Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood @ LG Arena Birmingham, 19th May 2010


It was 1969. Eric Clapton had just crawled from the wreckage of Cream. Steve Winwood was on hiatus from Traffic. They got together in Clapton’s house to jam (bands did a lot of that in 1969). In an almost unseemly rush for this laid back duo, they recruited Ginger Baker and Rick Grech to form Blind Faith, did a huge free concert in Hyde Park, a short tour of Scandanavia, a bigger tour of the USA, and released their only album, which contained 5 songs and a 15 minute jam. They then split when Clapton ran off with the hired help, in the form of support band Delaney & Bonnie. The whole episode was over in a flash.


On Tuesday night Clapton & Winwood played their second ever UK gig, 41 years after the first. It was a night of magic. The thing that unites them is the blissful ease with which they pursue their art. The great cricket commentator John Arlott once described a Clive Lloyd cover driven boundary as being hit with the nonchalance of a man knocking the top off a thistle with a walking stick. So it is with these two. Clapton reels off guitar riffs at finger blurring speed, and Winwood’s voice soars to the heavens, with neither of them close to breaking sweat.


Assisted by the very tight trio of Willie Weeks, Chris Stainton and Steve Gadd, and the soulful backing vocals of Sharon White and Michelle John, they at times reduced the LG Arena to an intimate club-like feel. The set list was a mixture of Blind Faith songs, Traffic tunes, Clapton solo delights, and a few surprises such as covers of The Band’s ‘The Shape I’m In’ or the Ray Charles classic ‘Georgia’.


Highlights included a sublime sequeway from an acoustic Layla into Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home, and a blistering finale of Voodoo Chile into Cocaine. The musicianship throughout was flawless, with Winwood displaying his considerable keyboard and guitar skills, and Clapton, well just being Clapton.
If you missed the gig, there is a DVD available of their 2009 Madison Square Garden concert, that will set you back considerably less than last night’s eye watering £75 a ticket (plus booking fee of course).

Review – Alan Carruthers
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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