ERIC CLAPTON
Rose Garden Arena
July 28th, 2004, Portland, OR.
Reviewed by Kenny Boyett



A word of advice. If you ever get a chance to see Eric Clapton, keep this in mind. When he closes his eyes mid-solo, and he sticks his tongue just slightly out of the side of his mouth: pay very close attention. That’s when the magic happens.

After a great set from Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Eric followed his 7 bandmembers out on stage, wearing tennis shoes, faded jeans, and a short sleeve shirt. They start things off with the 1970 classic “Let It Rain” and for the first few songs, it’s all about the voice. It’s unfair for such an excellent guitarist to have a voice like that: emotive, sensual, bluesy, strong. You’ve been hearing it for so many years, he sounds like an old family friend, good ol’ Uncle Eric. But it was during the incredibly funky “I Shot The Sheriff” that he first really let loose on guitar. He closes his eyes, tilts his head back, and is seemingly possessed by Robert Johnson, Albert King, and Jimi Hendrix, squeezing notes out of his Fender that defy description. I’ve seen a lot of great guitarists but I’d never seen anything like this. I actually laughed out loud several times, not sure why, that was just my reaction. Maybe I was laughing at myself, for being surprised that Eric was blowing my mind.

But every once in a while, during a ‘possession’, he’d stick his tongue out of the side of his mouth and his fingers would fly into a flurry of fits and his guitar would make the strangest, most beautiful sounds and people all around would shake their heads back and forth like me thinking “What was that?!!! What did he just do?!!!” And then the crowd would burst into applause and he’d step back up to the mic with the look of a magician saying “That’s just one of my tricks, and even I’m not sure how I do it”.

After another verse, Billy Preston would take an electrifying solo on keys and remind you why John and Paul called him the 5th Beatle, who played all the classic piano parts on “Abbey Road”, “Let It Be” and countless other classics. The back-up singers left the stage and the guys sat down on chairs for the acoustic blues set, where Eric convinced us all why he’s the heir to the Robert Johnson throne, playing scorching versions of “Me and the Devil”, “They're Red Hot”, and “Milkcow's Blues”.

The back-up ladies came back out for the rest of the show where Eric stood back up and ripped through long blistering solos on favorites like “Badge” “Layla” and “Cocaine”. After more than 2 hours of pure guitar heaven, they encored with Robert Randolph and Eric trading licks on “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Got My Mojo Working”, leaving the crowd breathless and completely awestruck.

I went home and, though I told myself not to, I couldn’t resist picking up my guitar. I started playing a high note, and stuck my tongue out of the side of my mouth: Nope, I got nothin’.

Tonight’s set list:

Let it rain, Hoochie Coochie Man, Walk Out In The Rain, I Wanna Little Girl, I Shot The Sheriff, Me and the Devil Blues, They're Red Hot, Milkcow's Calf Blues, (If I Had) Posession Over Judgement Day, Kind Hearted Woman, Got To Get Better In A Little While, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Badge, Wonderful tonight, Layla, White Room, Cocaine

Encore:
Sunshine of Your Love (with Robert Randolph), Got My Mojo Working (with Robert Randolph)

Band:
Eric Clapton - Guitar, Vocals
Nathan East - Bass, Vocals
Steve Gadd - Drums
Doyle Bramhall II - Guitar, Vocals
Chris Stainton - Piano
Billy Preston - Keyboards, hammond organ, Vocals
Sharon White - Background Vocals
Michelle John - Background Vocals

Website:
Eric Clapton (official)