England’s Royal Albert Hall has been the home for thousands of concerts during its 144 year history. During 1965, The Yardb1rds with Eric Clapton played at the Hall during a taping for British television. Last May, just a couple of weeks after celebrating his 70th birthday, he returned to the venerable hall for a series of concerts, which included his 200th. The May 15th concert has now been released as a two-cd plus one-DVD set titled Slowhand At 70: Live At Royal Albert Hall.
Accompanied by keyboardist/vocalist Paul Carrack, drummer Steve Gad, keyboardist Chris Stainton, bassist Nathan East and backing vocalists Michelle John and Sharon White, Clapton presents a career spanning concert.
Now into his sixth decade as a musician, Clapton has one of the smoothest and technically adept guitar styles in rock history. His ability to bend the strings of his guitar to create a unique and signature sound is instantly recognizable. His guitar runs remain fluid, while his voice has acquired a nice patina.
He has performed many of the songs presented here hundreds of times and while there may be nothing dramatically new; they are like being visited by old friends. Many times the joy is in the details and here Clapton is relaxed and it’s difficult to find any miscues.
His pop/rock work spans the decades. “Pretending,” “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Layla,” “Wonderful Tonight,” a poignant “Tears In Heaven,” and a precise and rocking “Cocaine” all find him at the top of his craft. Blues numbers such as “Key To The Highway,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Driftin’ Blues,” and “Crossroads” all have subtle surprises and textures. The DVD is a repeat of the CD’s except for the added “Little Queen Of Spades,” which is presented as a tribute to B.B. King.
The sound and the video are both crystal clear as the concert was recorded with the intention of releasing it as both a CD and DVD.
Clapton is one of those seemingly eternal superstars who celebrated his 70th birthday in his home away from home. Through the technology of the day, he invited millions of his fans to join him. It is a party worth attending.