Well, we got to the Whatever Centre (forgot name) in Philly about one hour before Clapton's opening band Doyle Bramhall II ("Holy shit," methinks,"there are TWO Doyle Bramhall's?! It must in an intergenerational curse!") and Smokestack was to start. Fortunately most of the hippies stayed outside to smoke joints so the beer lines inside were short. I imbibed as much as I could before 8 pm and was praying I'd pass out before the show. No such luck, as I remained conscious throughout the entire concert. Talk about agony! I now know how it feels when the anesthetist forgets to gas you prior to eye surgery.
Bramhall and the boys come on at 8. Doyle is a good guitarist but he likes to have about 6 solos in every song. That's kinda like a five-year old kid screaming "LOOK AT MEEEE" every few minutes. Forty minutes later I was getting more beer and searching for a hammer to whack myself with.
Eric is nothing if not punctual. At nine pm he rolled his old bones out to a chair. He's so old that some roadie has to carry out his semi-acoustic guitar and plug it in for him. Eric does some songs, f**k knows which ones, but he has one leg that he can't control. It keeps moving through the first eternity (eternity two is when he actually gets up and plays electric) like someone set the sole of his shoe on fire and he has to stamp it out. So he does a bunch of slow stuff and at this point I'm trying to access any hidden telekinetic powers I may have in an effort to make the stage collapse. This doesn't work, but for a few moments the audio went ka-blooey so you couldn't hear him sing and I take full credit for that.
After that first eternity some roadie brings him an electric guitar and takes his chair away (was he naughty?). The lights behind him are so bright I think I burned my retinas out. They did this so no one up close (I was in the third row smack dead centre) could see how old Clapton is now. He also has absolutely no chin of which to speak. He does all the usual suspects, Layla (at least THAT wasn't acoustic!) and Sunshine of Your Love, that song about Hootchie Cootchie or whatever, Wonderful Tonight, etc., but all the really hard bits to sing are done by some bald guy and one guy who didn't stop smiling the whole night. Between the one guy's bald spot and the other guy's "ultrabrite toothpaste smile" if the lighting didn't blind you, they would.
It was at this point I thought I was going to jump right out of my skin like that thing in Alien and rip someone's head off when Eric whipped out that party favourite, Cocaine. Every person on drugs there got to there feet and sang along. WHOOPEE! How stupid do you have to be to get all high on drugs and then sing along with a song that is telling you that getting all high on drugs is stupid?! This is NOT a rhetorical question, either. I want answers!
By the last 20 minutes I started punching myself in the head. He did just one encore of two songs. I don't remember what they were either, but I'm quite sure my ears were bleeding.
Some interesting things I did manage to notice despite my intense pain:
Some parts were piped-in music. There were women singing when there weren't any women on stage (I think the song they were mysteriously backing was called Father's Eyes or something) and I think some of the backing vocals to several older songs were piped in as well. There were only three of them singing at any given time and they couldn't possibly sound EXACTLY like the old songs... Billy Preston was the only highlight of the show, he is still pretty amazing.
Another note: I have this theory that whenever a musician makes a funny face while he's playing onstage, that is what I call his "f**k-face." Another words when you see someone make some weird expressions when playing live, that is exactly what they would look like if they were shagging you. Eric's f**k-face is rather like an old skinny man falling asleep in a reclining chair: head back, mouth turned downward in a frown and slightly open while the eyes are mostly closed. Actually there were a few times when he'd lean back to play like with his f**k-face on that I thought he suffered from narcolepsy and fell asleep while falling backwards!
Thankfully it ended there. I know for a fact had it gone on one nanosecond further, I would have plucked my eyes from my head and stuffed them in my ears to try to block out any and all sound while making sure I didn't have to see another moment of this horror.
"Now just what does this have to do with Bowie," you ask? Well, for one thing, Clapton is only a couple of years older than David, yet David manages to do things like actually move around the stage and spellbind (if that's even a word) the crowd. David is sheer magnetism.
So maybe age has nothing to do with it, now that I think about it. After all, the second best show I saw (after Roseland, natch) was BB King. King is a 76-year old diabetic who sat in a chair the entire show and blew me away. Maybe it's just loving what you do and keeping a passion for it... Since Clapton is quitting touring after this, maybe Eric knows he's done.
This can only be a message to Sailor: "You've got a long way to go before you need to even think about giving up touring, dood."
This has been a public service announcement from KelMarSuperVixen on channel KMSV2.
By KelMarSuperVixen xo
22nd June 2001.