Eric Claptons’ first Winnipeg show in almost 20 years sold out all 13,000 seats in about two hours. In all likelihood, the 62 year-old Clapton could have sold out a second show, but that wasn’t to be.
I’m docking him half a star for not playing more songs that I knew. Someone wrote into our major daily newspaper to make just that point. Naturally, someone replied saying that they recognized everything he played. But the fans we spoke with all pretty much agreed that he should have played more better known songs.
Other than that, this was a magnificent display of guitar playing — better than any I have ever seen. Eric Clapton is a peerless musician. Is he the best guitarist in the world? For the bluesy style he plays, I would say absolutely without a doubt. Clapton shared the stage with another amazing guitarist, Doyle Bramhall II, one of the founders of the 1992 Arc Angels project with Charlie Sexton.
Inside the relatively new MTS Centre, the sound was also excellent. I was disapointed that I ended up sitting in one of the corner areas — a row above the ice surface — rather than closer to the stage. But that’s what happens when you want several tickets rather than just a pair.
The show had both electric and acoustic sets, and while everything sounded great, there was huge anticipation for Clapton to play some of his better known tracks. Where were hits like “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Lay Down Sally,” “It’s In The Way That You Use It,” “Forever Man,” and “After Midnight”? Not to mention the classics from the Cream catalog?
The closer was “Layla,” which was an extended jam. The encore opened with “Cocaine” and closed with “Crossroads,” both of which turned into jams, the latter with Robert Cray joining in. It’s really the jams that get me the most excited. These are the moments of spontaneity and invention that are never again to be repeated exactly the same way.
Opener Robert Cray was one of the few contemporary blues guys who actually received airplay on rock radio. He became the bluesman people who knew nothing about blues liked. His opening set was fine. Cray’s vocals were very sensual, leaning more to R&B than traditional blues. Honestly, I’m not so sure I would pay to see Cray as a headliner. He’s just a little too slick for my liking. Now, if Doyle Bramhall II came to town, I would be there in a heartbeat and so would a lot of other people.
Eric Clapton – guitar, vocals
Doyle Bramhall II – guitar
Chris Stainton – keyboards
Tim Carmon – keyboards
Willie Weeks – bass
Steve Jordan – drums
Michelle John – backing vocals
Sharon White – backing vocals
01. Tell The Truth
02. Key To The Highway
03. Got To Get Better In A Little While
04. Little Wing
05. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad
Sit Down Set
06. Driftin’ (EC Solo)
07. Outside Woman Blues
08. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out
09. Running On Faith
10. Motherless Children
11. Little Queen Of Spades
12. Further On Up The Road
13. Wonderful Tonight
16. Crossroads (With Robert Cray)