Venue: Vector Arena
Country: New Zealand
Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar / vocals
Chris Stainton– keyboards
Willie Weeks – bass
Abe Laboriel, Jr. – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals
Eric Clapton's 2009 "Winter" Tour - which took place during February and March - took him down under to Auckland, where it was late summer, for one performance in New Zealand at the Vector Arena.
01. Tell The Truth
02. Key To The Highway
03. Hoochie Coochie Man
04. I Shot The Sheriff
05. Here But I'm Gone
06. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad
08. Travelin' Alone
09. That's Alright
10. Motherless Child
11. Running On Faith
12. Motherless Children
13. Little Queen of Spades
14. Before You Accuse Me
15. Wonderful Tonight
18. Crossroads (encore)
Review by Matt Greenop / The New Zealand Herald
Reprinted with the author’s permission
Eric Clapton at Vector Arena
The man they call "Slowhand" hit the stage in quiet fashion, wandering out under a spotlight and busting out a finger-loosening lick before a semi-enthusiastic "Good evening" led into the Derek and the Dominoes oldie Tell the Truth.
Eric Clapton is known for not being the chattiest of deities and it was obvious from the get-go that this was all about the business – no small talk, it’s time to play.
Stomping blues made up the early part of a setlist carbon-copied from his recent week-long gig at the Budokan in Tokyo.
The first real stormer was Hoochie Coochie Man, giving his dream-team band a chance to flex and giving a first taste of Doyle Bramhall’s more-than-capable guitar work.
Next up, monster hit number one, I Shot the Sheriff, which showed how easily Clapton can build and turn a crowd, twisting the song from a mere whisper and back up as only a well-seasoned frontman can do.
After a tender render of Why Does Love Got to be So Bad, the electric Stratocaster was replaced with an acoustic guitar for the loping shuffle of Driftin’, (with a clap-along that proved not all of the audience were musos), followed by the metronomic Travelling Alone.
Then Running on Faith was slipped into the mix, and the crowd sensed the chart-toppers were coming.
Guitar geeks got the gold that they were after in spades. The mix showed how much Vector’s sound has improved; every rake, mute and pick stroke was perfectly audible.
Solo after effortless solo left players in the audience asking what the market price is for a soul down at those crossroads.
Little Queen of Spades gave the band another chance to really show their chops; ultra-experienced touring bassist Willie Weeks (the Stones, Roger Water and many more) was an utter standout.
The ultra-recognisable riff that pins down classic radio staple Wonderful Tonight was met with a unified scream from the near-packed arena. This was backed up with Layla, which in turn was hijacked by an utterly incendiary Cocaine.
One encore was all Auckland’s worshippers were going to get – the Robert Johnson blues masterpiece Crossroads.
A couple more would have been nice, Mr Slowhand, considering the ticket prices went as high as a near-criminal $399.
Review by Rob / Auckland
Not one of Eric’s best. Where were the extended plays? Where were the solos?
Tonight’s "Wonderful Tonight" was not! Eric missed a few notes in the intro and seemed to cut the song short once he’d sang through it. It was if he was perfoming it because it was expected, but this version had no soul, no feeling – nothing – no interest almost. This must have been the shortest and worst ever live perfomance of this song.
At Clapton concerts you expect to hear extended versions with solos by the various band members. Tonight, we had three exciting solos by Chris Stainton but that was it. Doyle Bramhall had a couple of short solos, but nothing exciting, and nothing like he did at the Mission concert*. Willie Weeks had one brief 60 second solo that wasn’t even acknowleged by Eric. He didn’t even introduce the band members.
The highlights were "Hoochie Coochie" and "I Shot the Sheriff" with decent, if short, solos by Eric along with the only extended number, "Queen of Spades." All other numbers were the standard studio version length. "Layla" was uninspiring and showed that he needs a good slide guitarist to get some life into this classic, cos it failed tonight. The second half after Chris Staintonss bridge seemed shorter than usual – again no solos or extended version. He finished with a listless "Cocaine" that got a typical audience roar at the start, but failed to get a decent chant of "Cocaine" from the audience at the very end of the song. All other Clapton concerts I’ve been to and seen on DVD the audience are up and jumping through the concert ending numbers such as "Layla," "Cocaine" etc., but tonight the audience around at the sides and front of the hall just sat through these songs and the encore. I’ve never been to a concert before where the front rows have sat through the last three songs of the show, especially such classics as played tonight.
What Eric did tonight was ok, just ok, but that’s all. Nothing adventurous, no soaring solos. Sorry Eric, but you’ve got to do better.
* Ed. note. This is a reference to Eric Clapton’s concert at the Mission Estate, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand on 27 January 2007.
Review by Allen Blackwell / Papamoa, New Zealand
I attended the concert in Auckland with the hope of getting a good view of my hero of the last 35 years and hearing some excellent sounds. I was not disappointed. Even though I was back in row 11, Vector Arena put me only about 15 metres away from the man and his band. EC ripped through a no- nonsense event. Superb playing by the whole team, but EC was on fire on a couple of numbers especially, "I Shot the Sherriff" and "Hoochie Coochie Man". I took my 15 year old son (his first concert) and he was absolutely blown away.
