[Slowhand] Happy Clapton in Antwerp

Eddy Pollet eddy.pollet at pandora.be
Thu Jun 1 18:00:54 EDT 2006

Hi all,

" ... with the echoes of the amplifiers ringing in my head ... " (name this
song !) ... I returned from the Sports Palace in Antwerp after having
enjoyed a really great show from EC and his band .
I arrived a bit before 7 PM to be sure to have a good spot ... I
deliberately had opted for standing since all the seats in this huge venue
are quite far away from the stage, or, when they are closer, they're at the
side, which isn't ideal for stiff necks :-) .
Anyway, Robert Cray appeared at around 8:15 and played for about 45 minutes
... certainly not bad, but definitely a support act ... only using the front
part of the stage, certainly not at full volume, almost no light effects and
with the emphasis on trying to sell some copies of his newest CD, not
playing any of his better known songs (at least not to me) . Some excellent
guitar playing however, but in his typical style, with very little sustain
and a rather thin sound . The other musicians (drums, bass and keyboards)
were solid professionals, but not very interested ... truly auto-pilot .
They ended a bit after 9 PM, and by that time, my feet were really hurting
... my toes asleep from standing too long on the same square centimetre :-)
. Removing Cray's gear and rearranging EC's took a bit over 20 minutes, so
almost precisely at 9:30, first the band and then EC made their appearance
on stage, loudly applauded ... EC as very talkative :-) ... he said "Bonsoir
- Good Evening - Goede Avond" and then they took off with "Pretending", with
a first solo from EC, who as really relaxed and gave the impression of being
in an excellent mood . Derek Trucks also featured with some great slide
guitar, very melodic and imho definitely a plus for the band ... besides
that he played a Gibson ... I don't know the exact type, but it as red and
had 6 strings .

To cut this a bit short, I'm not going to detail every song, but I'll give
some more general impressions :
This was in the first place an all guitar band : despite the fact that there
were two backup singers : no "babes", but relatively tastefully dressed and
certainly excellent voices . However, they were backup singers ... they
didn't play a prominent role like e.g. Katie Kissoon, Marcy Levy or Yvonne
Elliman did ... with all my respect for them, but I don't think they would
have been missed, although they added something to the overall sound .
There were also three horn players, but they were also in the back of the
stage and I can't remember having really heard them . Btw, I was in front of
the middle of the stage, at and estimated 20 ft from EC, with the speakers
from the PA high above me and beaming into the venue behind me . Therefor, I
heard more of the direct sound than of the PA, and it is possible -and even
likely- that the people further away, had a better balanced sound than I did
. Of the two keyboard players, it was only Chris Stainton who featured a few
times, like in the coda from Layla, but his role was certainly less
prominent than the one he had in earlier tours I saw .
The rhythm section was really solid, but to be honest, I don't know if the
difference with Gadd, East and/or Ferrone was really significant ... several
songs were speeded up, but I don't think this was a choice made by them ...
I'm convinced that they rehearsed it like this and that this speed was
intended .
And then, there was the 3 guitar line-up ... I liked Doyle much better than
the previous time I saw him and he certainly was very enthusiastic in his
playing ... in Cocaine he nodded three times at EC to say "take it again !"
which EC refused (unfortunately) and his lines were really inspired and well
constructed . At the beginning, he was really focused, as if he was a bit
unsure, but that disappeared after a few songs . Most of the time, he
reminded me of Andy Fairweather-Low ... solid but relatively unnoticed,
except then for the solo's he took .
Derek is, like I already said, definitely a plus for the band ... his slide
adds a lot to the overall sound and he delivered some truly great fills and
solo's . He also constructs his solo's well, but from what I heard, he got
stuck a few times and missed a few notes, which certainly doesn't mean that
he's not good, only that he's human . He as also very much concentrated on
his playing, and I have the impression that he doesn't yet really feel at
ease on this tour, or at least at this concert .
And then, of course EC himself ... being close to him, I really enjoyed the
beauty of his movements ... without being overly lyrical about it, but
especially his right hand is comparable to the perfect swing in golf, or the
smooth moves of Roger Federer on the tennis court, or like Bekele running 5
or 10 km ... when Robert Cray does some fast picking, he right arm seems to
cramp ... when EC does the same, it stays fluent, like if he could do it
twice as fast (perhaps he could ?) without any seemless effort and with a
precision I never saw from anybody else . I think that technically spoken, I
never saw him play as good as he did ... and I had the impression he was
having a good time, enjoying the tightness of his band ... but he didn't
give me the shivers like he usually does (but that could have been caused by
the not ideal sound from here I as standing), and towards the end, I had the
impression that he had to catch a bus or so, but he certainly was on par
with his own standards !
Highlight to me certainly was "Motherless Children" ... very fast and with
the three playing slide and soloing at the same time ... a real treat . The
encore, Crossroads, was, like usual, the band at full volume, and rocking
like anything that rocks, with Robert Cray making a guest appearance, but
not really being part of the band .
Less positive was that, after having been standing in the same spot for 4.5
hours, as soon as the band left the stage and the applauding had stopped, I
suddenly remembered that my feet were really hurting and that my back was
virtually broken, and that it took me over an hour to be able to leave the
parking places .

In conclusion, I'd say that you definitely shouldn't attend this tour if you
don't like the sound of a guitar ... in any other case ... be sure not to
miss this !


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