Concert Details

3 May 2015 – Eric Clapton & His Band


Venue: Madison Square Garden

City: New York

State/Province: NY

Country: United States

Band Lineup:

Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals
Chris Stainton – piano, keyboards
Paul Carrack – organ, keyboards, vocals
Nathan East – bass
Steve Gadd – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals


Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders

Show Notes:

This was the second of two concerts celebrating Eric Clapton’s 70th birthday on 30 March 2015. The two shows were Clapton’s only North American dates for the year.


New York, NY (April 28, 2015) – Due to the New York Rangers playoffs at Madison Square Garden, Eric Clapton’s 70th birthday concert celebration scheduled for Saturday, May 2 will move to Sunday, May 3 at The World’s Most Famous Arena. 

All tickets purchased for the Saturday, May 2 performance will be honored on Sunday, May 3. 

The Friday, May 1 show will take place as scheduled.

Special Guest(s):

John Mayer – guitar
Jimmie Vaughan – guitar
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar
Derek Trucks – guitar

Set List:

03. PRETENDING – with John Mayer
05. YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL – Paul Carrack (vocals)
06. CAN’T FIND MY WAY HOME – Nathan East (vocals)
12. BEFORE YOU ACCUSE ME – With Jimmie Vaughan
16. LET IT RAIN – with Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II
17. HIGH TIME WE WENT (ENCORE) – Paul Carrack (vocals), with all guests

Fan Reviews:

Review by Amy Bradley
I’ve seen many a Clapton concert but this was the best by far. I attended both shows ( how lucky am I) he has always been business like but these nights he seemed so relaxed and happy. These were the songs I’ve always wanted to hear. Heavy on the blues with burning solos whether acoustic or plugged in. Great guests, great venue, great songs, the greatest guitarist of all time equals unforgettable night. Thanks Eric!

Review by Michael Matza
Having seen Friday’s show streamed by an audience member on a mobile app, I saw most of the performances and got a taste of the set list and surprise guests. I was not tremendously happy with the song choices but was still ecstatic for Sunday night.

Andy Fairweather Low and the Low Riders opened Sunday’s show with about 7 tunes all in the blues/rockabilly genre. Andy’s voice was in top form and very reminiscent of Pete Townsend. I have a great respect for Andy as he provided the perfect backing support to Eric for several years. Eric has always been known to bring unknown musicians to the public eye and it’s finally Andy’s turn to get MSG recognition. Andy closed out his set appropriately with “Hideaway”, the Freddie King song that Clapton made super famous in the Bluesbreakers. With this song, Andy “rolled out the carpet” for Clapton’s entrance.

Eric came on at about 9 PM and began his set with JJ Cale’s “Somebody Knocking.” I know he has a deep love for JJ and the Tulsa sound, but this was not the song that should have started the concert. Since Andy just finished with a blues, Clapton shouldn’t have also started with a blues in the same key. If he wanted to start with JJ, he could have played Cocaine (Another JJ song – but also in the key of E) or any other exciting song. The show immediately picked up when Eric invited John Mayer to the stage for what may have been the best song of the night, “Pretending”. This version was a lot tighter than Friday’s concert and featured a hot solo by JM and a thick exciting wah solo by Eric starting with a classic Clapton bend.

The band followed with Hoochie Coochie Man and featured solos by the always-on Chris Stainton and very talented Paul Carrack. Clapton’s solo in Hoochie was extremely reminiscent of his 1999 Benefit Concert at MSG which I found very interesting (and that’s a great version). Paul Carrack was featured on the next song, “You are so beautiful”, which was a beautiful tribute to Joe Cocker. Carrack’s timbre was pretty similar to Cocker’s and the band showed how dynamic it could be coming from Hoochie right before. Nathan East was featured singing on a very special “Can’t Find My Way Home”. He arranged it a little differently with a layered intro and an extended chorus. After singing the lyric “can’t find my way home” in the chorus, the band played and sustained an extra D and then went back to the descending riff. The climax of this piece was at the very ending when Nathan and Clapton’s backing singers Sharon and Michelle perfectly harmonized fifths on an extended “can’t find my wayyyy”. They finally resolved the harmony singing “homeee” and then faded out on a very tribal/rhythmic beat a la Steve Gadd and Nathan East.

