Concert review: Clapton sedates, Daltrey invigorates Forum crowd

Eric Clapton proved to be a stark and disappointing contrast to Roger Daltrey at Friday's FedExForum concert.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick // Buy this photo

Eric Clapton proved to be a stark and disappointing contrast to Roger Daltrey at Friday's FedExForum concert.

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.

Eric Clapton proved to be a stark and disappointing contrast to Roger Daltrey at Friday's FedExForum concert.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick

Eric Clapton proved to be a stark and disappointing contrast to Roger Daltrey at Friday's FedExForum concert.

Roger Daltrey on stage at FedExForum.

Photo by Kyle Kurlick

Roger Daltrey on stage at FedExForum.

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

© 2010 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments » 17

dave263#225711 writes:

Are you kidding??? I was there. Daltry's voice is gone, shot, ka-put! He struggled to hit the high notes that once made him famous. At times it seemed he struggled to even breathe! What you described as a "stripped down version of 'Who are you'" was because he can't do it anymore. And sorry, the mike-twirling is NOT impressive!
Clapton, on the other hand, is the epitome of cool. Only a year younger than Daltry, Clapton's still got his smooth voice and his fingers literally dance over the frets of his guitar. And his "snoozy, mid-tempo blues numbers" were why we were there!
As for Clapton's interaction with the audience, try going to a Bob Dylan concert: he doesn't even say "Thank you"!

roasted writes:

Dave263 are you kidding? For the first time in my life I am reading a review where the reviewer got it right. If you didn't notice Daltrey's performance of Young Man Blues was amazing, you must have been at the hot dog stand instead. Roger was never an Opera singer and his voice has never been perfect by those standards. But he sounded great. Eric Clapton sounded like he was O.D.ing on valium. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ Elevator music other than one good guitar solo.

nevermore writes:

Clapton was amazing! The excitement from the crowd over his guitar solos where I sat was out of this world because his talent is unbelievable! Not sure where you are coming from? Clapton doesn't make the music anymore, he IS the music.
Were you, the reviewer, that (very young) couple that sat stone faced next to me and my husband? We wondered what was wrong with them. However you are way off.. WAY OFF with this review.

ChrisP writes:

My wife and I attended, sitting in good seats that we got from a local radio station. We though both guys gave us what we expected, and what we wanted to see ... though honestly, I think I did enjoy Daltrey's set more.

Funny thing as we were leaving the Forum. We both noted how unusually homogeneous the crowd seemed to be in both the age and ethnicity.

And the parking garage at the Westin? They need to find a way to move people in less than the hour that we spent waiting to get out.

VinnyBond writes:

Mr. Mehr:

You are kidding right? I will agree Daltrey surprised me, especially after a weak performance at the Super Bowl...but your comments on Clapton..."snoozy mid-tempo blues numbers"?????
Going Down Slow? Key To The Highway? Tell The Truth? Badge?

What exactly were YOU hoping he would play?????

Mr. Clapton's guitar playing was on fire on Friday evening. He made his guitar sing the entire evening.

This is what an Eric Clapton fan would have hoped for going into this concert..I should know, I am one and have been for 30 years.

Please allow someone with some musical knowledge review concerts in the future.

Parzinger (Inactive) writes:

I agree with Dave263. I have always liked Roger Daltry, but his voice is just about gone. Clapton has a superior voice and plays a guitar better than nearly anyone. This review is in direct opposition of the one I read for the similar March 1, 2010 concert. Sounds like the writer was looking for a "Green Day" or similar type of performance.

jdavismemphis writes:

100% agree with Bob's review. Clapton was just flat out boring and Daltry stole the show.

rlr68172 writes:

Bob,
Have you ever been to a Clapton show? What were you expecting? Clapton is a blues "gentle"-man. He has never been the arena rocker that Daltry was. I thought both acts performed outstandingly. Daltry impressed me greatly and Clapton hasn't lost a lick. To put one above the other is to not appreciate either for their unique styles.

hmvalp writes:

I was there, floor seats, right in the middle. Daltrey was better than expected, and his voice sounded better than it did in
the Super Bowl. Clapton was very good, although I think the reviewer was referring to his set list and low key demeanor rather than any than any criticism of his playing or of the excellent band he had behind him. There were only a couple of songs that predated his solo career, and the encore, "Crossroads", was a rather low key version of it. There were few blazing guitar solos, but the overall polish and professionalism of his performance was top notch. He is 65 years old, so it may be understandable. Great concert, but nothing like the Clapton/Winwood concerts availible on cd.

rlr68172 writes:

Bob,
Had you ever been to a Clapton show before this? What were you expecting? Clapton is a blues "gentle"-man. He has never been the arena rocker that Daltry was. I thought both acts performed outstandingly. Daltry impressed me greatly and Clapton hasn't lost a lick. To put one above the other is to not appreciate either for their unique styles.

davi1029#303463 writes:

Are you kidding me? Was Mr. Mehr even at the concert? Daltrey's voice is gone. He struggled through most of his songs and he almost hit himself in the head while trying to twirl the microphone. Clapton was on fire. His guitar solos were perfect. He never missed a note. He played the acoustic guitar without a pick and it was so clean that I was in awe. His solos on I shot the Sheriff were scorching. Just as all of his songs were. His encore performance of Crossroads left no doubt in my mind, as I have known for 30 years that he is probably the best guitarist ever. As I remember, I did not hear the crowd scream to hear more of Daltrey. I bet the grandmother and her six grandchildren who were standing in the eighth row the entire time Clapton played will agree with me as I feel most people will. Please let people with musical knowledge write reviews for concerts.

