Monday, September 29, 2008

Eric Clapton’s Rainbow Concert

Apparently, this CD version of the concert recording has been available for a while now, but I just noticed it and found it cheap. The CD has the entire show, which was heavily edited for the album version.

This gig was put together by Pete Townshend primarily to help Eric get back into the spotlight after spending years as a heroin addict. The backing group consisted of Pete, Ron Wood (guitar), Rick Grech (bass), Jim Capaldi and Jimmy Karstein(drums), Rebop on percussion and Steve Winwood on keyboards.

Opening with a previously unreleased cut, “Layla”, the all-star band starts out a little shakey and honestly, never does completely hit their stride on this classic cut. Of course, having heard the studio version a zillion times, it is easy to pick it apart, but without Duane Allman to play off of, Clapton is not at the top of his game on this one. To me, this was an odd opener, as well – I think of it as more of a closer, especially with the extended instrumental ending.

The vinyl opener was “Badge”, the excellent tune co-written with George Harrison. Again, some of the original’s nuances are missing, but this is a pretty credible version. “Blues Power” is not the greatest song per se, but it did give Clapton a lot of room to riff and prove that he could still cut it as a guitar god.

“Roll it Over” is a well written bluesy tune (co-written with Bobby Whitlock who Eric wrote most of the Derek and the Dominos record with) that has lyrics that are so overtly, nastily sexual that it comes as a surprise from the laid-back Clapton. Of course, his version of Hendrix’s incredible “Little Wing” (one of Jimi’s best compositions) is well known from the Dominos record and his releases over the years. More bombastic than Hendrix, with power chords replacing the original’s supremely pretty finesse, it is still a really nice take on the tune and again allows Eric to stretch out a bit (though it also proved that Hendrix was one of a kind).

A rather inconsequential number, “Bottle of Red Wine” follows but then we get Eric biggest solo hit at that time, “After Midnight”. This is a fantastic tune, but it drags a bit in this setting, though not as much as his later, acoustic versions. This really sounds like he is holding back the entire time – I loved the attack of the original studio take and miss that here.

“Bell Bottom Blues” is a bit more successful, though again a bit slower than it should be – maybe these ponderous numbers were pulled from the vinyl version to avoid any further commentary on his addiction? Maybe he couldn’t play quite as fast any more? This is a super song though and the timing doesn’t affect it too drastically. “Presence of the Lord” is another song that is supposed to be reasonably slow, so this isn’t a problem. This is performed well, also, especially the cool, wah-wah guitar jam break.

A faithful rendition of “Tell the Truth”, with more cool guitar playing, is followed by a Traffic song, “Pearly Queen”. Winwood sings and this is pretty damn good. “Key to the Highway” is a pretty straight rendition of the Dominos version, as well – nice.

My favorite solo Clapton song has got to be “Let it Rain”. Again, this live take is not nearly as good as the studio, but it is strong, the tempo is right and Eric lets his guitar sing out at the end. He is in good voice throughout, as well.

The closer is Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”, which, of course, was a Cream standard. Once more, it is slowed down considerably, almost to the point of being a different song. This is actually a bit of a let down as a finish to the show.

Overall, an uneven gig, but some worthwhile highlights and a historic show, though I’m sure that some people would debate whether Clapton should have returned after this!