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Eric Clapton opens Blossom season with The Blues

By malcolm Published: June 1, 2008

Eric Clapton is a living rock legend.
He's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's only triple inductee and a guitarist who used to be called God and influenced a few generations of guitarists and has a 40 year catalog of hits and classic rock radio staples.
But the 63 year old rock God and part time Ohioan has no new material to push (beyond yet another compilation) and brings with it the freedom to play what you want when you want, and Saturday night at Blossom Clapton wanted to play the blues and play them he did.

With a near sellout crowd ensuring that concert promoter LiveNation could crow about the venue's season opening numbers, Eric Clapton & His Band, a sextet, casually took the stage and and got the crowd on its feet with the funky blues shuffle of Motherless Children the opening track from Clapton's 461 Ocean Blvd.

It was a great, familiar and upbeat way to start the evening but it was the next two songs , Freddie King's funky arrangement of Key To The Highway and Muddy Waters Hootchie Cootchie Man that set the tone for rest of the evening. Clapton longtime guitar foil Doyle Bramhall II traded vocals and guitar solos on the former tune and Clapton let his Stratocaster do much of the talking on the on latter.

In fact Clapton didn't do much talking at all beyond the occasional declarative "Thank You!"
Casual Clapton fans hoping for a live "greatest hits" were likely disappointed in the 18 song cover filled set as he didn't play any hits from Cream, Blind Faith, his subpar overproduced 80's albums and only one song from the Unplugged associated tunes.

Clapton diehards content to hear Ol' Slowhand stretch out on guitar and play with passion however got an earful as both he and Bramhall (a lefty whose guitar is strung upside down) were in fine form. Bramhall played a lovely melodic solo for Little Wing and Clapton dug deep on the basic 12 bar blues of Otis Rush's Double Trouble, and showed his funky, rhythmic side on the near disco groove of Wilson Pickett's not well known Don't Knock My Love.

There was, of course, a semi-acoustic portion with Clapton playing Drifting solo before being joined by the band on Motherless Child, and Robert Johnson's Travelin' Riverside Blues featuring another tasteful slide solo from Clapton.

Aside from Clapton and Bramhall, keyboardist Chris Stainton also impressed with a fine imitation of Chuck Berry sideman Johnnie Johnson's machine gun piano style on Hootchie Cootchie Man and earned an ovation from the crowd for his rolling, saloon style solo on another Johnson tune Little Queen of Spades which Clapton answered with his own fiery above-the-octave solo that earned a standing ovation from the crowd.

Clapton may be in a place where pleasing himself onstage is more important than running through the hits, but he apparently didn't want to send the casual fans home with nothing to talk about beyond the number of songs they had never heard. Thus, the set closed with a string of hits. Wonderful Tonight, had couples canoodling in their seats followed by a suitably rousing Layla which brought everyone to their feet, and Cocaine gave Stainton one more chance to shine on the keyboard.

Opener Robert Randolph, the pedal steel phenom whose joyful, upbeat 40 minute set music got the the crowd's toes tapping and heads nodding, returned for the encore jam on Muddy Waters Got My Mojo Workin'.

Back in 2001 Clapton declared he was retiring from touring, but it was his love of the blues that brought him back to the road. Whether Clapton will ever feel like playing the ``hits´´ in concert again remains to be seen. But blues fans and any fans who still might think Clapton is ``God´´ should be giddy that he's playing the music he loves with fire rather than sleepwalking through Forever Man for the umpteenth time.

    Eric Clapton & His Band Setlist

01. Motherless Children
02. Key To The Highway
03. Hoochie Coochie Man
04. Little Wing
05. Outside Woman Blues
06. Double Trouble
07. Don't Knock My Love

08. Drifting (acoustic)
09. Rockin' Chair (acoustic)
10. Motherless Child (acoustic)
11. Travelling Riverside Blues
12. Running On Faith (acoustic)

13. Tell The Truth
14. Little Queen of Spades
15. Before You Accuse Me
16. Wonderful Tonight
17. Layla
18. Cocaine

19. I've Got My Mojo Working (with Robert Randolph)

Doyle Bramhall II - guitar, backing vocals
Chris Stainton - keyboards
Pino Palladino - bass
Ian Thomas - drums
Michelle John - backing vocals
Sharon White - backing vocals

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