Gwinnett Civic Center
October 14, 2006
Sometimes bandmate are able to interact so well that it seems like a match made in heaven. In the case of Derek Trucks and Eric Clapton, perhaps it is in the literal sense.
As Derek played Clapton’s former Derek & the Dominoes foil Duane Allman’s slide guitar part during the coda of "Layla" in Duluth, Georgia, Duane was probably smiling from somewhere up above. While stylisitcally Duane and Derek are not mirror images, there’s just something there in Derek that evokes Allman’s image.
Regardless of any cosmic connections, from the opening notes of "Pretending" at Clapton’s show at the Gwinnett Civic Center this was a band that was clearly locked in and firing on all cylinders. "I Shot the Sheriff" had Clapton singing with the conviction and passion he had in the 1970’s, and bassist Willie Weeks got a nice little bass solo during "Got To Get Better In A Little While" as Trucks switched from his Les Paul to his SG.
Opener Robert Cray came on stage for "Old Love," which featured a great guitar solo from Clapton. After a nod to the D&D days with "Anyday," "Motherless Children" was busted out, and with Trucks, Clapton, and Doyle Bramhall II all on slide guitar, it was definitely one of the highlights of the night. Their triple slide attack was fantastic, as all three guitars sang in unison.
There has been a seated, acoustic portion of each of Clapton’s shows on tour, and after "Motherless Children" the lights in the arena went out. The roadies brought out two chairs, and Trucks and Clapton took a seat center-stage, spot-lit with guitars in hand. They ran through the first few bars of "Back Home" before the lights slowly went up across the rest of the stage as the rest of the band quietly joined in. Bramhall, absent for the first song, came back out for the rest of the set as Trucks put away the acoustic and played his SG on the remaining songs, "I Am Yours," "Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,"and a phenomenal "Running on Faith."
The band was back to full electric for "After Midnight," and then Clapton completely owned "Little Queen of Spades." He’s clearly been pushed by the young guitarists like he hasn’t been pushed in quite a while, and has responded with sharp guitar work. On "Little Queen of Spades," the guitarists took turns soloing, each one setting the bar just a bit higher for the next guitarist to hurdle. Trucks was perfect here, and the crowd exploded after his solo.
After "Further On Up The Road," the band slowed it down a bit with "Wonderful Tonight." Then, Trucks’ guitar conjured the ghost of Allman, and the opening riff to "Layla," arguably the 7 most famous notes in guitar history, rang out across the Gwinnett Civic Center. The crowd exploded, and the band responded. Pianist Chris Stainton’s work on the coda was perfect; in fact, he was stellar all night, the unsung hero in a band which spotlights (and rightly so) instruments of the six-stringed kind. As Stainton, Trucks, and Clapton brought "Layla" home, the band broke into "Cocaine." Clapton’s only just started playing this song after a long absence in his setlists, and he’s added the word "deadly" to the chorus (she’s all right, she’s all right, she’s all right…that deadly cocaine).
After a short encore break, the band was joined again by Cray for "Crossroads," and they called it a night.
In the grand scheme of rock and roll shows, Clapton’s currently got one of, if not the best one out there. With each note he shows why he’s the legend on stage, and in the process he’s building that of Trucks. While Bramhall certainly is a great guitarist in his own right, on some songs it really seems like it’s the "Derek Trucks show." Hopefully Trucks is soaking up all of this, because sooner rather than later, he’s not going to be a sideman to anyone; these huge crowds that show up to see Clapton will soon be showing up for him.