Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Concert review: Eric Clapton said Dallas “is like my second home” during timeless show
Clapton is a masterful guitarist.
DALLAS Eric Clapton’s 50th anniversary tour isn’t getting the attention being slathered on the Rolling Stones’ Golden Jubilee -- partly because Clapton doesn’t trumpet his own horn like Mick and Keith do.
But that’s fitting for a musician who thrives on restraint. Performing Tuesday night at American Airlines Center, Clapton hit the high points in his remarkable career with his usual mix of stellar musicianship and understated playing.
At 67, he’s a more polished guitarist than he was in his “Clapton is God” days. He still has the fiery fingers that earned him his sardonic “Slowhand” nickname, but he’s got a better grasp of subtlety now, and his solos Tuesday got to the point faster than his pyrotechnic displays of years past.
The somber, professorial-looking Clapton also seemed happy to be a sideman and let his excellent band-mates shine. Dallas-born Doyle Bramhall II -- Clapton’s longtime left-hand man -- took a dozen solos and stole the spotlight in “Crossroads.” Pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz pushed “Lay Down Sally” into hard-core honky-tonk and rescued a tentative version of Cream’s “Badge.” And singer-keyboardist Paul Carrack showed off his golden pipes in “Tempted,” “How Long,” and a show-closing take on Joe Cocker’s “High Time We Went.”
Clapton was in fine voice throughout the show, which included a sit-down acoustic set that’s been a hallmark of his tours since Unplugged. The reggae-folk flavorings didn’t do much for “Tears in Heaven” -- not one of his better songs -- and a perfunctory “Layla” would have been more memorable plugged in.
The show finally came alive as Clapton and Bramhall funked up “Love in Vain,” “Stones in My Passway,” and “Little Queen of Spades,” -- three classics Robert Johnson recorded in 1937 at 508 Park Ave., the Dallas blues Mecca where Clapton filmed part of his Sessions for Robert J DVD. Clapton told the near-capacity crowd Dallas “is like my second home” -- a nod to the fact that he staged the Crossroads Guitar Festival and kicked off several U.S. tours here. Tuesday was just the fourth date of this tour, and there are still kinks to be worked out in the arrangements and the show’s pacing.
But those are quibbles in a concert jammed with timeless songs and masterful guitar work. Clapton might not be God, but after five decades, he’s still a minor deity worth bowing down to.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas freelance writer.
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