Monday, April 20, 2009

Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc

I'm going to try and be diplomatic about this.

Eric Clapton brought us Badge. And he brought us Layla. And he brought us Cocaine.

That alone -- not to mention all the bad-ass Cream stuff, and Bell Bottom Blues, and Can't Find My Way Home -- should be more than enough to cement him in a place above all judgment by a douche bag like myself.

That would be, unless the 1980's had never happened. And everything since then.

Simply put, there is no rock pioneer on Earth who has taken a larger and deeper plunge into irrelevancy than Eric Clapton.

Oh, sure, the Stones may have embarrassed their legacy more. And the Who may have doublecrossed themselves to the greatest degree. And Elton John and Rod Stewart may have come across as the most half-witted doofuses (sometimes I wonder if those two are the same guys who wrote "Every Picture Tells a Story" and "Honky Chateau"....seriously - is it even possible?)..

But Clapton? Clapton somehow managed to hang onto his completely bad-ass legacy without once leveraging it in any meaningful way in his "adult" career.

I challenge you: Name me ONE Eric Clapton single (not entitled "Tears in Heaven") worth remembering in the 1980's or 1990's. "She's Waiting"? No. "Running On Faith"? Close, but no. "I Can't Stand It"? Give me a break.

((I admit that I had forgotten about "Forever Man." And I admit that I really like that one. But I also admit that it sounds a whole lot more like something that would have been in the background during a car chase on Miami Vice in 1986 than on a rock legend's solo album)).

So, how did I end up at this show?

My best friend and former roommate from college was a big time Clapton disciple, and back then I wasn't the judgmental fuck that I am today.

That's not to say that I wasn't uncomfortable about going to see Eric Clapton. But Jay was in town for a conference, and Eric Clapton happened to be playing in town that same week, so I bit the bullet and made the best of things.

Little did I know what a snoozer this concert would be. Holy fuck. Boring beyond boring.

This was the "Pilgrim" tour, and it was an album probably best remembered for the decidedly adult-contemporary single "My Father's Eyes". I think it was also the opening number for the show - a telling sign of what was to come. The following several songs were of a similar fare - thoughtful but uninspiring (and uninspired) mid-tempo numbers, none of which I can remember particualrly well. (Most likely because I was fuming over the FOURTY-FUCKING-FIVE DOLLAR SEATS -- $45 to sit at the top row of stage right).

I do remember that he did a pretty great version of Cocaine that night, which had most everyone out of their seats for a minute or two. But in order to get there, we had to sit through another dozen mid-life crisis pop songs and that fucking "Wonderful Tonight" piece of dreck, which no one should ever have to listen to again after prom and/or their best friend's wedding.

I have to assume that he played "White Room" or "Sunshine of Your Love" or one of the other undeniable classics from his catalog, and I'm sure that I enjoyed them, or at least gratefully accepted them as a welcome reprieve from the rest of the evening's content.

But it didn't really make much of a difference. This evening was not about good taste or bad taste. It wasn't about my wonderment about how Mr. Clapton filled the MCI Center on the shoulders of such an unexciting album. It wasn't about the cost of the ticket or the warped value of the performance. And it wasn't about the very obvious double standard against the likes of Mr. Clapton while I gladly shelled out mountains of cash to see the Rolling Stones multiple times on each tour in the 1990s.

It was about hanging out with my best friend from college and running out to make last call at Nanny O'Brien's after the show, and perhaps relive a little college glory...which, by that time, felt like much further in our past than three years.

And even further today.

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