Eric Clapton has started his 2017 live schedule with two warmly-received shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, on Sunday and Monday (19/20 March). Billed as “A Celebration Of 50 Years Of Music,” the shows were his first in America since 2015, since his supposed semi-retirement from touring and since he revealed that he is suffering from the nerve condition known as peripheral neuropathy.
Supported by Jimmie Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr, Clapton’s show moves on to two nights in Los Angeles on 25-26 March, UK concerts in May and further US dates in September. His band consists of such longtime associates as Chris Stainton on piano and keyboards, Nathan East on bass and Steve Gadd on drums, with Sharlotte Gibson and Sharon White on backing vocals. With frequent collaborator Paul Carrack currently on his own European tour, with a London Palladium date on Saturday (25) Walt Richmond played organ and keyboards.
The New York Times’ review of Sunday’s show noted that a “subdued” Clapton focused on the blues, while radio.com described his performance as “lyrical” and “soulful.” The 15-song set opened with ‘Key To The Highway’ and also included ‘Hoochie Coochie Man,’ ‘Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out’ and ‘Before You Accuse Me,’ a final encore with guest spots by Vaughan and Clark.
The show also sported the Cream favourites ‘Badge,’ ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ and ‘Crossroads,’ the further Robert Johnson cover ‘Little Queen Of Spades,’ such solo Clapton hits as ‘I Shot The Sheriff,’ an acoustic ‘Tears In Heaven’ and ‘Cocaine,’ and Derek and the Dominos‘ ‘Layla.’ The same 15 songs featured in last night’s (Monday) second concert, with J.J. Cale‘s ‘Somebody’s Knocking’ replacing ‘Key To The Highway’ as the show opener.
Wrote Giovanni Russonello in his New York Times notice: ”If Billy Joel’s continuing run of sold-out performances have turned the Garden into a temple of beer and nostalgia for the tristate area’s white baby boomers, then the concerts of Mr. Clapton, who will turn 72 this month, are home for a kind of contractually satisfying cultural diplomacy: a member of British rock royalty reimporting pieces of America’s blues canon, without overplaying his hand.”