Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood: Live From Madison Square Garden
And again given the emphasis on blues as well as the leaders' dialogue on their own history, some discographical information, for the principals as well as their influences, would definitely be worth including. The true fan would no doubt also be fascinated to hear how the band members were chosen as well as how the setlists were arrived at.
By the time the two discs are finished, it has become clear that Clapton actually benefits the most from this partnership. Freed from the role of sole frontman, he doesn't have to be concerned about doing all the singingthough he does takes his turns, to most moving effect on blues numbers such as "Double Troubleand thus channels energy otherwise diverted into his guitar playing. The intensity Clapton brings to even craftsmanlike fluff like "Forever Man" and "After Midnight" and even Winwood's sole lightweight contribution, "Split Decision," is in proportion to his status as a legend. And when in the throes of performing material close to his heart, such as guitarist Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" or Derek and the Dominos' "Tell The Truth," Clapton's passion rages, albeit through the simplicity of phrasing that is his hallmark and his most fundamental root in the blues.
Winwood took second billing, and rightfully so, for these shows, because he hasn't held on to mainstream popularity for the length of time his partner has. Yet, based on his performance as a singer, guitarist and multi-keyboardist during these shows, the former leader of Traffic may find his reputation benefits from the visibility afforded this work with Clapton. His singular voice has changed little over the decades, but it is his phrasing that makes Traffic's "No Face No Name No Number" a showstopper (more so even than on his solo performance of "Georgia On My Mind"). The glorious riff rock opener, "Had to Cry Today," suggests if he had concentrated on his own electric guitar talent, he might even have become Clapton's equal. Yet the way his fingers go dancing along the ivories for the blues shuffle of "Sleeping In The Ground," (an outtake from the duo's Blind Faith collaboration in 1969) begs the question of whether he's really a natural keyboardist at heart.
The unity Clapton and Winwood display on the Hendrix cosmic blues "Voodoo Child" is the pinnacle of the two-disc set: the former's move across the stage next to the latter seated at the organ is only the beginning of an extended interval of galvanizing drama. Winwood wails his way through the vocals, unleashing waves of Hammond B3 even more forcefully than he did when playing on the original version (Electric Ladyland, Reprise, 1968), while Clapton plays like a man possessed, simultaneously channeling his admiration for his lost guitar peer and his kindred spirit in musicianship right next to him.
Tracks: DVD1: Had To Cry Today; Low Down; Them Changes; Forever Man; Sleeping In The Ground; Presence Of The Lord; Glad; Well All Right; Double Trouble; Pearly Queen; Tell The Truth; No Face, No Name, No Number; After Midnight; Split Decision; Rambling On My Mind; Georgia On My Mind; Little Wing; Voodoo Chile; Can't Find My Way Home; Dear Mr. Fantasy; Cocaine. DVD2: Documentary: The Road To Madison Square Garden; Documentary: Rambling On My Mind (includes Clapton at soundcheck performing "Rambling On My Mind"). Bonus Performances: Low Down; Kind Hearted Woman; Crossroads.
Personnel: Eric Clapton: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals; Steve Winwood: electric guitar, piano, Hammond B3 organ, vocals; Willie Weeks: bass; Ian Thomas: drums; Chris Stainton: keyboards.
Production Notes: 197 minutes. Recorded February 25, 26 & 28, 2008 at Madison Square Garden, New York, New York. Produced by John McDermott, James Pluta and Scooter Weintraub. Directed by Martyn Atkins.
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