Eric Clapton’s B-Day At Madison Square Garden

As I was sitting at Madison Square Garden watching Eric Clapton, it hit me that it was 30 years ago almost to the month that I saw the man at the Worcester Centrum (setlist to that show) in one of my fist concerts.  I was a couple of weeks shy of my 16th birthday.  I’ve seen Slowhand a handful of times since then, most recently at the 12-12-12 show where his inclusion of Got To Get Better in A Little While made wah-wah dreams come true, and it’s always been a richly rewarding experience but I’ve never seen him better than at Sunday’s show (May 3, 2015) which was the second of his two birthday shows in New York.  The first was Friday…a Ranger game in between…with the same guests and nearly identical setlist.

It had it all – a tasty acoustic set including Tears in Heaven that Steve Gadd put a jazz beat on, some deep blues (Robert Johnson’s Little Queen of Spades), fantastic guests, and a few transcendent moments of guitar bliss like the solo he tore off during I Shot The Sheriff.

Clapton has become an outstanding bandleader who surrounds himself with fantastic players and arranges material to get the most out of them.   In addition to Nathan East singing Cant’ Find My Way Home, Paul Carrack sang You Are So Beautiful (not too sweet!) – the first of a pair of songs that Joe Cocker made famous, High Time We Went, being the other – no doubt spurred by having Chris Stainton in the band who played with Joe Cocker from about 66 through 72 and co-wrote the latter.

One could argue…I might even argue that it would have been better to have Tales of Brave Ulysses or any of a number of other great songs from Cream or Derek & The Dominoes etc. rather than those tunes that Cocker is known for.  Yeah, maybe but this Eric is certainly not going to second guess the Eric!  The show was wildly satisfying.  He’s got way too many good tunes to start parsing the setlist in that way.  As he’s been quoted as being fed up with travel, I hope it’s not the last time he comes around but if it is – a more perfect note to go out on could not have been played.

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