On the evening of February 28, 2011, Eric Clapton appeared at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon, and deftly showed a delighted audience why he is rightly regarded as a master musician. The British superstar, who was casually dressed in a plaid shirt and dark pants, gave a confident and mature performance that was worthy of his formidable reputation. Aside from a few visual effects provided by a wall of colored lights at the rear of the stage, the straightforward quality of the music was kept firmly in the forefront.
Eric Clapton has come a long
way from his youthful beginnings as a guitarist in London during the
1960s. Starting out with The Yardbirds and then playing with John
Mayall, he soon achieved enormous fame with Cream, Blind Faith, Plastic
Ono Band, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, and Derek and The Dominos. In
later years, working under his own name, he established himself as a
musician and songwriter of the highest eminence, appearing at major
venues around the world. Throughout his varied history, recording with
everyone from The Beatles ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps") to Aretha
Franklin ("Good to Me As I Am to You"), he has maintained a deep and
honest dedication to the blues, the form of music that served as his
The globe-trotting guitarist kicked off his set with "Key to the Highway," from Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs,
the album that he recorded with Derek and The Dominos in 1970. Among
the songs that followed were "Going Down Slow," "Hoochie Coochie Man,"
"Old Love," and Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff." Although Eric Clapton
will be sixty-six on March 30, it was quickly apparent that age has
failed to diminish the power of his distinctive musicianship. One glimpse of him standing with
his head tilted back, fully caught up in the earthy force of his own sound, shaking his leg to the beat as he unleashed a breathtaking cluster
of fiery tones from his blue Stratocaster, was enough to prove
that his musical vigor remains fully intact.
middle part of his performance, he sat down on a chair for a string of
songs that included "Driftin'," "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and
Out," "River Runs Deep" (from his latest album, Clapton, released in September of 2010), “When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful” (also from Clapton),
"Same Old Blues," and "Layla" (which was performed quietly, in an
almost offhand manner). He then got up from his chair and tore into
"Badge" (a song that he wrote with George Harrison), followed by
"Wonderful Tonight," "Before You Accuse Me," "Little Queen of Spades,"
and "Cocaine." After leaving the stage for several minutes, he returned
(with a shy smile on his face) for an encore, and charged through
While Eric Clapton's singular talent on
the guitar is a given, his voice also was strong throughout the evening,
and he received solid support from his band, with both Chris Stainton
on piano and Tim Carmon on organ particularly standing out. Eric Clapton
is an experienced performer, and he was willing to oblige the crowd by
offering a fair number of his most widely known tunes, but it seemed that
he was happiest, and most engaged, when he could lose himself in his
profound love of the blues, playing the vintage songs that he had
learned from old recordings.