Eric Clapton – Hollywood High Rollers (Mid Valley MVR 466/467)

Hollywood High Rollers (Mid Valley MVR 466/467)

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Hollywood, FL. – May 5, 2008

Disc 1. Introduction – Tell The Truth – Key To The Highway – Hoochie Coochie Man – Little Wing – Outside Woman Blues – Double Trouble – Don’t Knock My Love – Driftin’ – Rockin’ Chair – Motherless Child – Travelling Riverside Blues – Running On Faith

Disc 2. Motherless Children – Little Queen of Spades – Before You Accuse Me – Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine – I’ve Got My Mojo Working (with Robert Randolph)

“Hollywood High Rollers” features EC’s second gig of his short 2008 U.S. and Canadian Tour (eleven shows only), which kicked off on 3 May in Tampa, FL. and finished up on 5 June in Wantagh, NY.

EC’s band for this tour consists of familiar faces (Doyle Bramhall II – Chris Stainton – Sharon White & Michelle John) but there are some new ones too as Pino Palladino replaces Willie Weeks on bass and Ian Thomas is replacing Steve Jordan on drums.

The setlist features lots of blues numbers, songs from his Derek and the Dominos days and even tosses in a couple of surprises, such as a rendition of Wilson Pickett’s “Don’t Knock My Love” and the acoustic “Rockin’ Chair”. It might just be an annoying setlist for someone looking for a hit parade stroll down memory lane, but I find the setlist a very nice one…. It’s true that I miss “Got To Get Better” but I get “Double Trouble” in return, which is not a bad exchange at all…

“Tell The Truth / Key To The Highway” nicely open the show with Doyle sharing vocals and guitar solos with EC. Chris Stainton’s piano playing does shine on “Key To The Highway” too. “Hoochie Coochie Man” may be longer than usual at 6+ minutes and features solos by Doyle and Chris, with EC saving the last part of the song for himself. “Little Wing” is simply beautiful, from EC’s intro till the end. Of particular note is Doyle’s lovely guitar work on the first part of the song…. I think EC should consider the possibility of adding one song from Doyle’s own catalogue to his repertoire and give Doyle the lead vocal and lead guitar spot for a while, like he used to do in the past with Albert Lee (“Sweet Little Liza”), Mark Knopfler(“Money For Nothing”) or Andy Fairweather-Low (“Gin House”).

The back cover wrongly lists “Double Trouble” as the next track, but what really comes next is a magnificient version of “Outside Woman Blues”, though I may find the end of the song kind of abrupt. “Double Trouble” is one of the highlights of the night and it always meets my expectations, no matter how high they are. “Don’t Knock My Love” is a funky song and a true love at first listen. Originally released by Wilson Pickett in 1971, it was one of his final big hits. I am glad to have now discovered it. Better late than never, they say.

For the mini acoustic set, EC played “Driftin'” (solo) and then “Rockin’ Chair” – the second surprise of the night – which is a song that reminds me a great deal of the “Reptile” album. “Motherless Child” was the opener for EC’s blues only shows of 1994 and 1995, but it now sounds so different with the addition of Doyle on slide guitar! “Travelling Riverside Blues” will always be a fun blues romp and next comes “Running On Faith” with EC ignoring someone’s request to play “Five Long Years” … “Running On Faith” never sounded as good as it does these days and the responsible for that has got to be Doyle and his beautiful guitar work on the outro.

Dueling slides on”Motherless Children” give way to “Little Queen Of Spades” a blues song where it’s easy to see how much EC and the rest of the band adore their jobs. With no third guitar player in the band and with just one guy at the keyboards, this song has now been shortened to 12 minutes but still is a real stand out. “Before You Accuse Me” has now got to be a tribute to the late Bo Diddley. After that we are treated to a number of Clapton classics for the closing of the show. “Wonderful Tonight” is a crowd pleaser and I don’t think I have many chances that EC may drop this song in the future and play “Tell Me That You Love Me” instead… On the other hand, I never thought EC could ever play “Got To Get better” live again and he resurrected it back in 2004!…. so I keep dreaming… “Layla” features a nice solo and the coda is a pleasure to listen to, not only because of EC but also because Chris and Doyle’s works are simply beautiful. “Cocaine” is great, with Chris Stainton’s solo reminding me a lot of “Johnny Guitar” a track from the sessions for the “Reptile” album that can be found on the “I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” CD-Single.

“Got My Mojo Working” is an stellar encore that sees Robert Randolph join the band and trade great licks with EC, making this performance the icing on the cake.

“Hollywood High Rollers” comes with no bonus material such as tour programme replicas or whatever, but just three pictures of the band on the inner sides of the front and back sleeves. Still it is a very good audience recording featuring a couple of songs EC had likely never played live before, which makes this release, if not essential, at least an interesting one.

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