Tuesday, April 10, 2007

E.C. And D.C. Were Both Here

It was September 23, 2006. I remember it like it was last Thursday. The sun was shining, and I could smell hamburgers sizzling on an open grill somewhere nearby as I drove down Dexter-Pinckney Road that Saturday afternoon, with the sun roof open and the wind blowing in my hair (I had more of it back then) as I sang along to the radio at the top of my lungs, taking my hands off of the wheel on straight stretches of road to play some air guitar. I had recently turned 22. The world was my oyster. A large dragonfly suddenly met its end on my windshield, a windshield that a few short months later would acquire a large crack that remains there to this day, but that's another story. September 23, 2006. I had just been over at my fine girlfriend's house, but had neglected to stay for dinner because I had an appointment to keep. An appointment with destiny, or so I thought. "You've been listening to some great Eric Clapton live cuts," chirped the middle-aged probably-mother-of-three-teenagers classic rock disk jockey. "D*mn straight!" I said, but she continued. "...On what would have been our Eric Clapton pre-concert psych-up for the show at The Palace tonight." Uh oh. Would have been? The smile on my face quickly faded. I looked down at my radio in disgust. What have you done to Eric Clapton? I realize that it's disk jockey lady's job to sound excited all the time, but I really didn't appreciate the tone of her voice as she informed me that the concert I was just on my way to attend was canceled, to be re-scheduled "at some later date." If she worked on the Titanic, she would have been thrown overboard for excitedly announcing that "there just aren't enough life boats for everyone! Oh well!" I called up the friends I was on my way to meet, who had yet to hear the bad news. "Hey John" I said, "remember when we went to see Eric Clapton?" "And he ROCKED OUR FACES OFF? Yeah, that was awesome." "Yeah, but do you remember when we found out the show was canceled at the last minute?" I don't remember exactly what John said at that point, but he was pretty upset, as we all were. We were particularly miffed that Ticketnazi, the world's only ticket vendor for any event anywhere, from the Superbowl to your six-year-old daughter's school play, made no attempt whatsoever to stop us from driving all the way to Auburn Hills to attend the event for which we had bought tickets from them. Thanks for nothing, Ticketbastard. What exactly do you do for that hefty "convenience charge," anyways? Nothing? Right, that's what I thought. It was only sheer chance that I happened to be listening to the right radio station at the right time which saved us two hours' round-trip driving (through metro Detroit's trademark perennial road construction) for a show that did not take place. Brilliant. One of John's co-workers, as it turns out, was not so lucky.

Now, fast forward a little more than five months. My windshield now has a crack in it. A few other things have probably also changed, but I can't think of any of them right now. Maybe some babies were born or something, I don't know. "That time we all went to see Eric Clapton and he ROCKED OUR FACES OFF" has become one of the longest-running inside jokes in the history of inside jokes (other notable entries being the entire careers of musician Bruce Springsteen, and newspaper cartoonist Brad Anderson), as has the exclusive use of various pseudonyms for a certain online ticket sales monopoly, which shall not be named. Now it's April 5th. It's freezing out. There are flurries. I am once again on my way to The Palace to see Eric Clapton, only this time we've checked and double-checked and triple-checked to make sure that the show has not been canceled.

I have to admit that I was worried that E.C. had lost his touch, or that he'd end up playing a set mainly made up of his slower, more pop-oriented songs, the ones women seem to enjoy. I'm ashamed to say it, but a small part of me didn't think he knew how to rock n' roll. This small fear gnawed on me for most of the drive out, and into the well-played set of the opening act, the Robert Cray Band. Then the roadies started to hurriedly set the stage for Clapton's band. They even put out a pretty nice-looking rug in the middle of the stage for E.C. to stand on, then set his mic stand and wah-wah pedal on it. I'm not sure what was the significance of the rug, but it struck me as pretty cool. You might say that it really tied the stage together. Then the house lights dimmed, the stage lights came up, and the band walked out onto the stage: Two female background singers, an organist, a bass player and drummer who both looked like they had walked right out of the 1970s (the drummer even wore a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off and a large gold chain around his neck), a guitarist, a pale, silver pony-tailed piano player, and...
As Clapton strutted out to the stage he lifted his guitar, blasted out a few bluesy fills, then turned to face the band as they all burst into "Tell The Truth," a pretty rocking song from Clapton's 1970 album with Derek and the Dominoes, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, with the other guitarist playing the part of Duane Allman on the slide guitar. I'm probably going to gush a little bit, so if you'd like to stop reading right now, I'll at least give you my three main talking points:

