Venue: Toyota Center
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
For the first time this tour, Steve performed "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys", dropping "Georgia" as his solo number. Steve also dropped "No Face No Name No Number" in favour of "There’s A River" for this performance.
01. Had To Cry Today
02. Low Down
03. After Midnight
04. Presence of The Lord
05. Sleeping in the Ground
07. Well Alright
08. Tough Luck Blues
09. Pearly Queen
10. There’s A River
11. Forever Man
12. Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
14. How Long Blues
16. Can’t Find My Way Home
17. Split Decision
18. Voodoo Chile
19. Cocaine (encore)
20. Dear Mr. Fantasy (encore)
Review by Tommy Ralph / Beaumont TX
A super show from the beginning to the end. There was no going thru the motions this night as the whole band cooked. The couple next to us were in Dallas the night before and said the energy level was far more tonight in Houston. The biggest surprise was Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys which I believe was the first time it was played during the tour. Chris laid down some great keyboard leads, Abe’s drumming was killer, and Willie’s bass anchored the foundation of a show that was simply incredible. The last time I saw Eric was the From the Cradle tour and clearly, Eric has lost nothing in the past 15 years. In fact, Eric and Steve are aging like fine wine, getting better and better.
Review by Bill Smith
If you are an avid reader of the "Where’s Eric!" concert reviews, you already have a feel for the concert set list. Instead of giving you a play by play of the concert, I thought I would focus on some of the flavor on what was an incredible night.
The concert started a bit late. Judging by the earlier reading, most of the concerts started promptly at 8:15pm. Tonight the concert started at 8:23pm. Around 7:50pm EC’s guitar technician, Lee Dickson, was furiously running around the stage checking and rechecking the wireless packs on the guitars and the amp receivers. I suspect the short delay was due to an interference problem that needed a little more TLC.
I had tremendous seats in the third row directly in front of EC. He came out with SW relaxed and wearing a short sleeve Tommy Bahama-looking Navy Blue shirt; faded jeans with holes throughout the legs and his now ever-present leather loafers. SW was decked in a long-sleeve shirt over a white t-shirt and blue jeans.
There is a good and a bad for getting tickets this close. The bad is that you are sitting perpendicular to the main speaker drop. We could not hear the voice mix. It was not really a problem with Clapton. You were so close you could hear him without amplification. Winwood was another story. His set up was stage left (as the audience would see him) and back just a bit. You could not hear him at all. Besides the closeness to the stage, the good news about sitting third row was being in direct line of EC’s amp which looked to be his standard tweed Fender 57 Twin. We could hear every slight touch of the strings extremely clear and not over modulated. That was a real treat. The sound was so clear on EC’s playing that you could really feel him ripping into a solo. The clarity was also evident during some of his rhythm while moving into a standard riff. A good example would be "Forever Man". EC added a simple fret finger flutter on the last note of the riff that was distinct from his MSG concert. After the concert I checked the MSG DVD and I could not see him play the sequence nor could I hear it on the CD. Just a nice addition to a song he has played a thousand times. I would love to know if that was the case in the early part of the tour or if he will continue playing it during the remaining dates.
EC only used the Wah Wah pedal once during the solo in "Presence of the Lord". He pumped it hard with the expected, classic result. At the end of the solo, I thought he punched out of the Pedal a bit too early as the effect added a noticeable click midway through the last note. As they say "Sh– happens". I was hoping he would head back to the pedal for "Cocaine" but he did not.
As was mentioned in the publication of the set list, "Georgia On My Mind" was replaced with "Low Spark". SW really hammered the piano. When he finished the crowd went completely nuts. This was the point where SW transitions over to EC for his first acoustic number (Driftin’). The crowd was still on its feet. Clapton started laughing as he could not start his playing. EC looked at SW and that got another huge roar as SW shrugged his shoulders as if to say, "what do you want me to do about it?" Just a nice moment to punctuate how well these guys played together and seem to enjoy each other’s company on stage. It also looked to me as though SW was using a Clapton Signature Martin during the acoustic Layla.
