Eric Clapton at The O2 Dublin (Review)
Slowhand plays the Blues
Eric Clapton landed in The O2 Dublin on Thursday night as part of his 50th Anniversary tour, and as such it was a fitting retrospective of his rich musical legacy to date. Watching a show like Clapton’s is akin to watching a big Broadway musical. The production is tight, the musicianship is second to none and the show flows like a well oiled and well drilled machine with little room for improvisation. Ideally, a show like this is much better suited to a more intimate venue but that’s a pipe dream when it comes to seeing a legendary figure like Clapton. With a nearly full house of almost 10,000, he would have to play a month of shows in a smaller venue to accommodate my ideal.
The sound was, for once, immaculate in The O2 and the crowd, although very sedate, were very appreciative of Clapton’s presence. He remains a somewhat revered figure on the music scene and the audience hung on his every note, truly.
His recent decision to retire from touring when he hits 70 obviously played a big part in the choice of material for this tour. As such, there was something for everyone in the audience, except maybe for fans of his mid 80s chart friendly phase, which seemed to be distinctly missing from this retrospective thankfully. This apart, his musical heritage was well covered with snippets of everything from Cream, Derek and the Dominos, his early ’90s unplugged sessions and his solo career. Starting out with ‘Hello Old Friend’ from his 1976 album ‘No Reason to Cry’ set the stall for what to expect for the night. He moved through his career jumping between Cream, Dominos and solo material mixed with a number of blues cover version. The biggest nod of which goes to Robert Johnson. His well documented love of the legendary bluesman and his music was highlighted once again with a number of covers including, ‘Crossroad Blues’, ‘Stones in my Passway’, ‘Little Queen of Spades’ and a wonderful rendition of ‘Love in Vain’. Check out Clapton’s tribute albums to Robert Johnson if you haven’t heard them before, wonderful stuff indeed.
He took the tempo down a bit when we were treated to a semi acoustic set which included ‘Layla’, ‘Lay Down Sally’ and ‘Wonderful Tonight’ before stepping it up again with the Johnson covers and ‘Cocaine’ (which got the biggest cheer of the night) before departing the stage. The encores were ‘Sunshine of your Love’ and a cover of the Joe Cocker song ‘High Time We Went’, and at that stage it surely was, having clocked up over 2 hours. Time certainly hasn’t diminished Clapton’s ability to play guitar either, he can still rip it up with the best of them. It has to be said he was ably assisted by a tremendous backing band and he seems happy to give the other musicians their shot in the spotlight, with Paul Carrack on keyboards getting to sing one of his own tunes.
The only downside of Clapton’s performance would be the lack of interaction with the crowd (apart from the odd thank you he hardly said a word on stage), which is disappointing, but only a minor complaint giving the entertainment on offer. Clapton turns 70 in two years time and has committed to giving up touring at that stage so its highly unlikely that we’ll see him on these shores again, so for that reason alone it was a night not to be missed and once again the crowd were sent home with smiles on their faces.
Review by Tony Martin