Here’s the thing about Eric Clapton: he’s not one for chat. He doesn’t come on and banter with the audience about how it’s good to be back – man, when he cracks a joke about playing a song fifty years before and still not knowing it properly, the venue nearly falls apart at the seams – but it’s easily forgiven. And there’s one simple reason.
He’s simply an incredible musician, it’s hardly a secret, and his show is one that finds the audience almost entranced by his slick guitar. Far from the typical indulgent solos of today, where speed and craziness trumps all, this takes it back to the sleek, yet suited guitar that’s earmarked his career.
He gives a lengthy set to local lads Hunter and the Bear, who vocalise their gratitude for the opportunity on a number of occasions; their sound treading a neat line between a Mumford-style with that aforementioned soulful slant. But it’s hard to compare to their headliner.
“He’s bloody brilliant,” remarked a man nearby, who’d seen him a number of times over the last few decades, “No one like him.”
It’s difficult to disagree. From Somebody’s Knocking through to Hoochie Coochie Man, the show is clearly one that spotlights Clapton, but does allow the other musicians sharing the stage to have their own moments. The acoustic segment proves a particular highlight, reinforcing his stringed prowess as he teams the emotive Tears In Heaven with more expansive solo efforts.
The venue remains almost silent as they play. That’s how much of an immersive experience the evening is, but it takes an unexpected twist as they begin the classic Cocaine. Midway through, Clapton literally puts down his guitar and walks off, and his band, slightly puzzled, follow suit. Sound issues or technical difficulties, people assume, but they wait patiently nonetheless.
A few minutes later they’re back and pick up where they left off for one more song, walking straight off again before the arena lights shoot straight on. It’s a surprising turn of events that sees a truly appreciative and adoring crowd turn to anger as they’re shuffled out of the doors.
Whether or not the full set was played, the abrupt conclusion is a sobering finale to what was, until ten minutes before, an absolutely sublime show.