Going Down Slow (EC Is Here DJ Copy 31/32)
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – April 20th, 1998
Disc 1 (57:50): My Father’s Eyes, Pilgrim, One Chance, River Of Tears, Going Down Slow, She’s Gone, Tears In Heaven, Layla, Change The World
Disc 2 (65:37): Old Love, Crossroads, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, I Shot The Sheriff, Wonderful Tonight, Tearing Us Apart, Cocaine, Sunshine Of Your Love
Eric Clapton’s Pilgrim tour started on March 20th, his fifty-sixth birthday, in St. Paul Minnesota. By the end of the first leg he played three shows in Madison Square Garden between April 18th, 19th, and 20th. Accompanied by a 20-piece orchestra with Nick Ingman as conductor, Clapton presented the new direction of his music, influenced by contemporary producers such as Babyface.
Going Down Slow contains the complete third and final show in New York. The sound quality is very good to excellent. It’s slightly more distant that the second tape source to surface for the show found on Pilgrim Fathers (Mid Valley 017-022), but is still very enjoyable and is much more affordable.
In a review of the shows, written by Jim Farber for the New York Daily News, stated: “ERIC CLAPTON GAVE HIMSELF a makeover at Madison Square Garden Saturday night. For the third time in this decade and the zillionth in his career the 53-year-old artist bent his sound toward another genre, made use of a fresh band configuration and coaxed a deeper tone from his singing. And he did it best with his least known material: songs from his just-released LP, Pilgrim.
“But that’s not all. At the first of three sold-out shows (ending tonight), Clapton did something most fans stopped holding out hope for years ago. He played solos long, hard and deep ones. Repeatedly, Clapton gave himself over to the gift he spent much of the last 25 years keeping at bay.”
Farber continues by writing, “Luckily, Clapton’s band delivered songs from the new LP (which took up the first half of the two-hour show) with far more sweat than on LP. A flesh and blood drummer (Ricky Lawson) gave the beat extra drive. In the title song, Lawson’s funk propulsion awarded Clapton’s tugging guitar line the emphasis of a smart hip-hop sample. In ‘She’s Gone,’ the rhythm section fattened up Clapton’s riff for the kill, while the gorgeous ‘My Father’s Eyes’ became less a ballad, as it is on LP, than a rocky piece of soul.
“Not every element of the band clicked. Clapton propped a full orchestra up on risers behind him. And his band trounced them. Despite a solid sound system, their textures could barely be detected. When they could, it wasn’t always for the good. They added only syrup to the three-song acoustic section, which included the hit ‘Change The World,’ ground zero for Clapton’s fascination with Babyface. (The guitarist sang the original recording, Babyface produced it)….
“Of course, Clapton purists who pine for his youthful peak (1965 to ’71) miss the power of what he’s choosing to do now. They no doubt groused when the band held to a careful beat. While his group could cook, they never boiled. Luckily, Clapton himself met die-hard demands halfway with his own work.
“Still, the most underappreciated improvement in Clapton’s work remains his singing. Apparently, adolescence isn’t the only time a person’s voice can change. His dusty tone has far more expression and experience in it now. And he brought much of that to bear here. In his new efforts, the artist captured his true age. Those gathered at the Garden who have followed Clapton’s long story so far got to see a fine new chapter written right before their eyes.”
The review accurately reflects the mood of the evening. Going Down Slow is packaged in a gatefold cardboard sleeve. It is available alone or with a set with the other two New York shows, River Of Tears (April 18th) and She’s Gone (April 19th).