Eric Clapton Concert Review – NME

Eric Clapton Concert Review
Norfolk, Virginia

“It’s those out of the way gigs you gotta watch out for,” Carl Radle reasoned later. “They’re always the best. And nobody ever hears about them.”

Wrong. Let is be said here that Eric Clapton and his band (George Terry, guitars and vocals; Dick Sims, keyboards; Sergio Parnelli, congas; Jamie Oldaker, drums; Carl Radle, bass; Yvonne Elliman and Marcy Levy vocals) wound up several months of North American dates in Norfolk, Virginia with a stunning tour de force characteristic of every night of this the “E.C.’s Chops Are Back” tour.

Dressed in his standard tour outfit, a dark blue Esso jumpsuit (“I’m gonna wear it as much as I can before the fucking thing shrinks up to nothin'”), Eric Scotch-wobbled on stage, strapped on his guitar and tore into a 15-minute long “Layla.”

Opening with this trump (and adding another guitar solo in place of the piano signature) was the only constant in a set order he re-shuffled nightly. No fool, Eric.

The 15,000 capacity crowd had no choice but to go wild.

Grinning broadly throughout, he did little to let them down over the next two-and-a-half hours.

Flanked on either side by Elliman and Levy, Eric followed with a much-slowed “Bell Bottom Blues” and bluesier “Key To The Highway.” Where last tour he had left much of the lead work to Terry, Clapton was now approaching even his most difficult licks like an earnest schoolboy. After having quickly overpowering the audience with three from “Layla,” the focal point was switched to Terry, for his fine “Mainline Florida.” It was the only track from “461 Ocean Boulevard” played all evening. Bobby Bland’s “Further On Down The Road,” Clapton’s piece de resistance from “E.C. Was Here,” came next.

Like most of his open-ended-on-stage repertoire, the song’s length depended entirely on the groove. Tonight’s version ran a whopping twenty minutes.

By this time, the audience was in pandemonium. Had the election been held then and there, Eric Clapton could surely have been elected mayor of Norfolk.

More than pleased with himself, he left stage-center to Yvonne Elliman’s version of “Can’t Find My Way Back-Home.” Eric smoked a Rothmans, sipped a drink and sang harmonies from an off-stage mike.

Elliman’s solo spot is an extremely enjoyable one. Not only does she economise on her vocal gymnastics, but her acoustic guitar playing is surprising competent.

Her charismatic stage presence, which usually includes her finding drinks for those pressed against the stage, earned enthusiastic applause.

Clapton returned for a pop-reggae reading of “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door,” far more infectious on stage than record. The crowd bobbed and weaved in time.

The pace was soon slowed though for a lengthy “Stormy Monday,” with both Terry and Clapton faring spectacularly on their inter-weaving solos.

Having once again hit a peak, Eric made way for another solo spot – Marcy Levy’s.

Levy, a Tulsa singer-songwriter that Radle, Oldaker and Sims brought into the band six months ago, played and sang her own composition, “Teach Me To Be Your Woman.” The song, due on her forthcoming album, is quite good. It is a pleasant and effective interlude.

Clapton charged back to end the set with a pair of old favourites, “Blues Power” and “Tell The Truth.” A ten-minute standing ovation persuaded him to return for “Let It Rain” with Poco, who opened the show. An interesting combination.

Timothy Schmidt and George Gratham wailed the chorus in typical Poco fashion. Rusty Young’s steel – barely audible – was credible enough. But it was Paul Cotton who shined on lead guitar. Terry stepped back, to let Cotton and Clapton duel on leads for an inspired fifteen minutes.

Afterwards, with the house lights on and no chance for an encore, the audience still remained on their feet for a respectful standing ovation.

“You won’t catch me saying this is my best band,” Eric said backstage. “The last time I said that, the Dominoes broke up a month later. But . . .”

Clapton leaned in close and whispered. “I’d go see us.”

Courtesy of the New Musical Express (NME) – Cameron Crowe –┬áSeptember, 1975