Review: Jack Foley
‘OLD slow-hand’ proved himself to be anything but
when he took to the stage at the Royal Albert Hall for the latest
date in his world-renowned residencies on Monday night (May 10,
Eric Clapton, guitar legend, may have ambled his way towards
the sell-out crowd, but his set was anything but lethargic, deftly
combining the best of his extensive back catalogue, with cover
versions of some of his great influences.
The ensuing gig brought back countless memories of previous excursions
to see Clapton, during my late-teens, when, at the height of his
Journeyman success, the annual residency at the posh Kensington
venue was one of the highlights of the year.
Joined by the likes of Doyle Bramhall II, on guitar, Nathan East,
on bass, and the legendary Billy Preston, on hammond organ and
keyboards, (not to mention Steve Gadd, on drums, and Chris Stainton,
on keyboards), Clapton and his entourage rolled back the years
to spectacular effect, providing plenty of spine-tingling moments
An early version of the blues classic, Hoochie Coochie Man,
quickened the pulse in anticipation of what was to come, with
Clapton unleashing his guitar in typically stirring fashion, while
also delivering his vocals in trademark husky style.
This was an exhilarating occasion, a spellbinding display of
guitar prowess, in which Clapton held his audience mesmerised
by the flawless execution of his music.
His guitar wept, wailed and screamed
at times, yet never failed to sound beautiful in the extreme,
while his confident swagger belied the laid-back approach to proceedings.
This may have been the Albert Hall, but it could just have easily
for the front room of Clapton’s mansion, such was the intimacy
of some of the numbers.
Needless to say, the guitars changed throughout the evening,
with Clapton, Bramhall and East sitting on chairs for an acoustic
rendition of a couple of Robert Johnson numbers - both of which
were played with a youthful enthusiasm.
Yet it was the electric moments which provided the most crackling
highlight, with his spectacular version of I Shot The Sherriff
providing the night’s most outstanding memory.
More reggae-based than anything, Clapton lulled his audience
into a false sense of knowing familiarity, before letting go with
a blistering guitar solo, that really made the hairs on the back
of your neck stand on end. It was a virtuoso moment; a master-class,
which had all and sundry drooling.
Fears that the 59-year-old veteran may have lost his fire were
well and truly dispelled as a result - as, on this form, the guitar
supremo is damn-near unstoppable.
The rest of the evening didn’t quite manage to scale such
dizzying heights again, but several came close, not least his
greatest hits round-up at the end of the set, which saw the heartfelt
Wonderful Tonight roll into Layla, and then
into Cocaine, before he departed for the encore.
Throughout, the wily performer handed the spotlight to his musical
companions, with the left-handed Bramhall performing his solos
quite competently, and Preston providing his own moments of magic.
But try as hard as they might, this was all about one man, a
legend, whose guitar genius left fans breathless long into the