After that beautiful performance, Clapton started up “Sheriff” and got people on their feet. I took to the aisle to dance so that I wouldn’t block the lifeless people still sitting behind me. Seconds into the awesome solo, security asked me to sit! The one thing I noticed about Sheriff was that the organ didn’t sync up with the turnaround riff, so it sounded kind of sloppy compared to previous performances. Clapton’s voice, playing and energy were excellent here. The excitement level was very high after Sheriff and Clapton took a seat to give us some unplugged hits. He went “Driftin” into the always lovable clap along “Nobody knows you when you’re down and out”, which he dedicated to his friend Neil. Eric then went into a syncopated reggae-infused Tears in Heaven which was a very fragile moment for the audience. You could see couples getting as close to each other during “Tears” as when he first played the romantic riff in Wonderful Tonight. Acoustic Layla is usually the point where diehard Derek & the Dominoes fans cry, but tonight’s version had something different. The song began with Chris Stainton sustaining a Synth D note which is a tactic movie score writers and TV dramas use to build suspense. Clapton improvised over this drone for a little bit and then introduced the famous riff. This version featured an extended solo by an inspired Clapton who wasn’t just going through the motions. Instead of just playing notes in the solo, he interspersed a couple of partial chords and at one point even played the original fast Layla riff. This version was completely on par with 1992 Unplugged. Layla ended the acoustic set and Clapton picked up his “Brownie” inspired Fender strat with a modern neck and his noiseless pickups/midboost.

He invited Jimmie Vaughan on the stage, just like Friday night, and played “Before You Accuse Me.” The sound guy had Jimmie’s guitar pretty hot, but fans responded to it very well. Clapton’s solo was reminiscent of “Watch Yourself” off of 24 Nights and Vaughan’s second solo had Clapton smiling wide and the audience giving back more than ever.

Eric followed up with a pretty good Wonderful Tonight which again had couples in love for 3 minutes. Then came the highlights. Wonderful Tonight ended and Clapton appeared alone in the spotlight. He began to solo in the key of A which had everyone in the audience transfixed on him. After a fiery solo, he introduced Crossroads, which was excellent throughout. His first solo was incredible and his timing and phrasing were perfect as always. Little Queen of Spades followed and showcased Chris Stainton and Paul Carrack. Chris played in a higher register and brought much more excitement to the song. Carrack played in a lower register and sounded muddy until he climaxed with chords and upper register leads in the key of C. At the end of the song, the band modulates from C to D when Clapton takes his solo (which is brilliant and epic musicianship). Clapton spent a little too long in C right at the key change but quickly recovered for a shorter than usual solo. His best Queen solo is arguably his performance from MSG 2/19/2010. Clapton ended Queen a measure or two too early by mistake but the band followed him as they are great listeners and watchers.

Eric invited Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks up to the stage for the most energetic song of the night, “Let it Rain”. Everyone stood up for this performance and soaked in the energy and incredible solo work of the three guitarists who had shared many a stage in years past.

Clapton skipped Cocaine which was surprising and instead invited all of his guests onstage for “High Time We Went.” Carrack took lead vocals and Doyle Bramhall II took a chorus. Both voices were great and there was a lot of energy in this closer. Clapton let his birthday invites take the guitar solos and just played rhythm till the end.

After the final bows, Eric gave each band member a hug as this may be the last time he performs in America for a while. Anyone could tell he was emotional and it was extremely emotional to watch. To quickly talk about the sound, it was fantastic. Not too much bass, clear vocals, solos clearly heard, very balanced backing vocals. Overall, it was very enjoyable, not as good a performance as past shows, but good. He could have played a fewer blues standards and more hits from Cream, Derek, etc, but this is what he wanted and that’s what an artist does. He’s going out the way he came in, playing the blues.    

Review by Robert Ender
I was extremely fortunate to be able to have attended both Eric Clapton shows at Madison Square Garden on Friday and Sunday nights. In the program, Eric said, “I swear, this is it”, referring to retiring. After witnessing these shows, I can only hope with all my heart, that he will reconsider that idea. The best artists are usually the most humble and self-deprecating. There are more than a few performers that could and perhaps should, contemplate retirement. They can’t seem to deliver something musical anymore. That doesn’t mean that an artist needs to deliver what they once could in their “prime”. But if someone can still convey the music in some real way, that is what’s important, and validates them still performing.

