Live: Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood, Houston

WinwoodWith just a handful of shows left on their current tour, 60s rock gods Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood turned in a sometimes surprising show in Houston’s Toyota Center on June 24.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was that the show seemed to spotlight Winwood a bit more, with Clapton taking a secondary role more often than not.  Now let’s put that into perspective – Clapton didn’t address the audience and he didn’t perform many of the more famous numbers associated with his career, but he let his guitar do the talking.  And it was eloquent indeed.

This tour is a celebration of Winwood and Clapton’s collaboration in the late 60s supergroup Blind Faith, and four of the numbers performed in Houston were from their single eponymous album.  “Can’t Find My Way Back Home,” done acoustically, was a highlight, as was the Buddy Holly rouser “Well All Right.” 

Winwood threw everyone a curve when it came for the spot usually reserved for his performance of the moldy “Georgia” – he instead inserted a solo “Low Spark of High Heeled Boys” from his Traffic days and drew an appreciative roar.  Winwood earlier also turned in a gorgeous “There’s A River,” which has been seldom heard on this tour.  Clapton’s surprise was in what he didn’t do – although there were a handful of blues standards, he didn’t perform anything from his idol Robert Johnson (an electric “Crossroads” would have been appreciated … by me, at least).

And my heart sank when I saw the chairs and acoustic guitars come onstage – I knew that unplugged version of “Layla” was coming.  Even though Winwood added some tasty pickin’ of his own, I believe many in the crowd could only wonder what might have been if the boys had plugged in for “Layla.”  But that was easily forgotten, particularly as the set climaxed with a rousing Winwood performance on “Split Decision” and with Clapton’s screaming solos on the Hendrix acid-rock classic “Voodoo Chile.” 

They closed it out with an encore of “Cocaine” and the twin guitar fireworks of “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” Clapton setting the place afire with his pyrotechnics but Winwood doggedly staying right with him.  Steve Winwood may be known for his keyboard work, but he is an excellent guitarist.  These two 60-plus gentlemen still make mighty drug music but they are no psychedelic relics – they play as powerfully as they ever did.

Eric Clapton official website

Steve Winwood official website

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