and releases another exquisite sound from his his amp, expressing yet another musical thought. The thoughts made sentences, the sentences built paragraphs in my mind and it all made continous sense. No breaks, no flaws just communication on a level that only comes from decades of experience in front of huge crowds of music lovers. That is Clapton. His motions, exquisite phrasing so fluid and effortless, full of confidence and experience, it can not adequately be translated into the words on this screen. The skillfully bent, held, and released notes, and the raw emotion that rang from his strings can only be experienced, not described, not videoed not recorded, you had to BE THERE.
It wasn’t until the last song that I noticed that incredible level of confidence from Winwood’s guitar playing on "Dear Mr. Fantasy", as Clapton stood back and encouraged Winwood to jam. At one point the two guitar players did a question and answer kind of duet as the crowd went wild, stimulated by the interaction that seemed like a battle at times. The video guys zoomed in on the two guitar players’ hand-work and mixed between them, once again treating us to the close up views that only great photographers can.
I counted Clapton using only two Strats, as he played one, the other one was being re-tuned by his staff. He used a wah-wah pedal and had his Fender Tweed Twin miked. It sounded great, overdriven tubes creating second order harmonics yet clean when it needed to be. Simple is good. During the sit-down acoustic session, he finger plucked a beautiful Martin that came through the PA crisp and clean, so you could hear his fingers moving on hard strong acoutic strings.
Winwood played an old Hammond B-3 with two Leslie speakers miked to the PA. Then he sat down to a huge black Yamaha grand piano. The video guys were giving us incredible close-ups of his finger work, I was actually getting ideas on how to improve my own technique after 50 years of piano playing, by observing him so closely thanks to the video guys.
This was the kind of musical friendship and camaraderie I felt as I played for my 35 year high school reunion and that was what it reminded me of as I looked at these two old buddies on stage with big smiles, playing some tunes that they used to do decades ago. I’m telling you, this WAS a reunion. I came to the concert by myself but left with a bunch of friends who grew-up in different high schools together. What fun!
Review by Edeard McDonough / Howard Beach, Queens
The show on June 10th was outstanding!! The band was good, and Stevie’s singing was sharp. But, Eric’s playing was frightning! I’ve seen him, including last night 14 times and never, have I seen Eric go off like he did in "VOODOO CHILE"! You swore it was 1968 again. The acoustic set was flawless and Stevie played excellent, in both "LAYLA" and "CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME". The songs "GLAD" and "WELL ALRIGHT" went over smoothly too. It couldn’t have ended better as Stevie sailed with "DEAR MR. FANTASY". These 2 veterans say it all.
Reviewed by Ken Kirsh
I walked into the Izod Center in Rutherford, NJ for the Clapton Winwood concert hoping but not expecting to see a great show. I walked out feeling I actually experienced something quite special.
While both men are in their 60’s they played and sang with the same passion, energy and quality as when they were teenagers. Individually their talents are amazing; together they are staggering. It’s clear, too, that their place in rock is occupied not only by innovation but also a high degree of intelligence and feel.
It has always been about the music for Clapton and Winwood. No fireworks, no wasted motion, no inane remarks or overstated gratitude which would only have cheapened their presentation and conveyed the sense that they actually thought more of themselves than their audience. They don’t talk up or down to you, they simply share what they have, least of which is something to prove.
The set list was as masterfully chosen as the material itself, with great pace and precision, hit after hit. (Truth be told, it was nearly identical to their three show micro-tour at Madison Square Garden last year, before the two decided to turn that short stint into a real tour this year.) Together with Chris Stainton (Keyboards), Willie Weeks (bass) and Abe Laboriel, Jr. (Drums), they delivered solid blues rock tunes that never overstayed their welcome.
Though their voices are very different, they blend well on every tune. They traded solos and even lead vocals within a number of songs which gave the material a fresh sound and demonstrated just why these guys work so well together. It’s hard to argue there’s been a better guitarist/keyboardist pairing in blues, rock or pop in the last forty years.
Their own songs are masterfully crafted and those they cover are arranged and put across with their own inimitable styles. Seeing a one-of-a-kind-performer is something; seeing two one-of-a-kind performers is something else.
I get the impression Clapton is very much in control, the "older brother" as Winwood has described their relationship. The arrangements had a very organized structure to them, very locked-in, enhanced by Stainton, Weeks and Laboriel incredibly tight, musical support, yet there were ample opportunities for improvisation. A kind of control and balance that enhanced the experience.
Those of us who were around to hear Blind Faith’s music when it first came out knew it was special but could never had imagined just how well it would hold up four decades later. (Truth is, those of us who were there probably didn’t think beyond the weekend much less years later.)
Every song was a standout and well played, and the sonic fabric they created, instrumentally and audio-wise, was warm, even and easy on the ears. I don’t think these legendary artists have lost anything and have probably gained.
Seeing them play the Blind Faith repertoire since its release 40 years ago this summer, was less nostalgic than it was natural. Perhaps this is because the idea of the tour was organic, borne of Winwood’s appearance at Clapton’s 2007 Crossroads concert. Without the over-anticipation that surrounds talk of other reunions, there’s little speculation and hype, no pressure or expectation. This tour eventually had to be; it just didn’t have to be talked about. That the NJ show took place just three days after the 40th anniversary of the legendary Hyde Park Concert, added a kind of poetic quality.
Steve Winwood, with too many credits to single any out here, still gets highest honors for playing the most soulful keyboard — whether on piano or organ. Winwood is an alchemist with the Hammond, as evidenced throughout the show and particularly during his unaccompanied and hypnotic performance of Georgia.
Whatever the song, it’s not Winwood’s keyboard technique per se that’s remarkable — while it’s plenty good as it needs to be — as much as the notes he chooses, arriving and departing from each one with equal finesse. What’s really scary though is that he more than holds his own on guitar playing next to one of the greatest icons of the guitar in Eric Clapton. There just isn’t anyone in all of rock music who compares with Steve Winwood’s multi-dimensional fluency and feel on both keys and guitar, depth and breadth of songwriting, and unique high tenor voice that takes you to church, the backstreets and another world all at the same time.
Winwood has been playing "Glad" from "John Barleycorn Must Die" on the Hammond which has been unsatisfying the past several years I’ve seen him. That we got to hear him play it this time on piano, though we did miss the sax parts that were adequately covered by Clapton and company, was a real treat. These are iconic blues piano riffs that still sound like nothing else.
Clapton chose to play a few of the JJ Cale songs he made famous, all of which sounded crisp and with renewed energy (especially Cocaine, which closed out the set). His versions of Hendrix’s Little Wing and Voodoo Child, played toward the very end of the night, were among the jammiest of the night and the times when Clapton really went for it, taking the nearly 20,000 people in the arena with him.
His playing was loose yet precise, very melodic and with just the right amount of technique to say what he wanted to without the overpowering clutter and technique found in so many guitarists — imitators and otherwise. When Eric Clapton plays the guitar, he actually makes you feel something. Is that really so rare these days? I think so.
The unexpected choice of the evening was Winwood’s "Split Decision" (co-written with Joe Walsh) from the 1986 album "Back in the High Life". Overshadowed by the hits on that collection, Grammy-winning Higher Love among them, the band helped Winwood really put across the blue-eyed soul he’s known for in this overlooked gem found toward the end of that album. The song had feel out the ass and was shrewdly placed toward the end of the show, just before the Hendrix tunes.
In a nutshell, these guys rocked the way high quality blues rock should. They work so well as a team 40 years later, it’s as if they never stopped playing together.