However, none of that above statement applies to our Eric. For these eyes and ears, I saw a magnificent talent, still more than capable of extraordinary musicianship and all the components that any musician, at any age, should aspire to have. His musical phrasing is still clear, and more than present. When I listened to his playing, it ranged from sublime to powerful, in both lead and rhythm playing. His groove is phenomenal. When juxtaposed with the other guitar players (who are all absolutely fantastic), Eric’s ability to play tightly in the “pocket” is without peer. His sense of time is extraordinary. Even when his volume is down and he’s adding the lightest most delicate phrasing underneath another player, his choice of notes is always very musical, intentional and logical. He wasn’t just “jamming” by adding random notes within a key signature. He’s playing wonderful little musical phrases, some of which could become melodies in their own right. Sometimes he adds chord fragments in progression that are so ear-catching and sweet. Then of course, he can switch gears and play powerful leads, and on quite a few occasions, I was taken off guard by a combination of notes and timing that I’d never heard. I found myself shaking my head and just saying “wow” to myself. And I reiterate, it’s not just the notes, but where he puts them in the beat, the timing, the spot in the 4 bars where he starts, and the places where he takes a stand. This talent is not common.

His vocals, on both nights, were equally wonderful. I would say that not only is he gifted with a great instrument, but I think because of the wide variety of music he’s listened to, played and recorded, especially in recent years, his vocal phrasing is actually better now in many ways. I’m sure singing many of the jazz numbers and standards have enhanced this vocal musicality. You can’t sing “Autumn Leaves” as well as he did on 2010’s “Clapton” album without a gifted voice, tonality and keen sense of phrasing. I remember when that album came out, and the subsequent one with Winton Marsalis, I joyed in playing tracks from both, unannounced, to some of my jazz musician friends. They would listen and say “Man, who is that?!”,  he sounds so familiar! They would be both surprised yet not surprised to hear it was Eric. Then they would explain and expand, in the most complex musical terms, why it was so good. They were always well impressed. So all of that listening and love of great music is clearly showing in Eric’s playing and singing.

He also says in the program, “if it looks like I’m struggling at times…”, but again, this is a relative term. Any musician would love to aspire to “struggle” at that level. Musical analytics aside, what was hugely evident is the fact that he really appeared to be having a wonderful time. The band lineup and performance was outstanding.  Chris Stainton is such a great player, I love it when he’s in the band. Paul Carrack is such a fantastic Hammond player and vocalist, in perfect combination with Chris. Nathan East and Steve Gadd, well; just about the world’s best rhythm players, Sharon and Michelle are just simply, incredible vocalists. It is such a good band. And these were only the first two shows! The warm-up shows if you will, for the London shows, which I sure wish I were attending.

To conclude, if I had any ability to communicate with Mr. Eric Clapton, I would implore him to stay active. He needn’t “retire” outright if he wants a more relaxed schedule; maybe play 10 select shows a year, 5 shows, but something….

I subscribe to the idea he has referenced, that he has a gift and therefore, a responsibility to use it. “What gifts you don’t use, you lose” as the proverb goes. I’d say this was never truer than it is today, and here’s why. This music, especially the blues component, is vital, and needs to be out there. It needs ambassadors, but their numbers are waning. With the current failing health of B.B. King, people like Eric and Buddy Guy have an increased responsibility. There is nobody else doing it with such integrity, at this level and exposure, and this is chief among the reasons why it’s so important to keep it going.

At the second show, sat next to me was a father and his young son; maybe 10 or 11 years old. I was wondering how he’d respond to this music. Much to my delight, he was beaming all night and staring, eyes wide. I’m sure there were others in the crowd. Now if Eric hadn’t been playing the other night, that boy wouldn’t have seen that show. It’s not to say that he’s now going to buy all the CDs he can and become a guitar player. BUT, he will at least have heard this music played first hand, he will know what the difference is between great musicians, and pop stars. He will know it and remember it because Eric Clapton came to New York to play for us. He came to celebrate his 70th birthday and share a musical experience with us. He sees a crowd before him, and when he considers matters of retirement vs. the responsibility of sharing this gift that he has, it’s the experience, emotions and impact that his performance has on the individuals; people like that 10 year old boy, or yours truly. Or you.

