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October 19, 2020
Live Review: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood - Madison Square Garden 2/26/08 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 09 March 2008 09:53
36149052.jpgBy Karl Greenburg - GJD Staff Writer
Steve Winwood of Traffic and Eric Clapton, soon to be of Pyongyang, apparently (in case you haven't heard The Great Leader has asked Clapton to perform in North Korea), were at the Garden last Tuesday night. Sold out show, it seemed, with an enthusiastic crowd of white business types dressed down. I watched proceedings from a suite owned by a technology company.

The suite afforded me a comprehensive view of the audience, a distant view of the stage and lots of food and drinks. I've been a guest of this company for hockey games, and football over in Giants Stadium. But this was new. But in a way it wasn't. It was far more like a sporting event than a concert, save for the sea of heads on the arena floor waving back and forth like kelp.

Eric played the blues on a brand new - I mean brand new - Strat. He wore what looked like brand new pre-aged topsiders and stone-washed jeans. I mistook Winwood for Bill Gates. The audience responded to guitar runs as if they were hockey goals instead of solos: pumping fists, screaming as if the electronic scoreboard had Winwood vs. Clapton, with scores based on solo length, number and facial expressions during string-bending. Clapton won.

And there were even the hot-dog and drink vendors walking up and down the aisles. It was interesting to see some member of the audience, rocking out in his starched white shirt stopping in mid sway to yell for the garcon: "Over here. No, here. Yo!! Yeah, Bud Lite and a Dog." There's also the glistening new axes Eric and Steve had. I couldn't get away from the thought that they got those guitars from Fender re: corporate sponsorship. It was like watching the US Open and those weren't guitars but tennis rackets.

To be fair, I hadn't been to an arena concert in years. I mean years. I mean decade-type years. This dates me, but the last - and only - arena rock show I'd seen before Clapton was Boston. Remember Boston? Not the tea party, the band. I saw them on tour in Jacksonville, and for some reason my only memories of that event were A) a bunch of EMT's carrying someone away two rows down. The guy had mixed alcohol with God-knows-what, and had stopped responding to repeated blows from a bottle of Pabst wielded by his girlfriend/wife/mom. B) something having to do with electricity. Sparks flew from the ceiling and Tom Scholz stopped playing to look at the fireworks and do calculations.

As long as I'm on this, some other rock concert memories: waiting in line all night to see the Stones at the Fox in Atlanta. There was a guy, and I think he was the same guy they'd carted off at the Boston concert. I have never seen one man reduced so completely by pharmaceuticals to an incoherent mass of cytoplasmic gelatin. I vowed to catch up with him as quickly as possible.

Back to Clapton. I got bored pretty fast. I think it's because the blues, being harmonically/melodically predictable, have to be performed by people who aren't wearing new/old clothes, and playing sparkling instruments. Shouldn't the axes look beat up? Can't they stone-wash a Fender? It's got to be performed by people so steeped in it it that the experience is passionate, emotional. Eric was standing on this Persian rug. What was that about? How much did that cost?

To me it's almost as if the more technically brilliant some guitarist is playing the blues, the more I want to go to the buffet. My friend said something that I may want to say here but don't have the nerve. "Black people invented the blues, but white people got rich with it." Listening to Eric sing, "I'm goin' down to the crossroads", I found myself thinking, "in what, your Land Rover?"

The playing was tight, and I liked the closeup videos. But after half an hour of solos/cheering/solos/cheering I got more interested in creating the perfect hamburger from the buffet. And mixing it with booze. No pharmaceuticals, though, so I'll be spared that memory.

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