Eric Clapton @ HP Pavilion: Prodigal god Returns

It’s easy for someone in my generation to find some fault in Eric Clapton. There was the Babyface phase, the saturation of the Unplugged version of “Layla,” but when it all comes down to it, the guy is rock royalty and I knew a live performance would be something to remember. Robert Cray Band opened the evening, and I’ve always had a lot of respect for Robert Cray. He calls Portland home, which automatically puts him in a sweet spot for me. His band was tight and it made for a solid blues band.
When the lights dropped after the intermission, there was a moment when the crowd was going wild, the band was taking the stage, and then you hear it: Clapton is given his guitar before he walks out to the front of the stage and plays some little blues licks as he dodges members of the band. These little licks that are probably a reflex he’d had since the late 50’s when he first started to play. He put together an all-star lineup to back him up and wasn’t afraid to share the spotlight with the other guitarists. Derek Trucks who plays with the Allman Brothers, played slide guitar and Doyle Bramhall II played the other guitar. Bramhall apparently plays his guitar upside down. I noticed that he was playing left handed with a right handed guitar, but in a little further research read that he doesn’t re-string the guitar ala Hendrix, but plays it upside down.
Clapton played some classic Clapton songs with “Layla” (On a short list of all time great rock songs), “Cocaine”, “Running on Faith” and was joined by Robert Cray for a rockin’ version of “Crossroads.” I’ve seen a lot of guitarists play live, from The Edge to Santana but I’ve never seen someone play blues and rock so cleanly. The performance was phenomenal and truly a privilege to see a living legend responsible for so much great music with the Yardbirds, Cream, and who saw studio time with The Beatles, and in my opinion his finest performance on Roger Waters’ Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. It was a privilege also to take my folks to this show. They are both Clapton fans and it seemed to be a real treat for them.
Many people refer to Eric Clapton as god, and I can assure you that isn’t the case, but I don’t think there is a better guitarist out there today. And if you thought he sold his soul to have hits in the 90’s, know that his blues today are as good as they were in the 70’s.

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