Hope this blog finds y’all well and it finally looks like Spring is kicking in outside. Thank Lord.
Even an occasional listener to the radio show knows that I worship at the altar of Clapton. But in the interest of my “No BS” policy for my on-air and blog musings, this also means being straight up when someone (in this case Clapton) who I feel rarely can do wrong, well, does. And by this I mean his concert last night at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT.
Let me start by saying that the Mohegan’s arena is a great place to see a show, and has over time turned into one of my favorite concert venues. If you haven’t been (and I highly recommend it), think a largely shrunken MSG, with great acoustics and from what I’ve experienced, friendly staff. There’s something pretty cool about walking out of a concert and into the madness and energy that is a casino/resort. And I don’t even like to gamble. For those like me that don’t dig the tables, there’s plenty of killer restaurants, bars, and shopping to bide your time. Add in ample parking (if you’re not staying) and an easy exit due to venue size, it makes the concert experience pretty much hassle-free.
Ok, back to Slowhand. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of good to this concert. Unfortunately, there was also plenty of bad.
Good first…..He played brilliantly. That’s when he played, which was not near often enough (more on that in a moment). Last time I saw EC this on top of his game, was during his 2006 tour when Derek Trucks was his co-guitar player in the band. The sound at Mohegan was great, and it’s always a joy to see Steve Jordan behind the drum kit (although I would kill to see Keith Carlock as his tour drummer). The show opened with “Hello old friend” which to my recollection he hasn’t played in ages. “Got to get better in a little while”, “Wonderful tonight”, “Sunshine of your love”, and “My father’s eyes” were all stellar and solid. When he broke into “Tears from Heaven” I was downright shocked. It was 2 years ago that I was in the audience at Royal Albert Hall when he announced he wouldn’t be playing it anymore. When EC decided to let loose, he just proved why the “God” moniker is still alive and well.
Now the Bad…Clapton has not hidden is disdain for touring and the rigors involved, preferring to spend time with his family. That’s understandable. But when you decide to hit the road and pay for your yacht (I’ve seen his, and it’s not small) and/or juniors inheritance, there is a certain responsibility involved. Namely to your fans. Otherwise you wander into that murky area of self-indulgence (see my U2 concert review here as a prime example...Scroll to the bottom when clicking the link...http://www.q1043.com/pages/onair/ianomalley.html?page=9) where the artist/band forgets what exactly put all those asses in the seats in front of you.
To put it bluntly, Clapton looked bored, and almost going through the motions. And for $200 per seat in the back of the house, that’s a no-no. Look, no one is going to mistake Eric for Ted Nugent hanging upside down in a loin cloth, but even at his refined age, a little energy wouldn’t hurt (maybe he should contact Jagger’s personal trainer). Any Clapton fan knows that if you’re looking for a “hit-fest setlist” at his shows, you’ll be sorely disappointed. He’s enough of a legendary/iconic figure to do exactly what he wants live, and if you don’t like it, well, don’t come. This setlist was about 80% blues covers, with a large dose of acoustic versions. That’s great, but let’s not kid ourselves, we want to see him slap on the Strat.
His biggest issue seems to be this. Handing over way too much playing time to his supporting band members. His now longtime touring guitarist Doyle Bramhall, is a serviceable player, but not even in the same “strat”osphere as his mentor, the late Stevie Ray Vaughn. I’ve seen plenty of players midweek at Terra Blues in the West Village that would wipe the floor with him. So why on earth would Bramhall handle the majority of the guitar solos? Huh? Same goes for piano player Chris Stainton. The nutty professor routine behind the keys is just tired, and his solos seemed to go on foreeeeeeever. But my major beef in regards to this was the addition of Paul Carrack on organ. And this has nothing to do with him personally (I’ve met him and he’s a nice guy).
Carrack has had a number of hits singing lead vocals for a variety of bands. Now imagine everyone’s surprise when EC introduced Carrack and he sang his hit with Squueze “Tempted”. Hey gang, we are at a CLAPTON concert and this is bullshit. But wait…There’s more!... A little later in the show we get introduced to Carrack again, and this time he performs his cheesy 70’s hit (fronting a band called Ace) “How long…(has this been going on)”. Please cue another “Huh?”. Hold on. I’m not done. The very last song of the show, EC decides to play Joe Cocker’s “High time we went” with Carrack singing! DOUBLE “HUH?’. Those 3 slots absolutely should have been 86’d for more Clapton songs and playing. I was waiting for Carrack to perform his hit with Mike and the Mechanics “The Living Years” (a song I always despised for it’s hokeyness), and if that happened, I would be headed for the exit.
The cost of $400 for Wifey and I’s tickets, not to mention babysitter and dinner, is a pricey night out. And for that kind of dough, whoever is performing better at least pretend that they’re happy me and 10,000 of my compadres decided to take a night out of life to go see them. Clapton failed in this department.
Regardless of my experience at the Mohegan, those going to the Crossroads festival at MSG this week are in for a treat. That lineup is a guitar fan’s wet dream. Plus the Crossroads rehab center where the money raised goes to, has done incredible work. Good for EC on that…
In closing let me say this. If there is one concert you go to this late spring/early summer, make it Joe Bonamassa at the Beacon. That guy never fails to deliver a blow your mind concert. And if it’s not one of the best shows you’ve seen, I’ll eat what is the title of Claptons new (and very good) album. An Old Sock……
As always, thanks for listening to the show. I couldn’t do it without your dedication and support. And that is never far from mind…..