Lobos/Clapton Show - mini-review

So, yesterday turns out to be a good day. I took off from work. Got a lot done around the house. Got an hour to sit down and saw away (ineffectively, as usual)on a guitar. All good. Four O'clock rolls around and a call from my friend who works at Warner/Reprise Records comes thru. He's got to work late and can't use the 2 comped (8th row, it turns out) seats to Clapton w/Los Lobos at The Gibson Amphiteater. Do I want 'em. Ever the helpful sort, I agree to go to the show.

Scramble for a sitter. Find One, but her hard 10:00 back end means I'm gonna miss the last 1/3 of the Clapton show. Still, life could be worse. Walk in, sit dow, 30 seconds later, the lights dim and Los Lobos hits the stage.

A short, but classic set (all specifics are best I can recall). Three from the new Tin Can Trust; The Title Track, Do The Murray, Yo Canto. Three classic originals; The Neighborhood, Don't Worry Baby, and Shakin', Shakin', Shakes. Three Mexi specials; the aforementioned Yo Canto, Mas Y Mas (Yikes! Hidalgo smokes it), and one more whose title eludes me. A handful of classic Lobos covers; Evangeline, La Bamba/Good Lovin', Bertha (more smokin' Hidalgo).

A great show. More Hidalgo centric than most I recall (fine by me). No show-off instrument swapping (in fact, other than Louis Perez ocassionally trading the tele for something acoustic, no changes at all). Short, but sweet. Personally, I wouldn't want to follow that act.

But, Clapton does. Looks scraggly, but fit. Odd line-up for the band. EC, Bass, drums, 2 keys, 2 back-up singers.

IME, EC shows come in 3 flavors; Old style, blues/rock workouts. Hits shows. And purist blues shows (most common, of late). This one is different. Blues and R&B flavored blues, but more song focused (as opposed to guitar focused). EC is front and center, singing (actually, singing better than I can ever recall him singing). Solos are divvied up with the (digital) piano set to tinny upright tonality for barrelhead style and the (digital) organ leaning almost toward drawbar sounds for Gospel/R&B flavor.

EC plays lots of rythm parts behind the keys and he veers toward Nile Rodgers territory. It looks like he's got a 3 single coil strat, no pedals, straight into an amp, miked into the PA. Think high school prom, in the gym. But he's covering a ton of ground, tonally. Lots of classic blues tunes, spun toward Gospel and R&B. The highlight: an extended, uber-funky take on I Shot The Sherrif.

Next up, the acoustic set. Out comes a chair and an acoustic guitar. One tune - straight blues, masterfully finger-picked in a traditional style. A half dozen more blues are played on a 335 hollow bodied electric guitar, also in straight acoustic blues fingerstyle. This time, however, he's exploiting the sustain on the 335 to create something a bit hybridized. Call it 85% straight acoustic fiungerstyle for the cake, with 15% electric blues icing.

My wife is now nodding off, but I LOVE this set. There is no one highlight (every tune is great IMHO), but the crowd -no surprise- loses it when he lays into Layla. Alas, the clock strikes 10 just as EC picks up that same strat and starts to rock it a bit harder than the first set, but we're out the door before the sitter turns into a pumpkin.

So, to the great Audiogon debate: Does EC deserve his status as a bona fide guitar hero?

If you walked in on this show with a strong opinion (one way or the other) nothing he did on stage was going to change your opinion. For the naysayers: His left pinky took the night off. No tapping, no harmonics, nothing to convince the technique worshippers that this guy is special. The phrasing and (IMHO lovely) tone remains squarely in the blues tradition, nothing to win over those who demand more personal (or quirky) sounds.

OTOH, the acoustic blues playing was personal, distinctive and IMHO riveting. His right hand technique is IME unusually skillful and the overall effect was great. Look, I'm a believer and I think it's just silly to bash the guy. My biggest disappointment: I missed the last third of his set.

A very enthusiastic thums up from this quarter, but, as always, YMMV.

