Venue: Royal Albert Hall
City: South Kensington, London
Country: United Kingdom
Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Andy Fairweather Low – guitar / vocals
Chris Stainton– keyboards
Tim Carmon – keyboards
Willie Weeks – bass
Steve Gadd – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals
The Arc Angels
Night three of eleven of EC’s 2009 residency at the Royal Albert Hall. This show also marked EC’s 150th solo concert at the venue since 6 January 1987. For historical detail about this milestone, see the EC FAQ entry about the Royal Albert Hall.
01. Going Down Slow
02. Key To The Highway
03. Old Love
04. Anything For Your Love
05. I Shot The Sheriff
07. Lay Down Sally
08. Not Dark Yet
09. Anytime For You
10. Somewhere Over The Rainbow
12. Little Queen of Spades
13. Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
14. Wonderful Tonight
16. Crossroads (encore)
Review by Alex Kernoghan
Despite the fact that tonight was the 150th Show at the Albert Hall for the venue’s resident guitar player, the concert started fairly soberly. The Arc Angels were tight but bland, they did very little to excite and there sound was dreadful causing the bass to be inaudible, and the two guitar sounds to merge into one homogenous noise.
Things did pick up on Eric’s entrance closely followed by the familiar face of Steve Gadd whom it was great to see back on drums. “Going down slow” was a great opener with a superb contribution Eric and a huge finish. “Key to the Highway” was very like the version from “Live at the Fillmore” and then the concert went into a new gear with “Old Love”. “Old Love” was without doubt the highlight and Eric played a longer than average intro with the usual soul and elegance. Then his second solo was simply sublime. It began with a quiet rumble from the lower frets moving swiftly towards the higher notes and then with a huge note Eric sent the roof off the RAH and he played an extended blistering solo that puts this version above any I have ever heard. I will never cease to be amazed by that vibrato and soaring guitar tone nor Eric’s ability like no other guitar player to play a single note and send shivers down the spine. All these things were in that solo in abundance and put a lump in the throat to make it simply awe inspiring.
Next was “Anything for Your Love” which was well executed with two lovely solos the first using wah. “I Shot the Sheriff” continued in the same vein reaching nearly the same heights as “Old Love”.
The acoustic set was nice appealing to the listeners’ sentimental side with both “Lay Down Sally” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. “Not Dark Yet” was fabulous, a great tune that I have loved for years and this was even better that the original.
The last electric part of the set saw the greatest hits come out. The presence of Steve Gadd drove these songs forward and Eric played more flamboyant and audacious solos on “Badge”, “Little Queen of Spades” and “Cocaine” than he has often played in recent years. “Little Queen of Spades” was the highlight of these with stunning solos from Eric the last of which, not for the first time in the evening, sent the hairs on the back of the neck standing up and shivers down the spine. “Cocaine” was a free for all on the soloing front with Andy Fairweather Low and Chris Stainton making great contributions. Finally, Crossroads was a nice encore and a great end.
So anyway on the band I thought all those commenting on Tim Carmon’s efforts in previous reviews were perhaps a little harsh considering that tonight his solos were very listenable although on all but “Old Love” quiet forgettable (besides through years of playing with Eric he now uses alot of Eric’s licks and the main difference is that he is playing them on that horrible little keyboard). As I have mentioned, Steve Gadd’s inclusion seemed to drive the show forward and give Eric a kick up the backside.
I also saw a comment on the restricted demographic of those who attend Eric Clapton concerts in The Times newspaper review of the 17th. On that subject I would like to put this out there: I am 19 year old guitar player and went with my drummer who happens to be black (and about twice my age) and he turned to me half way through and made the point that he could not see a single black person in the audience other than himself. It’s something I’ve never thought about but he said it’s the first time that has happened to him at any gig in a long time and perhaps validates The Times columunist’s comments. Come to think of it, there weren’t that many young guys there either.
Anyway and on a slight less contentious note, despite my age I have been fortunate enough to see Eric on many occasions and this is up there with the best of them with Eric on form. EC, you may be 64 but you are still the best there is and long may that continue.
Review by Tracey Ikerd / Fishers, IN USA
Having planned a London vacation around this concert, naturally I had high hopes of a great show in this most prestigious of venues. Royal Albert Hall did not disappoint nor did the show headliner. After an uninspiring opening performance by Arc Angels, Eric took the stage in his usual unobtrusive fashion. Having just read the London Times’ review of the May 16th show (2 stars out of 5), I half expected Eric and band to go through the motions and deliver a mere passable show. The reviewer however seemed more interested in commenting on Eric’s trousers and the apparent cheekiness of him booking 10+ shows at the hall seemingly at will than he did commenting on the show itself (although he did admit it was flawlessly executed).
Right from the opening chords of Going Down Slow, it was apparent that Eric and band were having a ball. This was by far the best version of this song I have heard. Key to the Highway followed and was a sharp, bluesy version with crisp guitar riffs and solid vocals. Old Love, however was the best song of the night with a blazing guitar solo that ranks right up there with his best.
I saw Eric smile and laugh with his band more than I can ever remember and during the acoustic set, this seemed even more obvious. Eric has not always connected with the crowd when I have seen him and I attributed that mainly to his overall style. I have seen him come onstage, say hello, offer a few thank you’s and say goodnight while saying virtually nothing else. Tonight, the entire crowd was smiling with him and it was apparent he was relaxed and having a ball. While I prefer Layla as an electric crescendo to a EC concert, this unplugged version was nice and highlighted a solid acoustic set. The Times reviewer shredded the choice of Not Dark Yet by Dylan to close the set, but I found it to be delightful (perhaps because I simply LOVE the song).
The last portion of the concert was highlighted by excellent keyboard and piano solos and an impressive guitar solo by Andy Fairweather Low … this brought a strong round of applause by the crowd. The only low point was a lackluster version of Wonderful Tonight (I have to agree with the Times reviewer here) that seemed rushed. That aside, the closing version of Cocaine was worth the price of admission. After the Crossroads encore, myself and those around me were clamoring for more but it was not to be. Eric accepted an award from the Royal Albert Hall for his 150th show and commented that he hoped for 150 more.
Myself and those around me agreed that Eric was at his best tonight and delivered one of the best performances I have ever seen. This just whet my appetite for the United States tour with Steve Winwood starting very soon.