I last saw EC live 2 years ago and even though he’s approaching 64 years old, he still has what it takes to entertain and bring goosebumps to a real fan. EC, I thought your tour in 2007 would be the last chance I got to see you but here you are two years later and I hope to see you again soon. Simply excellent.
Once again, my banner says it all "EC Still a God."
Review by Tricia Colling / Nelson, New Zealand
I have been lucky enough to see Eric many times over the last 20 years in the UK, but don’t remember him ever looking so happy … smiling and laughing with the band … especially at the end when all the band lined up and bowed repeatedly…with lots of laughter. They really looked as if they all had a blast.
I agree it was bizarre for me to be "forced" to be seated during numbers that begged you to be up and dancing. Maybe this reflected the sedate and generally greying age of many of the audience! The poor woman in row 8 on the floor (who wasn’t very tall at all) who tried to stand and dance from the beginning was subject to quite a bit of abuse from her rear neighbours and virtually dragged back to a sitting position! She had my sympathies!
The band were superb and Abe on drums laughed his way through the show with an energy and a presence that had to be seen. Chris on keyboard did some captivating solos with energy defying his years. The whole band gelled superbly and Eric was totally magic. Lee Dickson, Eric’s devoted Guitar Tech could be seen working hard on the sidelines.
It was my son’s (18) first concert and he was totally awed. Everyone around us on the floor had their faces lit up with big grins and for many it must have been a "first time Eric experience". Yes, one encore was at least three numbers too short. We left SO WANTING MORE! Australia ENJOY …you are in for a great night!
Review by Ross Jensen / New Zealand
Sorry, Eric, I tried. I tried to show my appreciation of the amazing show you put on Wednesday night, to respond in some small way to your two hours of stunningly energetic and soulful playing.
However, even dancing whilst sitting down and standing to applaud proved too much of a distraction for the block of VIPs seated directly behind us and our shouting between songs evidently disrupted their (I suspect clinically obsessive) checking of their BlackBerries. Twice they sent venue staff to ask my partner and myself to "calm down" and "stop dancing," threatening to evict us from the show and eventually moving us to new, much further away seats against the back wall. Vector Arena staff were polite but firm in their insistence that we in no way visibly enjoy the show.
It was a sad, sad thing to see Eric Clapton playing his heart out on stage whilst twelve thousand people watched in what can only be described as a state of coma. By the end of the thirdsong I was beginning to suspect the Arena of sedating the crowd en masse via drugs concealed in the tiny $4.60 bottles of water that everyone was forced to buy.
An even sadder thing was spending weeks saving in order to find the $600 necessary to get tickets for me and my partner and then being moved to worse seats at the insistence of a group of well-dressed forty-somethings who would evidently much rather have been negotiating leveraged buy-outs. Having been to – and enjoyed – concerts where it is quite normal to come out bruised and battered and often missing essential items such as wallets, clothing, and teeth, I found it amazing that whilst watching this show it was considered excessive to dance with one’s upper body (as the lower part had to stay in the seat) or shout one’s applause.
Many have complained about the single number played during the encore – frankly I think it was extremely kind of the man to give us one at all, given that
for virtually the entire concert the audience seemed to have forgotten he was there.
So, Eric, on behalf of the rest of the crowd and of Auckland I apologise. Your music was flawless, your show a work of art, and it certainly deserved better.
Review by Michael Haswell / Huia, West Auckland
Well I would like to put my hand up to say I loved every minute of it, I am a huge Clapton fan and have been on a staple diet of Clapton for the past few years. (Almost driving my wife crazy I assure you.)
I had my first chance to see Eric live at the Mission in 2007 and like many, thought it might be the last time we saw Eric for a while. When I heard Eric was coming back, I scrapped every penny together to buy a Platinum ticket. The most money I have ever paid or will ever pay for a ticket. But in the name of Clapton, a small price to pay for a good seat.
I thought the show was great although there were only a handful of extended solos. Every solo Eric played was unique and never quite the same as what I’d heard before and he sure played with plenty of soul. I think we got to see a well rehearsed show (obviously from the Tokyo shows). Everyone played really well and had the set down super clean. Chris was ripping it up on the keyboard. Bramhall definitely proved he can play a wide range of music and is sounding more and more like Clapton for every year they play together, with a Albert King / Duane Allman kind of feel to it.
You could feel Clapton starting to turn the heat up on the second song, "Key To The Highway," which had a very nice solo. Then, "Hoochie Coochie Man" stepped it up big time. It had a strong flowing solo showing some nice licks and confident playing. This was followed by "I Shot the Sheriff". By now, I felt like I was at Eric’s "Live in Hyde Park" 1996 concert (which I love) even the ending of his "I Shot The Sheriff" solo sounded almost exactly the same as the Hyde Park version. But by God, the way he slowly built the solo up was a beautiful thing to watch and listen to and then let it rip for 2-3 rounds which got everybody screaming and clapping with joy.