Uglybetty writes:

Well, I think all and all it was a good show, but i think Eric really needs to slow down, slow hand, he is doing at least 2-3 concerts a week, my God, you will be 65 on March 30th. He look rough to me, i didn't have my glasses on and i was in the nose bleed section but i thought for a minute it was Willie with short hair, i'm sorry, truth hurts, you are not as young as you used to be but i still think you are one of the greatest guitar players, he did have his guitar smoking.

fnpike writes:

I've see Eric Clapton 8 times since 1978. Have you ever seen him before this concert? This was one of the best concerts I've been to in a while. It was like two concerts in one. So Eric didn't play two hours this time, he played 16 songs & Roger Daltry played for an hour & 25 mins. If you bought a program you'd know that he didn't have a rhythm guitar player with him to help so he did it all himself. I admit he did look exhausted after playing Layla, it took a lot out of him, but he puts his all into his music. After all he's 65. Sure he doesn't move around the stage alot & swing the microphone but that has never been his style anyway. What he does is play the guitar, perhaps the best guitar in the world! We're lucky to have a legend around that plays great music. His guitar solos sounded fantastic! Maybe your problem is you don't like the blues like Eric does. Memphis is know for the blues & Eric knows this. I thought it was a fantastic concert!!

gsmith143 writes:

Having attended the Eric Clapton concert on Friday 03/05/10, I can only disagree with Mr. Bob Mehr’s review. ERIC CLAPTON WAS AWESOME
Mr.Mehr said “Clapton seemed lethargic.” When a person is an accomplished guitarist, as Eric Clapton is, he makes it look effortless hence the nickname “Slow Hand.” I feel it is impossible to compare Eric Clapton and Roger Daltry as they both perform contrasting styles of music.
While it is true Clapton didn’t have a lot of interaction with the crowd nor did he use the F-word numerous times as Daltry did. Roger Daltry’s act reminded me, the Who’s half time performance at the Super Bowl, musicians in their mid sixties acting or wishing they were twenty again.
Rather than being “ sedated “ by Clapton as Mr. Mehr implies, I was in awe of Eric Clapton’s guitar playing ability. He truly is a rock and roll legend! Perhaps Mr. Mehr may have been sedated or intoxicated when he wrote his review.

bcintennessee writes:

My wife and I went with 3 friends, all of us between 48 and 53, and we thought Clapton was absolutely amazing. We came away saying it was one of the best concerts we've ever seen, and we've seen quite a few. I saw Clapton when I was in high school about 36 years ago, and I enjoyed this concert nearly as much as the first time. I was hoping he would play the original version of Layla, plus a few other old hits, but it was still great. Roger Daltry was better than I expected, but Clapton shone.

larryd writes:

Daltrey and band's performance was better than I expected. Clapton was awesome. I don't know what the inexperienced/doesn't understand music/no future in writing reviewer expected at a Clapton concert. The gentleman did what his true fans and musically-in tune people expected - he came out and thrilled with his hits, and showed that he is the one of the best guitar players to ever grace a stage. If the reviewer wants to see someone flying around on the stage with rockets and flames coming out of their pants, then he should choose them to write about, although I doubt that he would get that review right either, based simply upon this really bad (as in way-off the mark) review.

bcdforeverfan writes:

in response to nevermore:

Clapton was amazing! The excitement from the crowd over his guitar solos where I sat was out of this world because his talent is unbelievable! Not sure where you are coming from? Clapton doesn't make the music anymore, he IS the music.
Were you, the reviewer, that (very young) couple that sat stone faced next to me and my husband? We wondered what was wrong with them. However you are way off.. WAY OFF with this review.

I agree with Nevermore. How old are you anyway? You must have come up with the "KISS" concerts when it was about the show and not the music. Next time you are to review a legend like Clapton, take time to learn about the person so you won't set unrealistic and non-historical expectations. I have seen Clapton several times, years ago to recently as last year with Winwood, and that is what Clapton does, plays beautifully. That is because he is the best blues guitarist there is and that is all he has to do. Fans don't require a lot of interaction and "show". Just crisp, soulful, beautiful blues. It doesn't have to necessarily even be his top hits that were played on radio. Anything Clapton does is worth listening to carefully because he sends a message out in everything he plays. Take time to get to know about your subject. I highly recommend that you read his recent autobiography and then re-write your review. Clapton is all about the music and that is what the fans want.

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