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Eric Clapton in Dublin review: guitar hero rocks the grey-haired faithful with a night of classics

Clapton, at 79, made light of his advancing years in delivering a stirring 80-minute set

Eric Clapton

3Arena, Dublin

They don’t make them like Eric Clapton any more. The male blues guitar hero may be a thing of the past but a sold out 3Arena obviously hadn’t heard the news. This was less the Englishman’s first concert in Ireland in 11 years and more a gathering of the grey-haired faithful, including your correspondent, to pay homage to one of the true legends of rock. And he and his excellent band responded with a spirited performance liberally laced with venerable classics that made light of his advancing years – he has just turned 79.

Clapton is a complex figure. He is a recovering addict and alcoholic who has helped many others faced with similar problems in the Crossroads clinic he set up. He is also apt to sound off in the name of freedom, notably joining forces with Van Morrison to oppose Covid restrictions.

On Thursday he was supporting a new cause, one that found favour with the audience. With his guitar draped in the colours of the Palestinian flag, he performed his song Prayer Of A Child while a video contrasting Gaza in peace and in war played on the giant screens.

Clapton has known great loss himself and there was a tender and tasteful version of Tears In Heaven, his song written for his four-year-old son Conor who fell to his death in 1991. This was during an acoustic interlude in the 80-minute plus concert when he was joined onstage by Paul Brady for an unlikely version of the folk song Sam Hall in honour of the American saxophonist David Sanborn (among many signal performances, he played on Bowie’s Young Americans).


Clapton explained that it was a tradition to mark a musician’s death with the song. Brady then performed his own song Harvest Time to a slightly mystified audience; the song was fine – it just didn’t belong in the middle of an EC concert.

Clapton strapped on his Stratocaster and got back down to business with a steaming version of Got To Get Better in a Little While from his Derek and the Dominoes period, the equal of the earlier Badge from the Cream era.

He was clearly in good form and though his voice was noticeably weaker, his playing was characteristically fluent, tasteful and agile. His style is unhurried and yet so authoritative. It remains such a thrill to see and hear him when he cuts loose. Certainly there was no sense of him being inhibited by the neuropathy he apparently suffers.

Presence of the Lord from the Blind Faith era was followed by a blistering Crossroads before his celebrated version of J J Cale’s Cocaine brought the show to a powerful climax. A somewhat lacklustre blues encore signalled that EC’s bedtime was calling. And who could begrudge him some rest?

Clapton was not alone or course. His five-man band and two backup singers were a classy bunch. Special mention must go to Chris Stainton and Tim Carmon. Stainton’s piano was a constant delight while Carmon’s Hammond organ fills added wonderful colour.

Finally, late arrivals missed a treat. Andy Fairweather Low, Clapton’s regular sidekick on many tours and albums including his memorable Unplugged, lead his own Low Riders through a short fascinating set of Idiosyncratic early rock‘n’roll. His voice retains much of that distinctive edgy charm that marked his debut with the Amen Corner in the 1960s and, even at 75, he still crackles with energy and attitude.