By Chuck Cox
Being such an avid enthusiast of live music, the number of really big, iconic acts I haven’t seen play live is not terribly high.
On Tuesday night, I crossed one serious heavyweight off that list when I finally got to see Eric Clapton at the American Airlines Center. I haven’t got the slightest idea what the hell took me so long.
The very definition of music royalty, Clapton is the only person to be elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three different times — as a member of Cream, as a member of the Yardbirds, and as a solo artist. Say what you want about the RNRHOF, but that accomplishment is incredibly impressive.
I had been looking forward to this show for quite some time. And I even managed to get my wife, Betsy, to tag along with me, which is no small accomplishment.
After a solid opening set by Jakob Dylan and the Wallflowers, which include three of the band’s hits, “6th Avenue Heartache,” “One Headlight,” and “The Difference,” along with a cool version of “Three Marlenas” that was sped up a bit. Any time you can hear three or four original hit songs by an opening band, that’s a pretty good way to start a show, in my opinion.
But the older crowd that filled up the AAC was clearly there for “Slowhand.” And he didn’t make it wait long for a set change, hitting the stage at 8:40 p.m. to start a robust two-hour show. Not surprisingly, Clapton played a career-spanning set list that included songs from Derek and the Dominos, Cream, and some of his biggest solo efforts, three of which came during a short acoustic set in which he played “Tears in Heaven,” “Wondeful Tonight,” and “Layla.”
As an added bonus, Paul Carrack, a music legend in his own right, played keyboards and handled lead vocals on a cover of Squeeze’s “Tempted” and Ace’s “How Long?” Of course, Clapton paid his usual tribute to blues great Robert Johnson with four straight songs before closing the main set with “Cocaine.”
Clapton’s two-song encore included Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Life” and Joe Cocker’s “High Time We Went,” with Carrack helping out on vocals. One quirk in the set list was Clapton did not play his signature cover of “I Shot the Sheriff,” although he did on the first three nights of the tour, in Phoenix, Austin, and Houston.
The thing I came away with most from the show was just how absolutely amazing of a guitar player Clapton still is at the ripe-old age of 67. You can hear all of your life about how great the guy is, and you can watch tons of live footage. But until you see and hear it for yourself, it doesn’t really hit home.
It really was an amazing show. If you haven’t seen Clapton yourself, you might consider trying to catch him on another stop on the tour. He’s in Oklahoma City tonight (March 20).