The highlight for me, as it has been for many of the reviewers, was "Voodoo Chile". Clapton remains in a league by himself. Stunning. The MSG DVD simply does not do the performance justice. Those of you on the west coast awaiting the tour are in for a delicious treat. Please savor it. At the end of the song, EC added a nice touch paying homage to Hendrix and EC’s Cream days by walking over to his Twin 57, taking his Black Stratocaster from around his neck and shoving into the face of the amp for a little classic distortion. I hope some others in the arena caught that part of the program.
I also wanted to mention a couple of other points. You really can’t underestimate the guitar playing of Winwood. During the encore while playing "Dear Mr. Fantasy," SW really jammed exceptionally well. He works the neck of his mint green Strat a lot harder than EC but he is a great guitarist in his own right. Side by side with electric guitars, EC is so smooth, the guitar is simply an extension of his body. Winwood labors while playing the frets but the sound is wonderful none the less. Finally, hats off to the addition of Abe Laboriel Jr as drummer. His energy was intense. I have to believe he was a main reason EC and SW kept their playing to such a high level. Never underestimate the need of a good drummer to lay the groundwork for a high energy show. Abe appeared to blow-out his snare drum during Pearly Queen. A quick replacement was needed after the song.
My only regret was a personal hope that my favorite "Little Wing" would be added back to the set list. It was not. I also wish I was heading to California for the West Coast Swing. You’re in for a real treat!
Review by Andrew McKinney
I got a chance to see Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood (both for my first time) at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. It was spectacular show with high energy, joyful emotions and a mixed setlist of mellow with hard rock ‘n’ roll. They didn’t need introductions – they simply came on stage, checked the volume and got right down to business.
The show was a combination of Blind Faith, Traffic, Derek and The Dominoes, Eric Clapton’s solo work and Steve Winwood’s solo work. When it was either a Clapton song or Winwood song, each commanded gracefully with their band mates to produce the best, most precise and hardest, or mellow, sound only a master musician could deliver. To be able to turn a rocking stadium and then switch that feeling into a more somber and, well, bluesy mood (and vice versa) is very difficult to accomplish – needless to say, we spanned over a multitude of emotions that did not leave us hanging in the slightest. We were hungry for whatever may come every step of the way.
I want to start out by saying that besides Clapton and Winwood, their five other band mates were channeling their creativity and talent in such a manner that you couldn’t help but have a complete understanding as to why Clapton and Winwood chose these musicians over the spectrum of others – they each have a deep connection with the blues, a passion for entertaining and a musical ability that cannot be reproduced; you could feel and see their souls on fire.
Chris Stainton performed several solos, showing off his craft and eclectic fingers that danced around the keyboard to keep the melody fresh and alive. He was not wearing any shoes, and you could tell he was completely comfortable in his own world. Stainton was a force to be reckoned with when he was allowed to command the stage and demonstrated experience from all genres of music history. Willie Weeks and Abe Laboriel, Jr. kept the beat and tempo bouncing, and often times Weeks would approach Laboriel’s drum set to amplify and improve the beat they had already started with. The mixed sound of these two musicians paved the way for Clapton and Winwood to go full throttle into solos and improvisation that set the stadium on fire. And the backup singers for the show sounded like angels, but with voices that go "all the way to 11" in every sense of the phrase. Both Michelle John and Sharon White juxtaposed their voices to produce a mix of sound that could be carried well beyond the stadium’s walls. It was as though these two were Sirens that grew up in a gospel church, and had such a vibrato in their voices you could swear if you had your eyes closed it was an audio effect. Truth be told though, these young women demonstrated a lifetime of voice practice and training that is extremely difficult to discover and come across in today’s music world. I personally cannot wait to hear these women in the future.
Starting out with a Blind Faith song ("Had To Cry Today", a personal favorite) really got the crowd pumping. They then moved into some Clapton tunes to get his fingers working, and then traded off in the middle of the set list with some Blind Faith and Winwood numbers. Eric seemed a little tired, but his rock ‘n’ roll mentality wouldn’t allow him to slow down. He was all over the front of the stage enticing the audience with high E bends and blues scales that sent shivers down your back.
Watching Winwood’s "There’s A River" was so moving, everyone instantly recognized the first chords and we all immediately screamed and whistled for more once he had finished. Winwood was very humble and waved to the crowd with a grin that went ear to ear. His flattery was our satisfaction – for a few brief moments, as he was standing alone on the stage, he soaked in the praise and gratification worthy for his amazing voice and stupendous chord progression ability.
