Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eric Clapton: Back to His (Blues) Roots

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Eric Clapton: Back to His (Blues) Roots

Article excerpt

THEY SAY what goes around, comes around. If you add Eric Clapton to the adage, it seems to mean a return to the Mississippi Delta-Chicago blues tradition on which he cut his musical teeth.

"This music I'm going to play tonight really caused me to be the way I am," Clapton told the sold-out Kiel Center audience of nearly 20,000 Thursday night, after opening his set with an unplugged version of "Motherless Child."

Then he added, "It's called the blues."

That was the only time Clapton spoke directly to the audience during the course of a remarkable two-hour performance - a course that paid homage to bluesmen such as Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Elmore James, Howlin' Wolf, Freddy King, Albert King and Lowell Fulson and featured the sort of masterly guitar work that led many to scrawl "Clapton is God" on the walls of London's Underground in the '60s. Clapton also explained in his initial comments that he would not be playing much pop music or rock 'n' roll, meaning no "Layla," no "White Room," not even a note of "Tears From Heaven."

If folks in the crowd were initially disappointed by this announcement, they seemed to get over it. After his first song, Clapton, seated and dressed all in white, delivered soulful acoustic arrangements of Robert Johnson's "Malted Milk"; Leroy Carr's "How Long Blues," which received washboard accompaniment; and a pair of Big Maceo tunes, "Kid Man Blues" and "County Jail Blues."

Clapton has been a disciple of the blues since he discovered the likes of Waters and Johnson more than three decades ago. But he hasn't played "nothing but the blues," as this tour is called, since the late '60s, and back then, he played in smallish clubs, not arena settings such as Kiel. Unfortunately, the intimacy that makes this genre so special didn't translate well to the venue, though Clapton was in top form - truly incredible - as he did his best to educate by announcing most songs before he played them and crediting their originators. …

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