February 1, 2004

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton & Friends Live 1986
It’s a little disturbing to a guitar guy when the drummer is way more animated than the band’s lead guitarist. But, in this concert-footage DVD, the drummer is Phil Collins. And, of course, the soloist is Eric Clapton—not the most energetic legend to wield a guitar, to be sure. But this semi-super-group affair (with Nathan East on bass and Greg Phillinganes on keyboards) did take place before Clapton got unplugged, turned “Layla” into a ballad, and started channeling Armani more often than Albert King. What all of this means to Clapton fans is that Live 1986 documents a pretty rockin’ show. Clapton appears loose and invested, and, for the most part, he seems to be enjoying the act of tearing it up. One can only imagine that Collins might have been kicking Slowhand’s ass—after all, only a corpse could remain unmoved by his relentless sense of groove—but, whatever the cause, Clapton is digging into notes, letting the edge snap back into his Strat tone, and even allowing moments of uncalculated passion into his singing. Sweet. While no one can truly know what thoughts drift through a living legend’s headspace, I’m betting that Clapton walked onto the stage of Birmingham, England’s National Exhibition Center on July 15, 1986 aching to play. As those moments seem less and less common these days—at least as far as guitar fans are concerned—let’s thank our lucky stars that this date was captured on film 18 years ago. Eagle Eye Media.

—Michael Molenda


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