NEW YORK: Clapton & Winwood Rock Philly!!! - by J. Blake

Posted on 6/16/2009 by J. Blake

Over the weekend I was once again very fortunate to be given the chance to see two Rock/Blues legends take the stage together. At around 8:15pm on Friday June 12, 2009 Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood performed in front of a sold-out crowd at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, PA. It was only the second show of a very short 14 date USA tour and even though the set list did not differ greatly from their original 3 Madison Square Garden concerts from last year (which you can read about by clicking HERE), there were certainly enough song substitutions to keep it interesting.

Like last year’s New York shows the aging rockers opened Friday’s set with Blind Faith’s Hard To Cry Today and J.J. Cale’s Lowdown, but instead of moving directly into Clapton’s 1985 single Forever Man, as they did in February of 2008, they decided to hit the audience with a J.J.Cale double-play, moving right into a very laid back version of the Cale composition, that Clapton made famous in 1970, After Midnight.

The show continued for an hour or so without any major surprises. The set list seemed to mimic the ’08 NY shows and the recent DVD/CDs to a ‘T’ with only two exceptions. The Buddy Miles tribute Them Changes was dropped and in place of Otis Rush’s slow blues classic Double Trouble, Clapton led the band through a terrific rendition of a rare Big Maceo Merriweather B-side, Tough Luck Blues.

Forever Man found its new place in the list, 12 songs in…oddly enough just about where a faster/more album-like version of After Midnight was played a year and a half earlier. The band then exited the stage, leaving Winwood to serenade the crowd with his signature (and beautiful) solo rendition of Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind on organ. Just seconds after the awe inspiring performance, the band returned to the stage and accompanied Clapton, very minimally and quietly, through an acoustic version of Charles Brown’s Driftin’ (a.k.a. Driftin’ Blues). It was on this song that in my opinion the real magic of the night occurred. The song and performance as a whole was nothing special, I’d even go as far as to say that it was a bit lackluster, but it was during his solos here that Clapton’s genius and total mastery over his instrument really showed itself. His first solo, 2 minutes into the song, started out light and spacious but built into a fury of tasteful and fluid guitar runs that I’m sure left even the most proficient of guitarists in attendance with a need to pick their jaws up off of the arena’s sticky cement floor.

The show continued with a bit of an acoustic mini-set, which is both something that Clapton fans have become accustom to since his critically acclaimed Unplugged album in 1992, as well as something that the original New York shows were lacking (aside from Clapton’s one completely solo performance). Clapton and Winwood (who at this point was playing piano) traded vocals beautifully on Jimmy Cox’s Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out. The acoustic version of Layla that followed was a very nice touch and complimented the evening beautifully. Winwood accompanied Clapton on guitar, while the audience participated vocally during the choruses. Surprisingly Clapton took a backseat playing-wise, holding down the rhythm allowing Winwood to strut his stuff during the song’s only guitar solo. Closing the acoustic portion of the show was the Blind Faith classic Can’t Find My Way Home, which in my opinion easily surpassed the electric versions of 2008.

As Clapton strapped his Stratocaster back on, the band found itself in the home stretch of the concert. They closed their performance with Winwood’s Split Decision, which was co-written by Joe Walsh and was originally featured on his 1986 album Back In The High Life, followed by the always breathtaking Hendrix tributes Little Wing & Voodoo Chile, yet another tired version of J.J. Cale’s Cocaine and finally an amazing encore of Traffic’s Dear Mr. Fantasy.

Though the show was very good, it did not quite reach the greatness of their 2008 New York concerts. The Madison Square Garden shows just had a certain energy and unpredictability about them that made them magical. The Philadelphia crowd was undoubtedly much more subdued and even though it was clear the two aging rockers were enjoying there time at the Wachovia Center, at MSG in 2008 they seemed like they were just having plain ol’ fashion fun.

As for the band, Clapton veterans bassist Willie Weeks and keyboardist Chris Stainton returned, McCartney regular Abe Laboriel, Jr. replaced Ian Thomas on drums and backup vocalists Michelle John & Sharon White rounded out this year’s lineup. All being consummate professionals, the band unsurprisingly played extremely well. If I had to file any complaints, as always I feel that Stainton was given a little too much soloing time for my taste and even though I appreciate the beauty of Winwood’s completely solo Ray Charles cover, to add something new to these shows, I personally feel that female backup vocal accompaniment would’ve been a very nice touch.

Overall the show was very good. The band was tight, and aside from Clapton missing a vocal cue on Tell The Truth and accidentally singing over Winwood’s vocals on the second verse of Forever Man, both musicians brought their “A-games”. To be honest even those minor flubs were enjoyable, because they added a bit of spontaneity to the show and as a fan and spectator it was nice to see the two legends look at each other and laugh them off.

If you get the chance to see Clapton and Winwood, I totally recommend it. From what I hear the set list is not locked. Reportedly, the following night in Washington D.C. Robert Johnson’s Crossroads replaced both Tell The Truth and Split Decision. So it seems there will be at least a little suspense for fans going into each show.

Keep Rockin',
J. Blake

Check out some NYC Blues with J. Blake & The Earthquake at: or as well as on Facebook.

Set List for:
June 12, 2009
Wachovia Center, Philadelphia
01. Had To Cry Today

02. Low Down
03. After Midnight
04. Sleeping In The Ground
05. Presence Of The Lord
06. Glad
07. Well Alright
08. Tough Luck Blues
09. Pearly Queen
10. Tell The Truth
11. No Face, No Name, No Number
12. Forever Man
13. Georgia On My Mind (Steve Winwood solo)

Acoustic Set:
14. Driftin'
15. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out
16. Layla
17. Can't Find My Way Home

18. Split Decision
19. Little Wing
20. Voodoo Chile
21. Cocaine

22. Dear Mr. Fantasy


Blind Faith (Deluxe Edition):

This 2CD edition features 2 versions of Sam Myers' Sleeping In The Ground, an electric version of Can't Find My Way Home and several previously unreleased jams.

Copyright © 2009 - J. Blake. All Rights Reserved

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