ERIC CLAPTON: LIVE AT THE ALBERT HALL: SLOWHAND AT 70
Eric Clapton: Live at the Royal Albert Hall captures a momentous night for legendary guitarist Eric Clapton. A celebration of the artist's 70th year and a fine toast to his close relationship with the Royal Albert Hall itself. Eric Clapton is the first artist to play over 200 performances at this classic venue.
Review by Louise Keller:
A must-see for Eric Clapton fans, this rousing, infectious and uplifting concert film is all about the music - those distinctive Clapton rhythms and melodies, the wail of his guitar, the simple personal and poignant lyrics with the funky sound of his tightknit band and backup vocals. Recorded in May 2015 at the Royal Albert Hall, where Clapton has performed over 200 times, there is no doubt whatsoever that this is a special concert.
There is no announcement. An unassuming Clapton walks on stage wearing denim jeans, a simple blue shirt with cuffs rolled back and loafers. Good evening, he says as he picks up his guitar, gives a wry smile and then the music starts.
At 70 (the concert is titled Slowhand at 70), Clapton has earned the right to do it his way. There are no histrionics or star turns. He is first and foremost a musician and songwriter, serious about his craft. Apart from his introducing two members of his band who are featured singing and playing, Clapton's patter comprises mainly of saying thank you to his attentive and enthusiastic audience between songs. At the end, the standing ovation not withstanding, he murmurs says he hopes everyone had a good time because they (the musicians) did.
While Clapton is upfront and it's all about his music, it's also an ensemble event with renowned musicians Paul Carrack on keyboards, Nathan East on bass guitar and Steve Gadd on drums. About half an hour in, Carrack (wearing a hat) offers a stunning rendition of You Are So Beautiful, with Clapton adding his own guitar touches, followed by East's version of Can't Find My Way Home, aided by soulful black back-up vocalists Michelle John and Sharon White (both wearing black).
It begins with Somebody's Knockin' on my Door and most of the Clapton favourites are there. Key to the Highway, Tell the Truth, Hoochie Coochie Man. There's something hypnotic and dare I say almost comforting about that Clapton rhythm and the ease with which his flexible fingers run up and down the fret board. The backup vocals are especially effective in Pretending and there's a rousing version of I Shot The Sheriff before the crowd rises to its feet.
That's when Clapton swaps his electric guitar for an amplified acoustic one, sits on a chair and deliberates into the bluesy Drifting Blues, electric keyboards providing a haunting echo. The audience is in the palm of his hand as he switches into the familiar strains of Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out, Tears in Heaven (a syncopated version; a slightly different feel) before launching into Layla. By now, I guarantee you'll be tapping your feet, clapping your hands or moving your body to the rhythms. Layla is a highlight and Clapton delivers is beautifully. I was moved by his performance of the highly personal Wonderful Tonight. I had hoped Three Little Girls would be included in the repertoire, but it was not to be.
There's a great version of Let It Rain - he is back on his feet with electric guitar by now and there is a sense of being there with areal audience shots, up close and personal with the band and singers and getting the feel of the lighting effects.
Sometimes he looks although he is in his own little world (the Clapton Zone), eyes closed, shaking his head, with expressive facial grimaces, leaning backwards... We get a good feeling of being there through the lenses of 13 camera operators - with aerial shots of the audience, getting the feel of the lighting effects. Then before you know it, it's almost over as the intensity heightens for Crossroads and the potent Cocaine. It's addictive, alright.
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ERIC CLAPTON: LIVE AT THE ALBERT HALL: SLOWHAND AT 70 (G)
CAST: Concert featuring Eric Clapton
PRODUCER: Audrey Davenport
DIRECTOR: Blue Leach
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Not credited
EDITOR: Not credited
MUSIC: Eric Clapton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Eagle Rock
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 14, 2015
Australian audiences will also be privy to watch an exclusive feature presented by Paul Gambaccini which includes interviews with Paul Carrack, Andy Fairweather-Low, Hugh Fielder and Paul Sexton and provides an insight into Clapton the performer and helps explain why the Royal Albert Hall has held a special place in his heart.