"Here But I’m Gone" I thought was great although I hadn’t really heard it before. Lovely solo which reminded me of his 80s / early 90s style of playing. "Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad" was wicked and together Eric and Doyle played beautiful melodic notes meshing together perfectly with Clapton pulling out a wonderful solo which lasted awhile. Loved it!
The acoustic part of the concert was a real treat. There’s nothing like some good old fashioned acoustic country blues. "Driftin’" was a great start followed by "Travelin’ Alone" and "That’s Alright." Then Eric changed the sound altogether with the twelve string "Motherless Child" which was a nice change. To my delight, â€œRunning on Faithâ€ finished it off perfectly. Clapton played clean sharp and perfectly the whole way through the acoustic set.
Then came a song I’ve been looking forward to and had been listening to alot lately on cd. "Motherless Children" from the "461 Ocean Boulevard" album. It is a great little upbeat slide number and it got the crowd pumping again. "Little Queen of Spades" was Clapton’s blues in the key of C choice for the night and as always he delivered a beautiful blazing Clapton Solo. To a fan like me, this was the musical drug dose I had been hanging out to hear all night and he certainly delivered.
"Before You Accuse Me" was also another fun upbeat number. Then, everyone sat back and sang to their hearts content to "Wonderful tonight." Everyone let Eric know how much they love this old classic by giving him a huge roar afterwards.
"Layla" I really enjoyed and the extended bit was very cool too. Although I have to admit, Doyle maybe needed to be a little more tender on this one to make it really sing, but hey I’m not complaining. All in all I was blown away by them both. No matter how many times I hear it, you can’t help but appreciate such a timeless classic.
"Cocaine" followed which got everyone grooving in their seats and the crowd and myself were ready for more. So, when Eric and the band waved good bye and walked off the stage, everyone in the audience clapped, whistled and roared for a good 5 minutes until Eric and everyone got back on stage to finish off with "Crossroads." I always love hearing this song. I hate to mention the past because I respect that Eric has to change the song over the years to keep it interesting, but nothing tops his Cream version for fierce solo madness. But I very much enjoyed watching and listening to this version too.
I had a great time and want to thank Eric and his band for coming back again so soon. It has been a real treat to see him play twice over 2 years and hope it won’t be the last. Eric, your music is a total inspiration. Thank you!
Review by Steve Streater / Tauranga, New Zealand
Eric Clapton didn’t get the best of reviews for his 2007 Mission Estate concert in New Zealand. I went to his Vector Arena concert with someone who had attended that show. She said that because he had been so boring, this concert at the Vector Arena in Auckland was his last chance and she would probably not be going to any more Clapton concerts after this one.
However, from the moment Clapton walked out onto stage from the wings, picking away at his guitar, he had the audience in his hands even if all he had to say to them all evening was the odd, "thanks." When it came to communications, his guitars did the talking! And talking of guitars, he must have a roadie tasked exclusively to bringing him the right guitar for the next item – there must have been a dozen or more guitars used over the 18 songs he played. Clapton was on stage for a whole two hours; there was no break apart from a minute or two while chairs were placed on stage for the acoustic section of the concert.
The concert started with half a dozen electric guitar numbers. Some of these may not have been familiar with all of the concert attendees. But "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "I Shot the Sheriff" got everybody’s attention. The incredible instrumental at the end of "I Shot the Sheriff" had the whole audience buzzing and clearly indicated that more was going to follow. At one point, Clapton had his hand right down deep in the neck of his guitar and was picking the bottom string. The guitar was singing – no human vocalist could have compared with that guitar right then.
Then out came the chairs. Clapton sat down and did a set of acoustic numbers. The highlights here were "Driftin’" and "Running on Faith". "Little Queen of Spades" allowed Clapton to step back and let the band take the spotlight. Each of the band members was probably worthy of a concert in their own right. My star of the night was Chris Stainton on keyboards, he well deserved the ovation he got for the keyboard break in "Crossroads" at the end of the concert.
Fantastic though it had been up to that point, the audience knew it was just going to get better when the electric guitars came back and Clapton launched into the first bars of â€œBefore you Accuse Meâ€. And it just got better and better as "Wonderful Tonight", "Layla" and "Cocaine" followed. It was a bit disconcerting, however, to have the first chords of "Cocaine" smashed over the last notes of "Layla".
The audience had to work hard for their encore, but eventually the band came back and launched into "Crossroads". Now, I’ve never liked the blues version of "Crossroads" that much. But this hard rocking version with a keyboard break which had Chris Stainton’s head shaking in time as his fingers attacked the keyboard has made "Crossroads" one of my all time favourites. It just brought the house down.
The disillusioned Clapton fan from two years ago? It’s two days later and she’s still talking about the concert and can’t wait until Clapton comes back.
Any low points? Yeah. Come on Eric, just saying something like, "Hello (insert appropriate city here)," "We might just sit down here and play something acoustic" and "Now for something a little louder" would drive the audience crazy. If you like, I could write some dialogue for you in 30 seconds.