I’d never been to the Royal Albert Hall before, however after this gig, I’m definitely going again. No matter what angle you approach this venue, you will be blown away by the spiralling architecture seen from miles away. The Albert Memorial stands just across the way, in a dominant position and it leaves you with a sense of satisfaction just looking at the place, let alone getting to see your idol inside.
After a couple of drinks from one of the many bars in the venue, it was time to see a guitar legend. My seats were in the arena area, right in front of the stage. Upon walking through the entrance doors below, I walked into this mind blowing red and gold vintage dome. You could feel the sheer presence of talent that has been in this very place, my hairs literally stood on end.
Like every live concert for these huge artists, you expect a warm up band. Whoever could warm up for Clapton? Was the question rolling through my mind. Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders came to the stage. These guys were brilliant, the lead singer Andy Fairweather had several moments of pure comedic genius, from playing The Who for a split second and even an Eric Clapton song, again for a few seconds. Andy having contributed to The Who’s albums Who Are You and It’s Hard. Not forgetting he used to play in Eric Clapton’s band in the early nineties up until 2003. A mixture of early classic’s rolled through, and several of his own.
A small break and Eric Clapton came on the stage. His first comments on the microphone “This is just like playing in my living room” I guess with the fame he alone has bought to The Royal Albert Hall, he can say whatever he likes. The audience went wild none the less, he was here, a man who has influenced millions. The first song of the night ‘Key To The Highway’, set the stage perfectly. He showed just a mellow start to what was to come. His band took the spotlight on several occasions, keyboard and organ solos throughout, these really were something pulled from the 70′s.
‘I shot the Sheriff’ came from nowhere, as written in Eric’s latest 2011 tour guide, he changes what he’s going to play from gig to gig, focusing on the mood of the audience. We obviously had been looking like we needed a hit single. It went down perfectly, as you’d expect from a guy who has no doubt played it more times than I’ve listened to it. Every song that came out Clapton’s guitar, from Gary Moore’s ‘Still Got the Blues’, to JJ Cale’s ‘Same Old Blues’ all had spice. Not one song that didn’t include some improvised or variety of Clapton’s screaming woman tone. I don’t think any Eric Clapton fan would have been disappointed.
Eric continued to impress with a great acoustic set for the next few songs. It wasn’t until he played the Cream classic ‘Badge’ that I really could see through his history, in front of my eyes. You could see the young Eric playing like he was sixteen again. The gold light beaming down on him, with a huge screen in the backdrop showing hypnotic visuals. The harmony was like no other, just pure, lush sound. My foot was stamping on the floor beneath, rocking the entire row of seats. This was then followed by ‘Wonderful Tonight’, ‘Little Queen Of Spades’ and ‘Cocaine’ to name a few. ‘Cocaine’ got people up out of their seats and before long the audience were rocking like it was 1977 (the year this song was released on Clapton’s Slowhand album, only a year after the original).
The one guitarist I’ve been waiting all my life to see left the stage with a huge smile of joy. We weren’t letting the guy go until we had an encore. After the usual cheering, applauding, thumping on the ground he walked back to the stage. ‘Crossroads’ was the song of choice, and my word he performed it like it had never been played before! I didn’t think that was even possible. What a fantastic night, from a true Blues/ Rock musician. Iâ€™ll be sure to see him again at any chance I may have.
Warm Up Band: Support: Andy Fairweather Low & The Low Riders (http://www.andyfairweatherlow.com)
Review written by Peter Grose