Eric Clapton - Old Slowhand My Ass !!!
Cleveland, OH - July 10, 2004 - Geetarz 113/114 - Aud 5
Comments: Sonic Solutions DSM-6-> Mod-2 D7.
Geetarz Review: The Gund Arena in downtown Cleveland isn't bad for a fairly large arena, seems they have done some renovation and rework over the past couple years. I don't know about ticket sales but concessions etc. were a breeze and not like some other places we've visited on this tour (ie Philly) where the lines were just nuts.
With all the griping about the nonchanging setlist, no one seems to have noticed that the one guy who "gets it" is the always awesome Robert Randolph! In Philly he was joined onstage by his sister, at the first NYC show he switched out and replaced his cousin on guitar for that show, and in Cleveland he was joined by a man whom he introduced as his mentor who taught him "how to play this thing" and they proceeded to blow the roof off the place, steel guitar style. I can't remember the name of the song but the opening number was that Herbie Hancock (I think) song that was ubiquitous in the 80s, and it was great! I've never seen an opener I've liked better for EC, kudos for the choice of Randolph. Of course I've never forgiven EC for making me sit through Buckwheat Zydeco but that's another email ...
EC and band strolled on stage promptly at 8:30, and after a little noodling kicked into a nice "Let it Rain". "Hoochie Coochie" was great, EC's finding ways of doing this a bit differently each night but still with intensity - great stuff. Maybe I've adjusted, the background vocals still are out of place but not quite so grating now. "Walk Out in the Rain" ... what can I say, I can't get enough of this one. It was interesting watching the crowd to see who out there 'got it' and/or knew it was coming. And about the crowd - the best crowd I've seen at an EC show, EVER, these folks came to see the show - not to chitchat, not to see&be seen, but to sit in their seats and pay attention. It was a complete turnabout from the Garden shows where the people just could not shut up even when they managed to stay in their seats.
"I Shot the Sheriff" was the first place where the band really went over the top, EC in particular seems to go in a different direction with this each night but still pulls out all the stops. The best comment of the night was the otherwise subdued woman sitting behind me who, after EC's solo in "Sheriff" turned to her date and said "Old slowhand MY ASS!!!".
EC really worked up a sweat and took off his glasses for the RJ set, which got a really nice response from the crowd. Unlike some shows (DC, Philly) where the crowd to some degree used the RJ set as a beer/restroom break, I overheard a lot of folks who were really looking forward to it. It was great having Billy Preston back, but he wasn't really pushing his way into the band, he was a little more laid back than he has been in the past.
"Got to Get Better" as usual was a showstopper. Not only did EC blow the doors off (better than most of the shows so far), but it was Nathan who was simply all over the place on this one, maybe it was where we were sitting (on the floor in front of Nathan's amps) but his fills and general "feel" of his bassline really moved this one into the stratosphere.
"Have You Ever Loved a Woman" - wow. The band all shined here. EC's intro solo was unusually fiery, but I gotta give this one to Doyle. His solo was understated, in an Albert King sort of way, but still totally Doyle. Think I'm crazy? I'll bet if you asked EC he'd say the same, he was all grins as Doyle had his turn, and as it finished was simply shaking his head in amazement.
"Wonderful Tonight" - no comment, other than it was (mercifully) short.
"Layla" and "Cocaine" - good grief, how do these guys play these songs with this intensity after all this time? I haven't seen "Layla" like this since the 1990 tour, and EC's vocals are better than ever, he was simply growling the lines, all tensed up. And not only on "Cocaine" but on "Sunshine" ... Steve's drumming at times, especially in 2001, veered a bit toward the jazz side of things, which is great at a jazz gig but it's like he decided to screw the subtle stuff and pound the hell out of the skins which is fantastic in my book. His right foot carried the encore, he was laying it down and bringing everyone else along for the ride. Ginger Who?
And the finale, "Got My Mojo Working" was worth the price of admission alone. The whole band went into overdrive, and then Robert Randolph came out for a friendly duel with EC during "Sunshine" and then into "Mojo", and these guys were just over the top. As they got up EC gave Robert a huge bear hug, laughing, it was clear he was just tickled at the guy's performance, and so Randolph put his hat on EC as they all took a bow - I am praying someone got a nice picture of that!
After the show we went out for a nice time with friends we see all to rarely, and then back the RnR HoF annex for more after-show party.
And the highlight of the trip, you ask? A very special tour of the "Head on a Stick" closet, I got to view the entire collection! Now that was worth the trip alone. Many public thanks to Sam, Tracy, and Steve-O for a fantastic time and wonderful hospitality. And it was great seeing fellow SD'ers Rick, Anita, Lisa, and Ish - tonight in Columbus in a few hours, round #2 !