Forever Man

At America West Arena, Eric Clapton's bloated ensemble proves too much of a good thing

The true highlight of the two-hour show came shortly after the acoustic set, when Clapton led a smaller version of his band--no additional guitarists and no back-up singers--through a slow, emotionally charged rendition of "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?". Almost all of Clapton's solos this night were brilliant, but on "Have You Ever Loved a Woman?" his piercing tones rang with a clarity that the large ensemble had previously muffled. Also, Clapton's willing-but-not-always-able vocals cut deep without straining to be heard.

The strangest thing about Slowhand's '90s renaissance is the revisionism that's emerged about his work. The true greats of his catalogue, like "Bell Bottom Blues," "I Looked Away" or "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" seem to have receded in the public's mind, while sleepy throwaways from his late '70s J.J. Cale period are now treated as classics. The worst offender has to be "Wonderful Tonight," a dull 1977 love song that's an unlikely favorite of his current audiences. At America West, Clapton--as he's done for several years now--slowed the already snail-paced tune down beyond belief, stretching its catalogue of cliches for maximum tedium. When he launched into the lyrical solo at the end, I was thrilled that the song was nearly over. But that's not why the Kevin Bacon look-alike in front of me was thrilled. He jumped out of his seat, shook his ass a bit, and gave two solid minutes of air guitar. To the few infidels in the crowd, this moment was probably nothing special. But to the reverent masses, it was a communion with God.

Testing the Waters: Buzz the Original Funbar in Scottsdale has long been known as a dance club, but it recently started exploring the possibilities of semi-acoustic live music, with Sunday shows by Dead Hot Workshop and the Pistoleros. Both of these bands will be playing at Buzz on Sunday, June 7, as part of the club's "Locals Unplugged" series, with the performances preceded by live band interviews on Greg Paul's local show on KEDJ-FM 106.3.

--Gilbert Garcia

Contact Gilbert Garcia at his online address: ggarcia@newtimes.com

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