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,