1. Eric Clapton is an amazing musician.
2. Being both an amazing musician and a very successful one, Eric Clapton is able to surround himself with other people who are also amazing musicians, although not quite as awesome as he is.
3. Eric Clapton is an amazing musician.

Got that? Good. Clapton has been around for a while (quite a while indeed), and has been pretty prolific, so his setlist could easily have been made up entirely of songs I didn't know, and I consider myself a fan. Instead, he played this setlist:

1. Tell The Truth
2. Key To The Highway
3. Got to Get Better in A Little While
4. Little Wing
5. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad
6. Driftin' (Solo, acoustic)
7. Outside Woman Blues (acoustic)
8. Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out (acoustic)
9. Running On Faith (acoustic)
10. Motherless Children
11. Little Queen of Spades
12. Further On Up The Road
13. Wonderful Tonight
14. Layla

The songs I marked in bold are all from the aforementioned album, Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, which is awesome. The band was great. There's something that's always funny to me about background singers, and these ones did the "background singer" dance for the whole show. All the musicians soloed at some point, and they were all quite good. There was a short acoustic set in the middle of the show, when the lights went out and came back on to reveal Eric seated on a chair alone in the middle of the stage, acoustic guitar in hands, singin' the blues. It was great. The only words he addressed to the audience the whole evening were "thank you," and the names of the band members. The seats in front of us were occupied by four or five 15 and 16-year-old boys, who seemed to be having almost as much fun as we were. In the row in front of them was a group of probably 60-year-old tatooed, bearded (even the women, not kidding), leather-clad biker types, who lit up marijuana during the acoustic set, and nearly started a fight a few songs later. I chuckled that the teenagers behind them were acting more grown-up.

Playing an encore has become pretty cliche, such that everyone just knows that the act in question is going to play one, but we the audience still played along for the sake of tradition, shouting ourselves hoarse for the band to come back to the stage and play another song or two. "PLAY COCAINE!" I shouted, half because I actually like the song (terrible as it is), and half just to be funny. "PLAY COCAINE!" Sure enough, the band returned to the stage, waving and smiling at the audience, and Clapton let fly the opening riff of "Cocaine." I laughed. The show wrapped up with Robert Cray joining Clapton and company on stage for the Robert Johnson classic (and also a big hit for Clapton) "Crossroads."

Well, that's all for now. I'd been meaning to post for a while but hadn't gotten the time, I'll try to post something else soon. I tried to draw a picture for the show, but people and Stratocasters are really hard to draw.


E. W. Lynch said...

Remember when we went to see Eric Clapton and he rocked our faces off?
That was awesome.

M.O.M. said...

Weird...could be a sign. The word verification is "mgodky". No idea what it means- maybe you like EC a bit too much? Nope, didn't think so. Must be something else.

So, why didn't you invite your girlfriend? Why didn't you invite your girlfriend's MOTHER???? I love Eric Clapton. "Slap me on my knees, Layla." Inside Mishler joke there.

Sounds like a lot of fun. My daughters may never, ever be two things: cheerleaders or band backup singers. CM and I went to a Earl Klugh concert once and he actually introduced them as the "Body Sisters". They sang, but they were the eye candy doing the swaying thing too. Stupids.

DaWheeze said...

Heh, I remember hearing about that cancellation. Glad it actually happened this time. Mom, I want to be a backup singer. I can't believe you've crushed my one dream by posting on someone else's blog. I must go to the corner and weep...I love backup singers, they're hilarious.