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ERIC CLAPTON/JEFF BECK
O2 Arena, London, 14 February 2010
A few years ago, I set
myself the target of broadening my horizons, hanging the expense and
seeing some of the seminal figures in rock music history before they
died or I did, which ever came soonest.
As a result, I have recently been privileged to finally see the likes of
Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles, Neil Young, and,
in 2009 Roger McGuinn and Ray Davies, all of whom were consummate
I'd always been put off doing likewise with Eric Clapton, never having
owned a filofax, driven a Golf GTi or done business with anyone who
owned a box at the Royal Albert Hall.
having recently been playing a lot of Cream and his Rainbow Concert CD,
and been impressed by his televised concert with Steve Winwood, it was
time to break my duck and a pairing with equally pioneering guitarist
and ex-Yardbird Jeff Beck gave me the opportunity to kill two birds with
one (expensive) stone.
Jeff Beck - seemingly frozen in time with his black feather cut
and sleeveless T-shirt - came on first to do a 50 minute, mainly
instrumental set, with a three piece band including some noted players
such as Narada Michael Walden on drums and Prince bassist Rhonda Smith,
backed at times by an orchestra.
The set was a mixture of his jazzy rock workouts, and guitar and
orchestra interpretations of classic songs, including People Get Ready
(though it missed Rod Stewart's singing) and A Day In the Life. There
were also guest appearances from the violinist from The Corrs (remember
how they were big in the nineties only to sink without trace?) and jazz
singer Imelda May.
Not my musical style of choice, but his guitar playing was skilful and
dextrous and was a reminder how he has influenced countless others. I
didn't expect to be saying this, but to hear him close the set with
Nessun Dorma on guitar backed by an orchestra was a spine tingling
After a lengthy interval, Eric Clapton came on stage, with his
hair grown out and swept back and a thick pair of glasses, and I
couldn't watch him without thinking Ricky Tomlinson had been wheeled out
to reprise his Jim Royle character.
He opened, perched on a stool with a very un rock 'n' roll carpet
underneath, with a short set of acoustic blues, but I was relieved when
he strapped on his Fender Stratocaster for an enjoyable run through of
some of his standards including Tell the Truth with a slight Stones-y
vibe, a jam version of I Shot the Sheriff with perhaps his best solo of
the night, Key to the Highway and Cocaine.
there was rather too much emphasis on lengthy solos from either keyboard
player, we were still witnessing a master at work with his effortless
but melodic bluesy licks.
Then, unannounced, Jeff Beck joined him for the second half of the set,
enlivening a cover of Shake Your Moneymaker with some vintage bottleneck
slide playing. The occasion called for some Yardbirds, Cream or anything
that reminded us of the debt classic and hard rock owes to these two
pioneers. However instead we got a cover of Moon River, admittedly with
some tasteful guitar from Jeff, followed by a series of plodding,
perfunctory12-bar blues covers such as Wee Wee Baby.
Jeff tended to take the majority of the leads, at least initially, with
Eric concentrating on singing. There was barely any guitar interplay
between the two and indeed they scarcely acknowledged each others'
presence. After meandering along, the joint set at least closed in style
with a surprise cover of Sly Stone's I Wanna Take You Higher, showing
off the girl backing singers rather than the guitarists.
It was ironic that, after refusing to give the crowd what they wanted,
they encored with the song Hi Ho Silver Lining, whose shadow Beck has
spent his career trying to escape. They shared the singing, and as it
finally got the crowd to their feet it served its purpose. However, they
then shuffled off stage never to return, with barely even a thank you.
As I made my
way into the long queues for the tube, I was thinking to myself, no
Cream? (though I later discovered Crossroads had been played the
previous night), no Yardbirds? No Jeff Beck Group? Not even Layla….
I can tick two of the legends off my list, but this was in all honesty a
disappointing evening. Mr Beck has plenty of life left in him, but I'm
afraid Mr Clapton is in pipe and slippers territory. EC is God? On this
evidence, Jim Royle would have a two word catchphrase in reply.
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