The rest of the band did not falter when they came back on, no sir. They came in ready to melt your face and blow your ears off. Obviously, we were not disappointed with this transaction.
Acoustic versions of "Driftin’" and "Layla" was only a pre-amp to the extremely loud and climactic end with more Blind Faith, a Winwood classic, and then an homage to Jimi Hendrix’s "Voodoo Chile" – everyone on stage was in perfect sync and played off one another to produce a louder and more powerful sound. Clapton, Winwood and Stainton all exchanged solos with one another as "Chile" played on, each as good as the last.
When the band walked off after one of Hendrix’s masterpiece, there was not a seat in the house that had a body in it. Everyone was on their feet, bowing, waving and yelling for more. They walked off stage and probably got a drink of water, preparing for the encore. When they came back on, there was not a still body in the whole stadium. We knew that these were our last moments of the night with our honored guests, and we wanted to show how much fire they ignited within us.
Those four chords that signaled "Cocaine" was all we needed – people stood up, grabbed partners, and immediately started boogying. If you were sitting down, you couldn’t see the last of the show, which only prompted more concert lovers to get down and get funky. And finally, the last song was about to be played.
Now, I have been a fan of Eric Clapton for years and years. I love his version of "Crossroads" – it is a staple on my mix lists and has many memories attached that I love to recall over and over again. I went to the show with my dad, and kept leaning towards him after "Cocaine" saying "They’re gonna play Crossroads right now, I can feel it!" I knew their encore would only consist of two songs, and Cocaine, to me, was going to be the preamble to the monstrous end with Crossroads. However … thatss not what happened. Instead, my favorite Steve Winwood and Traffic song, "Dear Mr. Fantasty" began playing. I was almost sure they wouldn’t play this, so I wasnâ€™t counting on it. I quickly put my dashed hopes of hearing "Crossroads" aside, and immediately let myself be vulnerable to, in my opinion, one of the greatest rock songs with solos that always brings a tear to your eye. I cannot express to you the passion, emotion and talent Clapton and Winwood wanted to leave you with – if you had to remember one song for the show, let it be the last, for the energy and emotion within the room overflowed like a volcano once they ended. Us Houstonians had to fight tooth and nail for these expensive tickets, but it was all worth it – they are memories that cannot ever be taken away.
The Clapton / Winwood lineup approached the stage, bowed, kissed and waved to us goodbye, and we were left with a cathartic feeling that had been building up for months. Our moment had ended, but the damage had been done – a show for the ages, one that really defined how two masters and pros play and demonstrate leadership on a stage in front of thousands of people.
For my first Clapton show, I was dazed and amazed (but never confused), for their mastery of the guitar set fire to a hidden part of me that only makes me want to practice the guitar more every day and hope that I get to somewhat of their level. It’s easy to reproduce a musician’s sound, but when you are faced with creating timeless classics like what we saw at this show, wellâ€¦ you just have to have the gift of creativity, being extremely precise and always make a new challenge or goal for you to overcome. And understanding that the blues is the root of all American music today is good to keep in mind as well – keep the blues alive!
Review by Steve Curtner
Voodoo Chile, Low Spark and Tough Luck Blues were my favorites. Going into the show, I knew it would not be the Dominoes dominated set list of last tour stop but I kept an open mind about it and really enjoyed the show. I look at it like this, this was probably the first and last time I’ll see the Blind Faith songs played and a few others that fit the EC and SW mix. Since this was my 5th EC concert, I hope he plays different songs every time I see him. Voodoo Chile and Low Spark were worth the price of admission all by themselves. One note to add, it looked like Winwood was playing an EC signature Martin acoustic guitar during the sit down set.
Review by Pulin K.
The concert was absolutely amazing. The acoustics in the Toyota Center started out a bit rough (couldn’t hear Winwood very clearly on the first song), but the guys at the mixing board fixed that up pretty quickly.
The best part of the show for me were the blues numbers. Also, Winwood surprised everyone by playing Low Spark of High Heeled Boys instead of Georgia on my Mind, which he had been playing at all the previous dates.
