Written by Jim Bille

Eric Clapton made the third stop of his short 2021 American tour in Houston Friday night at the Toyota Center. Clapton was supported by long time band mates that include Doyle Bramhall II, Paul Carrack, Nathan East, Sonny Emory, Steve Gadd and Chris Stainton with Sharon White and Katie Kissoon on backing vocals. The show also featured Jimmie Vaughan as special guest to open the show.

Starting off with “Pretending” from the 1989 release Journeyman, Clapton set up an evening of familiar classics from his extensive catalog. Clapton would follow this number with the Charlie Segar penned “Key to the Highway”. This was one of many songs that would feature Clapton’s take on a blues style that features his impeccable guitar tone which has been one of his trademarks for generations.

Although not one of my favorites from Clapton’s catalog, his performance of “I Shot the Sheriff” was epic. About mid way through the number, Clapton went off into an extended expose of stunning guitar technique that was definitely one of the highlights of the evening.

“Tears in Heaven” was performed with a slightly different tempo but the song was just as emotionally moving as the original. Doyle Bramhall’s playing was borderline ethereal when backing up Clapton on this number.

A Clapton concert standard, “Cocaine”, was approached with a slightly rougher edge with Clapton’s guitar playing kind of reminding me of his days with Cream. Paul Carrick’s turn on organ lent a Jimmy Smith type groove to the tune which led up to Chris Stainton jumping off into a frantic piano explosion that ended with the whole band concluding the number with the audience filling in the final word of the song, COCAINE!

Other numbers featured included Robert Johnson’s “Little Queen of Spades”, an acoustic version of “Layla” and “Got to Get Better In a Little While”.

The encore song was Joe Cocker’s classic “High Time We Went” that featured Jimmie Vaughan on guitar and Paul Carrack on vocals.

Clapton did not dig into any of his deep cut recordings for the show but his discreet modifications to some of the songs performed this evening added a new and refreshed touch to the live experience.

Welcome back Eric.