I woke up the day after the concert and changed my whole schedule around; I worked on my songs and my studio and played my guitar. Those shows reminded me again what talent is, how important gifts are, and what the greatness of music is. I for one, thank Eric for coming here and sharing his birthday. I sincerely hope he will continue to share this gift. It is his gift, and when he plays, it also becomes ours.

Eric Clapton, at Madison Square Garden, Travels a Familiar Road
By Nate Chinen (Source:  New York Times)

For his encore at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, Eric Clapton reconvened all four of the guitarists he had brought on as guests in the show for a climactic tear through “High Time We Went,” the Joe Cocker song. Their solos ran down the line, brief but full of distinguishing traits: shapely but biting for Doyle Bramhall II; ecstatic but measured for John Mayer; flinty and raw for Jimmie Vaughan; fluid and singing for Derek Trucks.

But there was no solo by Mr. Clapton, who stood off to one side with a Fender Stratocaster, facing the others at times like an encouraging scout leader. He radiated satisfaction and security, basking in the warmth of a guitar-centric brotherhood and his exalted place in it. Why spoil all that with his own exertion? Doesn’t a gracious host let others do most of the talking, even as he takes his seat at the head of the table?

Mr. Clapton had a commemorative hook for this show, and for an all-but-identically plotted one in the same arena on Friday. He turned 70 in late March; these were his only tour dates before a series of concerts in the coming weeks at the Royal Albert Hall in London. “Thank you for coming out and helping me to celebrate this wonderful birthday,” he said at the top of the encore, in the evening’s single nod to the occasion.

By all other measures, notwithstanding the guests, the show was business as usual for Mr. Clapton, whose mature performance style has always suggested a master clinician more than a showman. His band is stocked with longtime associates who excel at laying firm bedrock, like the bassist Nathan East and the drummer Steve Gadd.

A pair of background singers, Michelle John and Sharon White, bolstered Mr. Clapton’s choruses, while Chris Stainton fleshed out the band’s sound on piano. Paul Carrack did some stirring work on organ, and he took a soulful vocal lead on a couple of songs, “High Time We Went” and another Cocker staple, “You Are So Beautiful.” (Mr. East stepped out front, too, taking Steve Winwood’s lead vocal on the Blind Faith song “Can’t Find My Way Home.”)

Mr. Clapton drafted his set list as a pledge of allegiance: His own songs formed a minority amid covers of his blues totems, including Bo Diddley, Johnny Moore, Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters. But because Mr. Clapton has been traveling this road so long, those borrowed blues also qualify as beloved fixtures of his catalog.

Two of his best moments came on a pair of Robert Johnson tunes he has memorably recorded: “Crossroads,” with winningly gruff singing and a stomping cadence; and “Little Queen of Spades,” with lapidary guitar interjections over a slow, circuitous triplet beat.

Elsewhere, Mr. Clapton took what felt like a dutiful tour through his hit parade, blazing through Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “I Shot the Sheriff” and bringing a more unfortunate lite-reggae lilt to his ballad “Tears in Heaven.” He played “Layla” in an arrangement similar to the one on his 1992 album “Unplugged,” but with a more unpredictable and expressive acoustic guitar solo. “Wonderful Tonight” was warmed-over treacle, and an inconvenient reminder of the constriction that age has imposed on Mr. Clapton’s voice.

Predictably, given his recorded history and his more recent stewardship of the Crossroads Guitar Festival, Mr. Clapton perked up every time he had another guitar player onstage. Mr. Mayer brought a respectfully assertive presence to “Pretending,” and Mr. Vaughan — Stevie Ray Vaughan’s older brother, and at 64, essentially Mr. Clapton’s peer — was workmanlike but likably punchy on “Before You Accuse Me.”

Even better was a version of “Let It Rain,” from Mr. Clapton’s self-titled 1970 studio debut, featuring Mr. Bramhall and Mr. Trucks. Both guitarists have toured in Mr. Clapton’s bands, and their easy familiarity was an evident asset. Mr. Trucks especially, without his customary slide, worked up to an incantatory outflow. And this time, Mr. Clapton joined the fray: unpressured and unhurried, but compelling all the same.

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