The solos were scorching. It’s almost as if the songs are just vehicles for the guitar solos, which is fine by me. Even Winwood tore it up with his guitar in a few songs, not to mention his bluesy Hammond playing.
One caveat I must mention: the videographers filming the concert for the big screens set up high atop either side of the stage focused WAY too much on EC’s hands rather than his face or his whole body. For those of us with nosebleed seats, it would have been much better to be able to see Eric’s face full with emotions during his blazing solos rather than just focusing on his fretboard work. Even with my binoculars, I couldn’t see the faces very well from where we were sitting. But, that was my one and only gripe about an otherwise amazing experience.
Review by Cheryl Donatto / TX
The show was terrific. I saw Winwood in Albuquerque, New Mexico in a smaller venue and knew what to expect from him. I always just thought of him as a keyboardist … but was so surprised how well of a guitarist he was too! Last night was no different!
My only complaint was that it was kinda hard to understand him when he was singing sometimes. No problem hearing EC… so that sort of knocked out my theory that it was the seats I had which were worst than I expected.
The show had that "Blind Faith" feel to it like how the last tour felt like "The Dominos". The folks around me were "mixed". You could tell who came to hear Steve and who was there for Eric. All seemed to enjoy their collaborations. As expected, the crowd pleasers tended to be the "hits". Plus the Blues songs were received very enthusiastically especially with my friend who attended with me who had never been to an EC or SW concert.
We got "Low Spark" … fantastic!!! Got one of the first standing "O’s". No trouble hearing SW on that one! The acoustic "Layla" was one of the best versions I’ve heard. Simply jaw-dropping. The other major stand-out song, to me, was "Voodoo Chile". The guitar work was incredible! I wish EC would have at least shared the vocals with SW (again … hard to hear him). But, just thinking about how fantastic the music was, I can forgive the sound crew. Still gives me chills replaying it in my head. I mentioned to my friend, they should rename the song "Voodoo Chills!"
I liked the small band with EC and SW there was not much need for any more help! I was thrilled to see Chris Stainton again. He hasn’t lost a chop! And the drummer, Abe, did a "bang up" job (pun intended). My friend thought he was going to break his drum kit! His style brought back memories of Steve Gadd. Willie Weeks was a subtle "backbone" to the sound. Not an "outfront" bassist like Nathan East but very good. And the back- up singers … well they just did what they’re paid to do. Nice touch. Fine group of musicians by anyone’s standards.
The ticket stated an 8pm start but they didn’t hit the stage until 8:30. And after 2 hours of brilliant performances, I’d bet no one left unsatisfied with this monumental partnership. Well done guys and girls!
Review by Bob Ruggiero / The Houston Press
Reproduced with author’s permission.
Aftermath: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood at Toyota Center
Two words came into Aftermath’s head shortly into the show uniting these former Blind Faith bandmates and arguably two of classic rock’s biggest stars: peerless musicianship. They stayed with us for the rest of the concert.
While we can appreciate the bombast and big show of acts like KISS, Springsteen and even Britney, there was something much finer on display at the Toyota Center as the 64-year-old Clapton and 61-year-old Winwood simply played their instruments as extensions of their own bodies – Clapton on his trademark Stratocaster and Winwood switching between guitar and Hammond B-3.
And while neither man has ever been overly demonstrative in concert – only Winwood uttered a few words the entire night – they didn’t need stage mannerisms to utterly captivate the audience.
It would have been very easy for the pair, at the tail end of a 14-date U.S. run, to rely on big hits: a little "I Shot the Sheriff," a dash of "Back in the High Life Again," for the easy applause. Instead, they chose to stick closely to the set list from their reunion shows last year documented on the great Live From Madison Square Garden CD/DVD. It took them both into more interesting nooks and crannies of their discographies, along with a string of blues covers.
Opening with the chugging riff of "Had to Cry Today" (featuring a great guitar duel), the pair also worked through the first side of the Blind Faith album including "Presence of the Lord," "Can’t Find My Way Home," and a cover of Buddy Holly’s "Well All Right."
But the pair really cooked on the more gutbucket numbers like "Low Down," "Pearly Queen" (though Winwood’s ex-Traffic bandmate Dave Mason still does the better version) and "Forever Man" – the last of which found them trading verses like one-upping horny romantic competitors. Clapton’s jaw-dropping acoustic finger-picking on "Driftin’ Blues" was also a highlight.
