Eric Clapton Manchester Arena May 14th 2013
Support from Gary Clark Jr
Great performance by Eric Clapton last night at Manchester Arena. The set was a mix of classics from throughout his career, featuring electric and acoustic sets and some great guitar work. I arrived at the Arena just after 7.30pm and Gary Clark Jr was on stage. Not wanting to disturb people, I watched some of his set from the back of the massive arena. His style was similar to Clapton and he delivered a pretty good set of blues songs to a full arena. His set was short and after a quick break Clapton was on stage just after 8.30pm. The short break gave me a chance to slip into my seat. I’d bought a ticket a couple of days before the show when some new tickets were released and managed to score a spot in the front middle block, ten rows from the stage. Its some years since I’ve been so close to the front at a Clapton show. Eric’s band is excellent, and features Paul Carrack this time around, and some excellent slide guitar from Greg Liesz. My own view is that Clapton has been on great form for several years now. His show represents the blends of style that he has engaged with over the years, from the blues guitar with which he made his name, through acoustic country/folk, and with a smattering of the secret crooner that has crept through over the years. Thinking of the latter (Eric the crooner that is) I remember the first time I saw Clapton at Hammersmith in 1974 he opened with Chaplin’s Smile, which I thought very strange at the time. Since then he has played quite a few standards, including tracks like The Folks That Live on the Hill, and Goodnight Irene, both of which feature on his latest album Old Sock. Now ten years ago, I would have cringed at hearing Clapton sing those songs. But now they have become some of the my favourites. I am not sure if it is because I am older, or because Eric has mellowed into an older jazz/blues singer; its probably a bit of both. But I drove down to Manchester listening to Old Sock, and really enjoyed it. Goodnight Irene featured in last nights set, and sounded just great. I’ve even got used to the acoustic version of Layla, and hold on I actually really like it! Highlights for me were a great version of Badge, which now returns to the song after the strange sudden ending which I always felt wasn’t quite right since I first heard in when I bought Goodbye Cream on the day it came out; Blues Power, a great song that I had all but forgotten, Crossroads, and closer Cocaine. Peter Kay (!) came on stage for the encore, encouraging us to shout for more, and joining Clapton for Sunshine of Your Love, playing a mock guitar made out of two shovels (which he played behind his head and with his teeth) and singing a couple of verses. Great stuff! Oh and I haven’t really mentioned Eric’s guitar playing! Actually it was excellent; probably not as full on as it used to be, and second guitarist Doyle Bramhall II takes quite a few of the solos (and he too is also excellent), but when Eric did turn it up as he did during Badge, Crossroads and the classics his playing was as great as I had ever seen. Indeed he was using tone, distortion, volume and wah wah to great effect and more than I have seen for some time. I was sharp out of the arena during the last song (sorry Eric, but I did have a 130 mile home, and it was getting of for 11pm) into the car park and off across the M62 and up the A1. I was back at 1am. A great gig from a true master who just gets better and better.. Setlist (something like): Hello Old Friend; My Father’s Eyes; Tell The Truth; Gotta Get Over; Black Cat Bone; Got to Get Better in a Little While; Come Rain or Come Shine (Paul Carrack on lead vocals); Badge. Acoustic set. Driftin’ Blues; Goodnight Irene; It Ain’t Easy (Paul Carrack on lead vocals); Layla; Tears in Heaven; Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out; Lay Down Sally. Back to Electric. Blues Power; Love in Vain; Crossroads; Little Queen of Spades; Cocaine. Encore: Sunshine of Your Love (with Peter Kay on crazy guitar); High Time We Went. Band: Doyle Bramhall II – guitar; Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar; Chris Stainton – piano, keyboards; Paul Carrack – organ, keyboards; Willie Weeks – bass; Steve Jordan – drums; Michelle John – backing vocals; Sharon White – backing vocals.
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Eric Clapton Manchester Arena May 14th 2013