Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Review: Eric Clapton, Odyssey Arena, Belfast

Slowhand on spellbinding form as he raids the blues back catalogue

Eric Clapton

Masterful musician Eric Clapton delivered a virtuoso performance with his band at the Odyssey last night David Fitzgerald

Rock icon Eric Clapton returned to Belfast last night for the first time since 2004.

Old ‘Slowhand' may be 66 now, but he’s still a musical force to be reckoned with.

The guitarist his fans once called ‘God' picked his way through a two-hour show, split between hits and obscure blues numbers.

As well as crowd-pleasers like I Shot The Sheriff, Layla and Wonderful Tonight, there were nuggets from the 1920s, '30s, '40s and '50s.

Much of the material was older than anyone in the room — which is saying something — but it all sounded fresh and exciting, as truly great music always does.

Surprisingly, there was little from Clapton's current self-titled CD, but when you've got a 20-album-strong solo catalogue — never mind The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith or Derek And The Dominoes — it's going to be hard putting a set together.

Clapton’s band included his long-time rhythm section, drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Willie Weeks, as well as a couple of keyboardists and two backing singers.

But Clapton handled all the guitar work himself, using the same turquoise Fender Stratocaster for most of the gig.

Dressed casually in jeans and a black, short-sleeved shirt, with grey hair and a stubbled chin, the star peeled off the licks, saying little between songs and rarely moving more than a couple of feet from the mic stand.

It wasn't the most dynamic of stage performances if truth be told, but then again, people don't come to Clapton for pyros or light shows.

The masterful musicianship was the only special effect on offer here — though the Odyssey did get a special treat in a sublime, acoustic version of Still Got The Blues (For You) by Belfast-born Gary Moore, a nice tribute to the late Thin Lizzy man.

But it was Clapton's storming take on Cream's Badge and his closing, powerhouse arrangement of Robert Johnson's Crossroads that truly brought the house down.

Often written off as ‘dad rock' or ‘yuppie' fodder, it's worth remembering that without Clapton and Cream there'd have been no Black Sabbath, and therefore no Metallica, no Nirvana, and probably no your favourite band.

ANDREW JOHNSTON

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