[Slowhand] Melvin, Selvin and that DN guy

Bryan Reid humblephoenix at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 19:53:07 EDT 2007

This thread has been enough to break me out of my latest attack of my
favorite deadly sin, sloth, and to take keyboard in hand.

EC is the way he is today for a number of reasons, most of which he is quite
open about and has been for at least 10-15 years by my reckoning.

First and foremost, he got tired of being the guitar god in the 1960s. He
got really tired of it in the 1970s. He has addressed that by adding
additional guitarists to his touring bands. Over the years, they have taken
an increasingly prominent role. Count on that to continue.

Second, Eric is in recovery from the disease of addiction and is in a twelve
step program of recovery. Part of that program requires that one practice
humility and seek to become truly humble. Sort of conflicts with lengthy,
grandstanding solos. Does not conflict with being the band leader and
orchestrator of the show.

Third, last time I checked, Clapton just turned 62 years old. Truly
improvisational solos are emotionally tiring. Lengthy ones are physically
tiring. He's said repeatedly that he's tired and doesn't want to play at
that level anymore. He also knows he has to put on a good show and to
appease the guitar god fans, in addition to his other constituencies. Hence,
the hired gunslingers. Also, that's why he has fairly predictable solos on
any given song, night-to-night. There's some improv there but nothing like
the past.

Four, Eric truly cares about the bands he puts together to tour with. That
means everyone gets their turn to shine in the spotlight. It also is why he
follows a set set list with very little deviation from night-to-night. When
it was Cream or Derek & The Dominos, they all practically lived together and
spent so much time playing together that they knew every song in their
repetoire cold and knew how each other thought, to boot. EC could just play
an opening chord and everyone knew instantly exactly what was the song was
and what they had to do. Not so anymore.

Add all that together and I think you've got a pretty good explanation of
what EC is today and why he is the way he is today. As one of my favorite
philosophers would say: "It's it and that's that, so why ask why."

All that said, EC still has his moments. I remember taking my son to see him
in Albany NY on the 2001 tour (the last tour I chased him around on - 5
shows in 7 nights). Several times that night, he lost control and just
ripped. It was stunning to watch. My son has gone with me to EC concerts a
number of times and he still talks about that one (and not just about the
overweight women dancing in the aisles and shrieking along with Layla).

I have to agree with Jon and DN that EC is past his prime. He can still do
it, but IMHO it's not very often and is more likely to be less rather than
more frequent. As I look back over his solo career, I point to the 1990
Journeyman tour, the early 1990s blues shows at the RAH and the 1994-95 FTC
tour as the pinnacles. And I'm bloody grateful to have had them.

Bry and I caught him in Philly last year and enjoyed him. Did it compare to
the past? No. Are we likely to see that level of playing again. Probably
not. I would say, though, that we were 8th row center (courtesy of eBay, not
ECAccess) and the only time I saw Eric really smile the entire night was
when Robert came out for Crossroads - he was grinning like the proverbial
Chesire cat and they were having a lot of fun and it showed. That was the
highlight of the evening, as far as I'm concerned. It was only for 6 or 7
minutes but it made the whole evening worthwhile - the rest was gravy, as
far as I'm concerned.

~ BluesFan

Clapton Dei Est !
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