[Slowhand] EC in San Jose Concert review

jim jackson axonjaxon1950 at yahoo.com
Mon Mar 19 23:28:28 EDT 2007

Suicide bombers in Baghdad, nuclear discord in
North Korea, outbreak of avian-flu, slump in the
housing market, impending recession, corrections
in the stock market and the comical antics of
curious George W. Bush. It's enough to drive
even the most reluctant follower of world news to
get a little unnerved. But for a few hours, in
San Jose, California, on a mild Sunday evening,
none of the Worlds problems mattered, none of the
violence, pestilence, quirky world leaders or
financial issues mattered. Eric Clapton was
on-stage along with a very talented and gifted
band. And if you were there and your shoes
weren't just a bit worn from the tapping of your
toes or if your legs aren't a little sore from
playing air-drums on them, then you might check
your pulse. Even from my humble seats along the
sidelines, my fingers received blisters from the
air-guitar licks that I would mix in with
air-drums and air-keyboards! For me it was an
electrifying evening that turned out far better
than I expected.

Sunday morning started out with me almost wishing
I hadn't spent the money for the two tickets for
my wife and I to see Clapton at the "Shark Tank"
or HP Pavilion or whatever corporate entity has
recently forked over millions to have a public
arena bear their advertisement logo. The warm
spring-like day, with an abundance of assorted
blossoms filling the local scenery, made me think
about a day spent at home with my family, having
a barbeque, and enjoying a glass of good wine in
the late afternoon. The thought of all that
traffic getting to the arena, jostling with
crowds, stoned adolescent hippies still locked in
the 60's, incessant "wooing" by high-pitched
drunken women and fighting traffic afterwards,
along with the typical
Monday-after-a-Sunday-night rock concert were all
the things that my body and mind could tolerate
in my younger days but somehow, on this Sunday
morning, they didn't seem tolerable even if God
was playing lead guitar tonight.

Strangely, the drive to the arena was quick as
there was no traffic jams to speak of. Without
much effort we found a very desirable parking
spot, walked a few steps to the arena entrance
and located our seats. I grumbled the entire way
to our seats about how I had once paid this same
price for two front row seats to a Clapton
concert. But now I was relished to the mid-level
sections, no longer willing to shell out the big
bucks for the premium seats. No sir, I have a
401k to fund these days. (I was, however, very
thankful that someone, long ago had convinced me
to pay extra for those once-in-life-time front
row seats.) As we took our seats, strangely the
crowd looked more or less the same, not too many
tie-dyed shirts and for the most part, pretty
subdued, almost like an evening at the symphony.
Heck, maybe I'm the one still locked in the
1960's and my flash-backs of raucous rock
concerts make me think that they are still that
way today. But I regress...

Right on schedule Robert Cray took the stage and
after his first song, Phone Booth, I realized
that just to hear him play this classic was worth
the money for the tickets and everything from
here on would be a bonus. After forty-five
minutes on the stage Cray's set was finished and
I hoped that he would have played longer, much
longer. The band was tight and Cray's vocals are
always haunting. (I know, "haunting" is an
over-used adverb used to describe soulful
singers, but it's Monday morning and my verbal
skills are somewhat diminished, even if I didn't
drink a drop last night.)

After Cray's set, the stage hands skillfully and
quickly rearranged the equipment and after a
brief intermission Clapton strolled on to the
applause from a very loyal, dedicated following
of Bay Area fans. EC clearly appreciated the
response and immediately tore into the first
song. And although the set of the entire evening
had strong Derek and the Dominoes flavor to it,
it was clearly infused with a strong influence
and mixture of styles brought by each of the band
members. Come to think of it, It was almost like
being at a symphony, watching EC, as the working
conductor, making contributions, driving the
other musicians, pulling from them their own
unique perspective of songs that were originally
recorded long before some their own existence

Doyle Bramhall (the second!) has a style that I
can only describe as rough, skillful yet
refreshingly raw, talented but almost in the same
vain as a Jeff Beck, although don't hold me to
that comparison. Derek Trucks on the other hand,
was smooth, almost refined, dare I say almost
Duane Allman-like? When the band played Little
Wing, one of my all-time favorite songs whether
it's Jimmy's or EC's version, I was overcome with
emotion and my eyes became misty at the beauty
and resonance of this great song being performed
by a very talented threesome of guitar players
sharing the same stage. After hearing this
wonderful rendition I no longer was concerned
about the high price I had paid for admission, I
only wanted this song to turn into a 45 minute
jam reminiscent of legendary Derek-is-Eric
sessions with Duane Allman, Carl Radle, Bobby
Whitlock and drummer Jim Gordon.

Since the day that I purchased the tickets to
this event, I purposely avoided contact with any
reviews of the other concerts of the tour. In
the past, these would only serve to provide me
with a preconceived notion of what to expect,
even if the review (as with this one) was
somewhat biased. For me, my own bias is all that
really matters, not for the review but for my own
enjoyment of the show. I can tolerate certain
things that cause distain in other people, almost
like putting up with your kid when he does things
that would drive other people crazy. I had no
idea whether the band was tight, or if Doyle was
loud or if Derek was bland. I really didn't care
what EC played, I just wanted to see him play.
As it was, I came into this concert expecting
nothing, other than perhaps a repetitive concert
by a musician I have admired for more years than
I care to state and one that I had seen several
times in the past few years, who had almost
become rather blasé. With low expectations and a
notion that I would have rather stayed home, I
came to this concert with apprehension and no
sense of excitement. Thankfully, and much to my
surprise, the concert was much more than I
expected, it was not bland, well except for the
obligatory "Wonderful Tonight" that the crowd
always seems to favor no matter how many times
they've heard it played. But of course, I never
tire of "Layla" or shouting "Cocaine" at the
conclusion of that song.

One of the best parts of coming to a Clapton
concert and not having any preconceived notions
about the concert or for that matter not knowing
any of songs that are being played at other
venues, is Clapton's almost perverse intro into
one of his well known songs. He seems to love
improvisational rock fused with an almost jazz
flavor as he slowly ties this eclectic mix into
the familiar rhythm of one of his signature
trademark tunes. It's fun to listen to one of
his five minute intros, trying to guess just what
the hell the song is, then watching the crowd
roar when they finally recognize the song as the
cords blend into a more familiar range.

As I listened to the evening's performance, I
couldn't help but hear little mistakes, small
off-key notes and observing Willie Week drop his
pick during a bass solo. To the crowd's
amusement, EC walked over, picked it up and
laughingly handed it back. It was all part of
the fun and the realization that these are just
humans, like us, but with a very large amount of
musical talent. And I couldn't help but notice
that this new group who was collectively younger
in talent and in some cases in age than EC's
recent bands, was actually driving EC even though
he clearly was the maestro, manipulating them and
complimenting them to exhort their best, their
full potential.

According to the program, the San Jose concert
would be Derek Truck's last with this band. Too
bad, he was the closest resemblance to Duane
Allman of any EC band member to date, and his
talent and refreshing non-flashy, humble nature
made this one of the more memorable EC concerts
for me.

Now, did anyone copy the show?


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