Reporting from just outside LA,

My wife & I saw him/them in Vegas last Sat night. The mix for Los Lobos was abysmal at best. They are a great band and deserve way better.
Then Clapton came on and knocked our socks off. The band is superb, Eric can play like a true virtuoso and his vocals are so underrated. I have not heard a male singer that good in years & I’ve heard a lot. Underscored by his guitar playing legacy I presume.
On the way out my wife heard a kid telling his parents "That my life is now complete". The Mrs. said that why the hell EC wasn't on her "bucket list" she didn't know.
There are many, many good musicians. And many at the top. Clapton is at the top.
Thanks for the review. And thanks for sending my brain to go back to the show once again.
Regards, John
With Steve Gadd on drums what else can you expect but an absolutely fantastic show.

Whether Eric is the greatest or not is a mute point since he is able to assemble the best musicians on the planet.
he's one of the all time greats...no discussion needed.

The Lobos definitely got the short end of the sonic stick at this show, too. Personally, I wouldn't go to "abysmal", but it was "thick", and definitely paled in comparison to the sparkling sound EC's band produced.
Los Lobos, who I love, usually sound overly thick to me. Except for a mostly acoustic night I saw a few years ago.

Great review, Martyk1.
easy call...tell the babysitter you have a flat tire.
I suppose that he's done exactly what he should have with his career; that is, do some saleable pop stuff, team up with other blues guys, delve deeper into the different blues and R&B genres etc, but remembering him from the days of Cream, and having seen him several times in the eighties, I personally find him disappointing. Yes, his talent as a player and a competent singer can't be denied, but I suspect that there must be others out there like myself who find it all kind of comfortable and (I hate saying this)...at times, boring.
Again, I am not saying what he could have or should have done instead, but when I listen to Wheels of Fire, I wonder where that passion went.
Are there any others out there who have similar feelings?
I want to clarify, I dont blame Los Lobos at all. It was the men behind the mixing board. Quite often the opening act doesnt even get to do a sound check and it is a shame.
I really wanted to enjoy them as I know how truly good they are. Kind of a shame. This was the Vegas show & not LA that I saw.

This stuff is always (in part, anyway) venue specific, so the Lobos sound at your show may well have been abysmal (whoever's fault that was), while the Lobos' LA sound was merely decent.

FWIW, I've generally found Los Lobos painfully loud in concert - possibly because I've usually seen them in small venues. Gibson seats 5000+ and I found the overall sound last night was better than usual for Lobos and very, very good for EC.

No telling what they'lll sound like next week, wherever that show is staged.

Thanks- Very competent review.

I'm a huge fan and never understood the critics. Having said that, I understand the boring comment. He's just not going to do anything really exciting or new or different. But, that's OK with me and I still hang on to every note.

He never embarrasses himself and has occasional flashes of greatness... The recent Allman Brothers and Blind Faith sets come to mind.
I actually decided NOT to go see/hear the concert. My feeling was that the Portland concert would be, frankly, boring, Just like the last time I saw Clapton in Portland years ago. He tours for the money, not the music. (Sad because he has some fine musicians on stage with him).
Sort of like Dylan, but not as bad. Last year at Bumbershoot, the audience could barely make out an utterance. Not sure which songs he played for that matter. It's obvious he doesn't care about the audience. Lucky for us, the comedians had their fun.
As to Los Lobos, they were the only reason I considered going. I remember asking David in high school who his favorite guitarists were. Clapton was one of them.
But, in high school, the bands which became Los Lobos, didn't play Cream stuff. They played kick-ass Rock and Roll, and Rocking Blues. (Hear ...a Time To Dance, Los Lobos, for a taste of what they played then).
My first concert was Blind Faith (Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, It's A Beautiful Day). It was a great first concert.
If Blind Faith of 1969, and Boojum Snark and Euphoria (these 2 bands became Los Lobos) played today and I had to choose, I'd skip Blind Faith in a heart beat and go for the musicality, hard stomping kick-ass Rock of Los Lobos de East L.A.