Houston did get an unexpected surprise in the number slotted for Winwood’s man-and-piano solo. While he has been playing "Georgia On My Mind" for this tour and the earlier reunion shows, the ghost of Ray Charles looms large. Instead, Winwood began tinkling the familiar notes of Traffic’s "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" to the crowd’s utter delight, earning him a standing ovation; he also ran the ivories for the Traffic instrumental "Glad." Clapton’s crowd high came with the MTV Unplugged acoustic version of "Layla," though the thought of the two going at a full-bore electric version remained a tantalizing dream.
After a lengthy "Voodoo Chile," encores "Cocaine" and an incredible "Dear Mr. Fantasy" brought the energy levels to full-bore, and were perfect closers. Clapton and Winwood – along with their crack backing band – have clearly raised each other’s game to a higher level. At the show Aftermath spoke with David and Kristy Stephenson, a Houston couple who actually flew to New York for the Madison Square Garden shows last year, and they agreed.
"They just feed off each other so well, and Eric needs somebody like Steve to play with him and make him better," David said. "They’ll never replace the years they could have spent recording and touring, but I’m grateful we were able to see them one last time."
Peerless musicianship indeed.
Review by Taylor M
Reproduced with author’s permission / Syrup Daily
Sitting down at the Toyota Center before Clapton came out I knew this was going to be one of the more docile concerts I had been to lately. I had not seen too many women my age but the dirty thirty stalker turnout was impressive. Clapton and Winwood both walked out together picked up their Fender Stratocasters and busted right into Had to Cry Today. The crowd did start to holler but only a few women stood up.
As they continued to play, I was really impressed by the sound quality. Readers will know that I was less than impressed with the sound of the Dead at the Pepsi Center and am now highly critical of sound in arenas. Might have something to do with the engineer background. But this group was bumping the place. The huge drummer Abe Laboriel Jr. caught my attention quick. Not only was he a massive man, but his kit reverberated throughout the Toyota Center. I found out later he also toured with Paul McCartney and band. His drums sounded great throughout the concert, full bodied and always on time. I don’t think Clapton and Winwood could do this tour without such a great drummer holding everything together. He does not get enough credit.
As they started to play After Midnight I realized how intricate the light rig was. They had LED screens behind and above the stage. This song sounded great but the vocals were lacking. Not from the beautifully sounding backup singers; Michelle John and Sharon White but from Eric and Steve. For some reason they decided to both sing this classic J.J. Cale cover. As they were trading off talk singing "After Midnight" I was ready for the next song.
Presence of the Lord did not disappoint. A great Clapton ballad, that I learned through reading his autobiography, is actually about a house he moved into. The next few songs were some blues standards, Clapton sounded great on the strat as Windwood moved over to his grand piano and organ. Kept it nice and bluesy. I was surprised by how much they broke down some of these songs and really improvised, drummer as well. This was also the first time I noticed how good the keyboard player Chris Stainton was.
The next highlight came when Clapton and everyone walked off-stage except for Winwood. He sat alone at his Grand Piano and started playing the notes to Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. Awesome. The crowd really erupted for this one. He sounded great on vocals, truthfully better than Clapton did on the night as a whole, and I am a much bigger Eric fan. I also read that this was an unplanned song, sweet.
After that they brought out a few chairs and the acoustic guitars. Eric game back out with the band and they did some awesome acoustic versions of some of my favorite Clapton songs. Driftin’ was great as was Layla.
Can’t Find My Way Home was a treat, I knew that Blind Faith banger was coming. Finally the two of them sounded flawless on vocals together. For Voodoo Chile they brought the electric guitars back out, but they still never got to rocking as hard or in as fast a tempo as I would expect for this cover. As I sat waiting for the encore, I thought what song have they not played yet? Cocaine, yeah, called it. Great to hear and see the whole arena of 40+ year old women stand up for this one. Finally the crowd did rise, and attempt to dance. They really jammed this one out too, especially the keyboardist, video hera. Dear Mr. Fantasy was nice as well. I had seen Winwood play this once a few years ago at Bonnaroo, this version sounded much better. Great concert.