Much of the early seventies were not a good time for Eric Clapton as he descended into heroin addiction. After the break-up of Derek and The Dominoes he also virtually disappeared from the music scene.
Enter Pete Townshend who organized a personal intervention. The place was the Rainbow Theatre in London and the date was January 13, 1973. For Clapton’s comeback he surrounded himself with some of the cream of English rock ‘n’ roll. In addition to Townshend there was guitarist Ronnie Wood, bassist Ric Grech, keyboardist Steve Winwood, and the double drum attack of Jim Capaldi and Jimmy Karstein.
I still have my original vinyl copy of the concert and remember thinking that it was powerful live music but had little continuity. It is one of the few vinyl releases that I have replaced with the CD version. The 1995 release contains fourteen tracks as opposed to the six issued on the original vinyl record and gives a much better idea as to what occurred during the two shows in London that day.
Clapton is not at his best (which is understandable given the circumstances), but he is still much better than just about anyone else and his compatriots more than make up for any shortcomings he may have had during the performances. The vocals are a little ragged and his guitar playing is strained in a few places which only add to the charm and authenticity of the concert and recording.
The original release included a magnificent performance of the Blind Faith tune “Presence Of The Lord” and a fine rendition of Traffic’s “Pearly Queen.” “After Midnight” is smooth as usual, but it is Hendrix’s “Little Wing” where he really takes off.
The 1995 CD presents a lot of the material that had been missing for over two decades. The rock of “Layla” and “Let It Rain” meet the blues of “Key To The Highway” and “Crossroads.” The band is a little ragged in places but the talent overcomes any problems that crop up.
Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert would return him to the limelight and eventually to good health. 1974 would find him releasing the commercially successful and critically acclaimed 461 Ocean Boulevard. There may be better concerts by Eric Clapton, but none more important. As such it remains an essential part of his history.