ERIC CLAPTON - In concert with John Martyn at the Springfield Civic Center on Wednesday.
By Steve Morse
SPRINGFIELD- Eric Clapton has been called the shy prodigy of rock & roll. He has again shunned all press interviews this time around, feeling that the only communication people should hear is his music. And he is still a man of few words on stage - mostly polite thankyou's after each song. But what is more apparent than ever is that Clapton is now a contented man, at peace with himself and with the demons that once made him a heroin addict and threatened to shelve his career.
In Springfield (he ducked Boston because of his dislike of the acoustics in Boston Garden), he seemed much more comfortable with his bandleader role than on previous tours. He conducted his hand amiably, nodding for solos like a grinning patriarch and giving no indication of his proverbial stage fright. Music poured out of him in fluid torrents - from lively, ethereal fills to his revered blues. He played beautifully, and spontaneously; he did not follow any rigid 'set list' so typical of most groups.
Selections from his recent Slowhand album (the ironic nickname given him long ago for his effortless guitar technique), dominated the early going. Opening with extended riffing on The Core, he switched to the wailing blues Ain't Gonna Worry My Life No More, then back to Slowhand numbers: Wonderful Tonight, Peaches And Diesel (his lean, expressive melodic line danced with rhythm guitarist George Terry's anchoring arpeggios) and a prolonged Lay Down Sally, his loping Top 10 hit.
Then things really got interesting. Clapton picked up an acoustic guitar for a frolicsome, if slightly inauthentic, honky tonk version of Don Williams' She's In Love With A Rodeo Man. (Clapton last year played dobro on Williams' Till The Rivers All Run Dry on the Ronnie Lane-Pete Townshend Rough Mix LP, and Williams recently joined him on stage for a Nashville date.) Then Marcy Levy, Clapton's spirited backup singer who has taken over from Yvonne Elliman, belted out Buddy Holly's Fool's Paradise, with Clapton doing the bouncy '50s harmony.
J.J. Cale's razor-sharp Cocaine was then followed by an Otis Rush backroom blues, Double Trouble, with crying guitar from Clapton. He then boogied with Badge, surrendered to Levy for the blues Nobody Loves You When You're Down & Out (boomed out by Levy) whose whiskey accents may have cracked glasses all the way to Amherst) then back to a crowd-pleaser, Let It Rain (in a curious change from his thankyou's, Clapton dedicated the song to "several ladies of the night" who gave "free service" to his road crew); the gritty 12-bar blues Key To The Highway, and finally his masterpiece Layla and a climactic encore of Bottle Of Red Wine, from Delaney and Bonnie days. The demons are definitely gone.
John Martyn opened, and his Echoplexed guitar and woozy vocals made for a strange but uniquely experimental warmup act. His eclectic style, in which he may blend funk and esthetic, dreamy voicings in the same song, was not overly well-received, but that is the audience's loss in this case. He is an underrated but major talent.
This review is reproduced in its entirety and was printed in The Boston Globe of Friday 7 April 1978.