I’m a huge fan of Traffic, Blind Faith and Cream; but I must admit, I haven’t followed Steve Winwood or Eric Clapton’s solo work for a long time. But a year or so ago a friend gave me a copy of the DVD from the Crossroads Guitar Festival (2007), and the Clapton/Winwood Blind Faith semi-reunion absolutely floored me. Steve Winwood’s guitar playing on “Can’t Find My Way Home” was nothing short of a revelation (Jeff Beck’s two songs were also absolutely amazing, but that’s another story.)
I thought long and hard about going to New York to see Clapton and Winwood do their one-off series of shows last year, but didn’t get it together–so I was thrilled to hear they were doing a limited number of dates this year, and made it my business to get tickets to see them at the Hollywood Bowl this Tuesday. And by a stroke of luck, it was the last night of the tour (often the best, as the band has really found their groove.)
And they were absolutely incredible–hard as it is to believe, both of these guys are at the peak of their game. Winwood sang every bit as well as on the Traffic albums, and was equally fantastic on guitar, piano and of course organ. People in the audience who’d come to see Clapton said it over and over–Steve Winwood blew them away. And Clapton played like I’ve never seen him before–he sounded like he was in Cream again–not the tepid reunited Cream, but the Cream of 1967/68. His eyes were closed, and he seemed to be channeling the music. Everyone I talked to that night said the same thing–“Clapton was on fire.” The sound was fantastic too, and the projection screens focused on Clapton and Winwood’s fingers as much as their faces, which was a great decision–so interesting to see these masters at work, close up.
Below are some Youtube videos from the show. While the camera work leaves something to be desired, the sound is great, and they’ll give you an idea of just how extraordinary these two artists are. There are more clips on Youtube, as well as clips from the Crossroads show (check them out–they’re tremendous.) Unfortunately there isn’t as yet a clip of “Pearly Queen,” which was never my favorite Traffic song, but was a highlight of the concert for me–a wild psychedelic jam that sounded as if it could have been recorded at the Fillmore in ’67.
The clips here are “Mr Fantasy” (great electric guitar from both Clapton and Winwood,) “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” (Winwood alone on acoustic piano–there is a point where the screen goes black, but keep with it–it comes back after a few seconds,) “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Clapton and Winwood on acoustic guitar,) and the first half of “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” (it ends abruptly, but is great nonetheless–with Winwood reprising the soulful organ he played on the Jimi Hendrix original.)
If you don’t know this music, go out and get Blind Faith’s only album, and an album or two by Traffic–“John Barleycorn Must Die” is my favorite, but “Best of Traffic” is a good place to start. For me, these are absolutely essential 60’s rock albums.