Venue: Madison Square Garden
City: New York
Country: United States
Concert announced January 30, 2017
01. Somebody Knocking
02. Key To The Highway
03. Hoochie Coochie Man
04. I Shot The Sheriff
06. Lay Down Sally
07. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
09. Tears In Heaven
10. White Room
11. Wonderful Tonight
13. Little Queen Of Spades
15. Sunshine Of Your Love
16. Before You Accuse Me – with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr.
Review by Ken N.
From 2001 until 2013 I made numerous pilgrimages to the RAH from the US. It was a worthy project and a lovely time, and I wouldn’t trade those shows seen, including the Concert for George, for anything. In 2015, I flew down from Maine to New York for EC’s “retirement shows” at Madison Square Garden. And, in 2017, I flew down again for “A Celebration of 50 Years of Music.” Once an EC fan always an EC fan!
Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from these shows. So, opening night, September 7th, kind of blew me out of my shoes. At age 72 we were presented with a reinvigorated Eric! His playing was superb and, dare I say it, adventurous.
Somebody’s Knocking is a song that has really grown on me, and I now greatly enjoy it as the opening volley of the set. EC’s soloing was forceful and LOUD. Key to the Highway was true to its formatting these now many years, but again there was a little extra something in the guitar solos. Hoochie Coochie Man was bright and sparkly. EC lost his place in the singing of I Shot The Sheriff and so we got an extra verse–“someday the bottom must drop out” twice! This just seemed to make him more determined to nail the solo, which was brilliant and received a standing ovation from the enthusiastic MSG crowd.
Lots of lovely acoustic soloing on Driftin’. And then the first surprise of the evening: Lay Down Sally! Putting over an acoustic solo in an arena like Madison Square Garden is an accomplishment, and kudos to the guys at the soundboard. The audience was enthralled. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out is something of a singalong in NYC. I tend to numb out in the presence of acoustic Layla, but Tears In Heaven really got to me this time. Years later, my own children grown, in the city where the horrible tragedy happened. For all the reggaefication, it just felt deep and sad.
So I was grateful for the second surprise of the evening: White Room! The whole audience stood for this one, and it got the biggest ovation of the night. Exquisite wah-wahing, like in the days of old.
I have heard tell that Wonderful Tonight is not one of Melia’s favorite songs. Nor mine. But it was there for those who love it. A hefty Crossroads was followed by an awesome Little Queen of Spades. Back in 2004, at the Where’s Eric party at the Hard Rock Cafe in London, I had a nice chat with Doyle Bramhall, during which I asked him if he could get EC to stop playing HYELAW and start playing Little Queen of Spades as the blues in C. He said he’d see what he could do. Thirteen years later they are still playing it, and it is still the blues highlight of the show. I’m sure I’m not the only one who ever asked. But there’s just “something right” about two Robert Johnson songs back to back.
Nathan East had fun starting up Cocaine, and EC did some splendid guitar noodling before the band kicked into the most identifiable riff in the world. A New York crowd yells the final “Cocaine!” quite loudly.
I thought they were possibly going to do Badge for the first song of the encore, but no: Sunshine Of Your Love! More powerful soloing from EC, who seemed to be gathering force as the night went along. The last song of the evening was Before You Accuse Me, with Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. joining the band on stage for something of a Crossroads Guitar Festival moment! EC was playing the Epiphone that Gary gifted him.
All around, a great evening, in spite of the predictability of most of the setlist. For anyone who had never seen EC before it was really something of a greatest hits show. I was grateful for the surprises, the extensive soloing, and for what felt like an uptick in EC’s energy and enjoyment in the moment. Who knows? He might be back again in 2019!