Meeting God

Meeting God

I met God last Saturday, but delayed this post 'cause I was waiting for the pictures. I waited for the pictures, because like Alice I wonder,
'What good is a blog if it does not have any pictures in it'

In any case, I had waited longer for this particular moment. To hear him is one thing, to see him in person is quite another. God was unshaven, in blue, and wearing white sneakers. GOD -as in Eric Clapton.

Opening Act: Robert Randolph and the Family Band
Getting God's darshan is not always easy and at every 'Concert of a Lifetime', I have to always endure the first hour with some irritating, unworthy opening act. Robert Randolph and the Family Band were a huge surpise. I had never heard of the band before, though the reviews said that they would be quite good. They were quite wrong. They were phenomenal and a revelation to me. This was also the first time, that I heard a pedal-steel-guitar 'live'. That thing can wail, scream and screech like no other guitar. The band was dressed in what could be called,'contemporary attire of Black Americans' , ie. a baseball cap (backwards of course!),baggy shorts and basketball vests. It looked that someone had just transplanted them from some Cleveland street-game onto the stage.
Everytime black musicians start a music-style, after berating it at first, the 'whites' come along and then make it very own, forcing them to invent something new. Yesterday it was Elvis, today it's Eminem.
What made the Robert Randolph sound so unique was that it was firmly rooted in the blues but had additional layers of rock riffs, hip-hop beats and even some alternative-rock sounds colouring their music. Robert Randolph and the Family Band combine all that they probably grew up with, all their traditions of jazz, blues, rock and roll, soul, funk and hip-hop to come up with something that is fresh and unique. As if their music was not good enough, they had quite a few stunts up their sleeve. They played with so much energy,feeling and intensity that the crowd was on its feet after the first 15 minutes. During one piece, Robert kicked the chair he sat and started to kick his legs about and began to dance, while still making the pedal-steel-guitar wail and weep. Then for the penultimate song, the band decide to have fun and started swapping instruments to show their virtuosity. The drummer, Marcus Randolph who kicks big-time ass on the skins knew his chops on the pedal steer guitar too!
I have yet to see a concert where the opening act in its 4 piece set gets 2 standing ovations and a request for an encore. This band is going to make some great music and are really worth a separate concert to themselves. They won't remain opening acts for long.

The Clapton Set
If that was not excitement enough, the Clapton band walks in and then God himself, bathed in blue light walks onto the stage. Clad in blue jeans and white sneakers reaches out for his Fender Stratocaster and almost immediately starts playing, before the idea has even sunk in that you are seeing Clapton in person. He followed the opening song with the blues classic 'Hoochie Coochie Man', which was not his best rendition, but the guitaring was great. He is old, his voice is not what it was but hell he is still the best axe-man in town! After the first two songs, he took a chair and his acoustic guitar and said, " I shall now play a couple of songs from Me and Mr. Johnson." That and a few quickly muttered 'thank-you's would be all that we would hear. EC likes the guitar to talk. Thanks to the big screen and a sympathetic cameraman, most of the time the camera was focused on his fingers. The back-up band is great. . Doyle Bramhall, the second guitarist is pretty handy with the slide. If there was a show stealer in the band, then it had to be Billy Preston on the keyboards. What was he trying? To look like Ray Charles with those goggles? He played one of the most amazing solos, with a method to his madness. The drummer was not too impressive.

As noblesse oblige, any famous act has to play their most famous songs. The second half of the show were all Clapton standards. From 'Have you Really Loved a Woman' her burst into 'Badge'. For the past few weeks I had been listening to the 4 CD box Set of the 'Layla Sessions' where all sorts of jams and cuts that never made it were present. Today even after almost 30 years, he choose to play the song very much like on the original CD. For an artist as prolific as Clapton( he has issued an album almost every other year) there are just so many songs that you can play in one night. Which to choose? Yet, I wish he had played more. He never played one song from the Unplugged album, if you don't count Layla and not much of his Cream stuff other than the Badge. Wish he had done, the other Cream tracks. Wondered why he never did the raunchy and energetic 'Crossroad'. The most excruciating moment was when he played Badge. When everything seems to be going fine in the song, Mr. Clapton stops playing before music's most famous bridges. For a whole 10 seconds nothing, the crowd is now up on its feet, ' wondering is he going to play it?' or ' change it?' and then loud and clear he hear the Harrison-Clapton bridge, as it is. Great everytime you hear it.
He came on again to play 'Sunshine of your Love' as an encore, this time with Robert Randolph and company. It was a riot. The crowd waited and waited, but the great Clapton came out no more. Randolph bowed to Clapton, he hugged him and then Randolph placed his baseball cap on Eric's head.

End Note
Clapton said that 2002 was his farewell tour, but he came back again to tour this year. Its certain that Clapton is just wrapping the threads of a career as one of the most extraordinary guitarists of our time. Clapton has come a long way from his first burst into fame, whilst still a teenager and his apotheosis in the late 60s on subway stations. The cocaine-induced glory of the Cream years, to then dealing with his addiction problems and also coming to terms with personal loss. Clapton has given music a lot, but if you think about it music has given him escape throughout his life. It's not just Layla and Assorted Love songs that he has poured his troubles into to find relief. It's is most songs in some way or the other. Over the last few years he seems to be paying back his debt to music, his idols and also coming to terms with his own life. Reptile was tribute to his family, the Pilgrim album, an allusion to his life and a Father he never had. A few years ago, he teamed up with the legendary B.B. King for the great Riding with the King album. This time to Robert Johnson in Me and Mr.Johnson. With Robert Johnson, Slowhand has paid off all his debts and made his tributes and has come a full circle from the time he heard The King of Delta Blue Singers to the present. He is now back where he started from. I don't expect him or anyone to redo the Eric Clapton journey again. There might not be any exciting new work from him other than rehashed box sets or more years on the tour. Lucky to be here on what might be his last tour, still hope there he might churn out one more.

For complete set list and more pictures

1 comment:

barberine said...

hello,i"m french, i'm here i don't know how but hello from bordeaux !