Clapton and Winwood reunite at MSG

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Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood
Madison Square Garden
New York, New York
February 25, 2008

While not billed as a Blind Faith, everyone at New York’s Madison Square Garden came to see Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood perform the songs from the super group’s self-titled 1969 album.  The duo did not disappoint, coming out of the gate with “Had To Cry Today.”  Clapton took the lead early on with his blazing guitar work, though Winwood would spend more time in the spotlight throughout the evening, handling the majority of the vocals while performing brilliantly on both organ and guitar.

Winwood-3.jpg “Them Changes” was a surprise early in the set, with Winwood passionately singing the classic Buddy Miles hit by the drummer of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, who sadly passed away during Clapton and Winwood’s performance the following evening.  Winwood’s vocals were most impressive when singing the Blind Faith material, “Well … All Right,” “Sleeping in the Ground,” and “Presence of the Lord.” He even took a turn singing verses of Clapton’s “Forever Man” and “Tell the Truth.” 

With an all-star backing band that consisted of bassist Willie Weeks, keyboardist Chris Stainton and drummer Ian Thomas, each song was executed to sheer perfection.  “Presence of the Lord” featured one of the evening’s rare musical missteps when Clapton tried to harmonize with Winwood, though the crowd barely seemed to notice as they roared with delight at the end of each chorus.

Winwood kept the building rocking with his Traffic hits “Glad,” “Pearly Queen” and “No Face, No Name, No Number,” as well as his solo smash “Split Decision.”  When it came time for Clapton to lead, his songs leaned towards his blues roots, performing “Double Trouble” and “Ramblin’ on My Mind,” the latter performed acoustically, while Winwood left the stage.  Winwood returned to the stage alone, wailing “Georgia on My Mind” while pumping his B3 organ with such tremendous bass and soul that the entire floor of the Garden shook. 

The last half hour of the show was nothing short of magical, starting with a pair of hits from the duo’s mutual friend, Jimi Hendrix. “Little Wing” featured Clapton’s best guitar solos of the night, followed by a very slow, very bluesy “Voodoo Chile” that saw Winwood grinning from ear to ear, taking great joy in trading lead vocals with his old bandmate Eric.

Clapton’s guitar work on “Can’t Find My Way Home” was joyous, bringing forth the biggest standing ovation of the night.  That was a mere warm up for what came next – a version of “Dear Mr. Fantasy” the likes of which no one could have anticipated. When Winwood sang, “play guitar, make it snappy,” Clapton cut loose with a guitar solo as passionate as his very best day.  Not to be outdone, Winwood laid down his finest solos of the night.  The pair’s virtuoso performance was nothing less than awe-inspiring, quite possibly the most stunning guitar duo this long time music lover has ever witnessed, one of those rare instances in life when words, and even tapes, can never truly do justice to the moment at hand.

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When “Fantasy” finally came to its rousing crescendo, there was little left to be said.  There were those in the crowd screaming for more, while others simply shook their heads and said, “Who knew?”  

Together for their first full concert together since Blind Faith’s abrupt demise in August of 1969, Clapton and Winwood delivered a performance for the ages.  Fortunately for those not in attendance, all three of the band’s concerts at the Garden were recorded for feature DVD release, ensuring that music fans around the world can re-live the magic for years to come.

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