Clapton brings the blues to Boston

A review of Eric Clapton at the Comcast Center on June 4, 2008

, Managing Editor

Due to massively popular video games and countless magazine features, guitar heroes are more in the spotlight than ever and the Boston area was lucky enough to catch one on Wednesday in Mansfield as the legendary Eric Clapton displayed his masterful chops during a two-hour set before a near-capacity crowd at the Comcast Center (recently known as the Tweeter Center).&

Clapton’s playing on Cream’s "Crossroads" and "White Room", along with Derek and the Dominos "Layla" made him one of the most highly represented guitarists in Rolling Stone’s recently released list of "100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time". However, Clapton’s set was bursting with old blues songs rather than the aforementioned hits.

The guitar legend opened his set with "Motherless Children", the opening track off his classic 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard. Clapton followed it up with "Key to the Highway" from his Derek and the Dominos days. The opening of the show was full of energy, keeping some of the crowd on its feet while Clapton and guitarist Doyle Bramhill II traded solos and shared vocals. A short pause between songs gave Clapton a chance to greet the audience, one of the few times he spoke as he let his guitar do the bulk of the talking.

Shifting momentum, as he would do several times throughout the evening, Clapton slowed the tempo down but thrilled the audience with his version of Jimi Hendrix’s "Little Wing", which he stuck in between several blues classics including& "Hoochie Coochie Man", "Outside Woman Blues", and "Double Trouble". The latter track was a highlight featuring smooth, textbook blues solos from both Clapton and Bramhill, each of whom received affectionate cheers after passionately bending note after note.

Shortly after, Clapton kicked the tempo back up with the Wilson Pickett hit "Don’t Knock My Love", as he unleashed one of his faster-paced solos of the night before taking a seat to perform an acoustic leg of the show. Clapton appeared alone onstage for "Drifting" before his band rejoined him for fan favorites such as "Rockin’ Chair" and "Running on Faith".

Clapton and co. were back on their feet and rocking with "Tell the Truth", which included a jolting solo by Clapton to end the song. "Little Queen of Spades" followed and was a fantastic showcase of the band’s talent as pianist Chris Stainton got a rise out of the crowd with an impressive solo building up into a huge crescendo. Barmhill received a warm reception for his solo as well before Clapton closed out the song with another rousing solo.

Finally, at the end of his set Clapton broke away from the blues numbers to play a few of his popular hits. "Before You Accuse Me" was able to get some fans back into the groove of the show before the crowd quickly quieted for "Wonderful Tonight", during which a few couples even took the liberty of slow dancing in the front row, most likely due to the prom-like lighting that was cast upon the audience. Whether the fans found it sappy or sweet was quickly forgotten as the masses took to their feet while the opening riff of "Layla" rang through the Comcast Center. The audience shot out of their seats to sing and clap along. The last note of "Layla" bridged right into "Cocaine", aided by a roaring Clapton guitar solo and some jiving piano playing by Stainton, which ended the main set in a highly enjoyable fashion.

Clapton quickly emerged for one more song, this time joined by show opener and amazing steel guitarist Robert Randolph. "I’ve Got My Mojo Working" closed out the night bringing smiles to the faces of both the performers and the audience. However, despite the great blues performances, the quick string of hits towards the end of Clapton’s show may have left some fans wanting more.&

The atmosphere felt as though the majority of the audience wasn’t fully into the show until the last leg. The crowd was bustling around a bit more than expected during a Clapton performance due to the numerous slow blues numbers. However, Clapton performed brilliantly and he played what he loves, the blues. Though some missed out on some of their favorite hits, the audience left satisfied by another exceptional performance by the guitar great. Clapton’s talented performance most likely turned some of the more casual fans in attendance onto some of the blues from the guitarist’s roots, rather than upset them over omitted hits.

Robert Randolph played a 45-minute set which most likely introduced him to fans that arrived early enough to catch him. He also paid tribute to Jimi Hendrix by closing out his set with an instrumental cover of "Voodoo Child", a staple of his live shows.

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