Friday night's Eric Clapton/Roger Daltrey concert at FedExForum was touted as a teaming of rock legends. When all was said and done, however, only one man came off as legendary, while the other simply seemed lethargic.
It was an expectant, near-capacity crowd that packed the Downtown arena to watch the two British icons run through musical catalogs that have come to define classic rock.
Still retaining a bit of the tanned, flaxen-haired luster of his youth, Daltrey opened with a solo that proved something of a revelation, as he proceeded to whip up the crowd with a selection of Who classics -- "I Can See for Miles," "The Real Me", "Behind Blue Eyes" -- right out the gate
Backed by a propulsive five-piece band -- featuring Simon Townshend, younger brother of Daltrey's Who partner Pete -- the mic-twirling front man held little back in a performance that was both invigorated and invigorating.
Mid-set found Daltrey working through a selection of sprite, folk-flecked numbers, including the Taj Mahal cover "Freedom Ride" and the John Cowan chestnut "Someone Give Me a Stone." A clever, stripped down take on "Who Are You" brought the crowd to its feet, before Townshend took over for a rare live reading of the Who's "Going Mobile. "
Daltrey's voice, which has been criticized in recent years for its rough-hewn quality, was surprisingly strong for the bulk of the performance.
The headlining set by Eric Clapton, on the other hand, proved to be a stark and disappointing contrast.
Sauntering onto the stage with his signature Stratocaster in hand, Clapton gently eased into the shuffle of "Going Down Slow." From there, he proceeded to play a seemingly endless succession of snoozy mid-tempo blues numbers -- both electrically and acoustically -- that quickly began to bleed into one another.
Though his band was first rate, Clapton himself played with all the energy of man who'd just ingested a large turkey dinner before hitting the stage.
There were plenty of hits to be had, of course, including "I Shot the Sheriff," "Wonderful Tonight" and an acoustic "Layla" -- though his performances of those songs seemed little more than obligatory.
Throughout the show, Clapton's interaction with the audience was limited to the occasional "thank you" -- which isn't a crime in itself. But it was obvious that the weekend-ready crowd desperately wanted to have a good time, and Clapton's song selection, the sluggish arrangements and the overall pacing of the set simply wouldn't allow for anything approaching sustained excitement.
In the end, one was left feeling that while it might have been Clapton's show, it was clearly Daltrey's night.
-- Bob Mehr, 529-2517