Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood Blow the Roof Off the United Center – Concert Review

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)–June 18, 2009.  Anyone who knows me for more than 30 minutes knows that I am a passionate fan of Eric Clapton.  I’ve attended in excess of 20 Clapton concerts throughout the United States, Holland and London’s Royal Albert Hall.  And since I’m as passionate about music as I am about Clapton, I will admit that there have been times, particularly after the release of the acoustic version of “Layla” where Clapton appeared to be just going through the motions musically.  Many wondered if Clapton had lost his passion and rumors that he would stop touring were widespread.

But then there were the Crossroads events – all day concerts with the best blues, rock and country musicians available to raise funds for Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Centre that treats those with addictions to alcohol and other drugs.  The joy that Clapton regained while performing was palpable.

One of the many highlights of the 2007 Crossroads Festival held at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, was the reunion of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood.  While the two performed only briefly, it left the thousands of us who witnessed this reunion longing for more.

Clapton and Winwood performed in 2007 in Madison Square Garden but no additional tour dates were scheduled.  But those of us who grew up listening to Blind Faith, Traffic, Jimi Hendrix, Derek and the Dominoes, and Chicago Blues finally got the thrill of our lives when these two legends performed to a sold-out concert last night at the United Center.

With only three other musicians and two back-up singers, Clapton and Winwood strolled on to the stage with no introduction, picked up their instruments and gave us more than two hours of blues and rock, both electric and acoustic.  They wasted no time with the usual banter with the audience between songs and moved from one song to the next with a set that kept the crowd mesmerized and wishing they would go on forever.

They opened with Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today” which sounded as fresh as it did 40 years ago when written by Winwood.  “Presence of the Lord” truly made you believe that heaven couldn’t be any better than this.  Winwood’s voice which is still in top-form made the song sound like a church hymn.

And then there was Winwood on the Hammond organ – a sound experience that I believe as many do, that can’t be replicated on any computerized technology.  You could have heard a pin drop in the United Center when Winwood wailed on the organ while singing Ray Charles’ signature song, “Georgia on My Mind.”

Clapton never sounded better while playing his solos that make one never question his status as ‘guitar God.” The extended plays during many of the songs only made  them sound as fresh as if they were being performed for the first time.

Just when you believed this was one of the best concerts you’d ever seen, it got even better when Buddy Guy joined the band onstage for the encore.  It’s always magical to watch Clapton look at Guy with such admiration, just as we do of him.  It was an amazing night of music – one that will be hard to top in the future, but I look forward to being there when they try.

 

Set List

  • Had to Cry Today (Blind Faith)
  • Low Down (J. J. Cale)
  • After Midnight (J. J. Cale)
  • Presence of the Lord (Blind Faith)
  • Sleeping in the Ground (Sam Myers/Blind Faith)
  • Glad (Traffic)
  • Well Alright (Buddy Holly/Blind Faith)
  • Tough Luck Blues (Big Maceo)
  • Pearly Queen (Traffic)
  • Crossroads (Robert Johnson)
  • There’s a River (Winwood)
  • Forever Man (Jerry Williams/Clapton)
  • Georgia on My Mind (Hoagy Carmichael)
  • Driftin’ Blues (Charles Brown)
  • How Long Blues (LeRoy Carr)
  • Layla (Derek and the Dominoes)
  • Can’t Find My Way Home (Blind Faith)
  • Split Decision (Winwood)
  • Voodoo Chile (Jimi Hendrix)

 

Encore

  • Sweet Home Chicago(Robert Johnson)
  • Drowning on Dry Land (Al Jackson)