[Slowhand] EC & JB in Montreal

Richard Batty rbatty at mba1984.hbs.edu
Tue Feb 23 19:22:20 EST 2010

I first saw EC live in Montreal in July 1974, after not being allowed to see
the Cream show here in 1968. (Thank God for the 2005 reunion!) I was so
overjoyed to see EC live after being a fan since the Bluesbreakers album
that I probably wasn't very objective. What I do remember was loving how EC
played "around" the melody in his "Layla" solo. I've been fortunate to see
EC a lot since then and also fortunate to hear a ton of live recordings
thanks to friends and the wonder of the Internet.

So what about last night? What comes to mind was what is sometimes said
about sex - even when it's bad, it's still good. Not that EC was bad last
night. But the show didn't come close to shows I've seen or heard - the
recent shows with Winwood, the Cream 2005 shows, the FTC show I attended in
San Jose in 1994 (as well as the classic recordings from that tour), the
recordings of the 4-piece shows in the early 1990s, the 1996 Hyde Park show
and many more. I felt the format didn't help. For an "opening" act, Jeff
Beck had a long set. This meant EC's solo set was shorter than normal and
there were 4 acoustic songs. So there just wasn't much opportunity for
classic EC electric solos. Sheriff, Little Queen, Key and Cocaine all
provided some great EC but that's not much. Running on Faith always fails
for me to match the wonderful solo on the 24 Nights CD, so acoustically it
disappoints me. Driftin' was fine. Acoustic Layla was fine but we all love
the electric version no matter how many times we've heard it. (I do love
the acoustic version and solo from Hyde Park 1996).

I've Got a Rock and Roll Heart is personally a nadir for me. Gosh, I'm
sounding like DeltaNick! It's all individual preference but this is not the
new addition that I'd like to see from EC.

The joint set with JB seemed to have EC defer almost completely to Jeff on
solos. Moon River could easily have been in Jeff's solo set and was good.
I'm still puzzled by I Want to Take You Higher as a Choice. I wanted to see
more call-and-response from these guys - think the version of Cause We've
Ended As Lovers from Crossroads 2004 or the sublime duet with Albert Lee on
the Bremen 1983 The Shape You're In. Last night it was basically all Jeff.
He was great but I went to see Jeff AND Eric.

I never thought I would say this but I enjoyed Jeff's set way more than
Eric's. Jeff put on an incredible display of guitar playing. Since he's an
instrumentalist, it was basically all solos. His cover of the Irish
folksong Mna Na Eireann just about brought me to tears - one of the most
beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. It's a huge shame it's not on
his forthcoming album. It's as beautiful as his Where Were You, Eric's
Communion or Pink Floyd's Marooned. Corpus Christi Carol and Nessum Dorma
were also beautiful. Jeff also played several of his great riff-driven

So-so Eric is still good but it could have been so much more. For me, Eric
hit what he's capable of in the final solo in Little Queen of Spades. But
Jeff made this a show worth attending.

PS - the one time I needed to get rid of beer during a concert, Eric doesn't
play Wonderful Tonight! The ironies of life!!


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