Eric Clapton replays six euphoric decades of iconic music at British Summer Time 2018
The sunny Sunday evening slot at this year’s British Summer Time in Hyde Park was one reserved for the olympians of rock ‘n’ roll. Opening the show, Steve Winwood, whose career spans six decades of rock, blues rock, soul and R&B, played a set of hits from a heyday of colossal collaborations. The renowned multi-instrumentalist has backed a list of legendary artists such as BB King and John Lee Hooker.
Songs such as Can’t Find My Way Home and Had to Cry Today from the 1969 eponymous album by Blind Faith – in which the musician played alongside the night’s headliner Eric Clapton – were received with nostalgia by many audience members. The set also included Traffic hits Pearly Queen and Dear Mr Fantasy, ending on a high note with Gimme Some Lovin’ from another of his ensembles, The Spencer Davis Group.
Winwood’s set was followed by the beloved Mexican-American musician Carlos Santana – something of a household name – whose career began in the late 60s with his fusion band of rock and Latin American jazz. The winner of 10 Grammy awards played numbers that looked back in sweet reverie at an illustrious career, including Maria Maria, Black Magic Woman and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, set against the band’s blues and salsa rhythms.
Cindy Blackman’s solo was received with a chorus of cheers and rapturous applause from the crowd. With the burning hot guitar notes accompanied by African drums and magical vocals, this rendition had everyone shaking hips, jumping up and down, cheering and singing along.
The universal guitarist – dressed in a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt – delivered an incredible performance that brought the entire arena to life, ending the set with Love, Peace and Happiness. An encore of The Highest Good featured clips and snapshots of various protests for justice and racial emancipation befitting both the words and Santana’s emotion-charging notes.
Next came the beloved artist who went from iconic bands The Yardbirds and Cream to his own highly influential and celebrated solo career – spanning 60 years and selling 130 million records worldwide – the rock-‘n’-roller, blues singer/songwriter and godfather of great music, Eric Clapton himself.
Beginning the show to enormous cheers and claps on the upbeat to Somebody’s Knocking, the performer moved swiftly on to Key to the Highway and I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man, which got everyone swaying with big, excited grins stretching from ear to ear.
Mid-set, the mighty Clapton switched to acoustic as the crowd gently swayed, singing along to Driftin’ Blues and the much-loved crowd-pleaser Layla, originally written with Jim Gordon during his stint in Derek and the Dominos. This was followed by a reggae-inspired and equally seminal Tears in Heaven, with heartfelt melancholic guitar notes and familiar, powerfully mournful lyrics.
The melodic and memorable solos of the global legend were accompanied in Lay Down Sally by Marcella Detroit, who crafted the track’s beautiful words. As she left the stage amid excitement, the ecstatic cheers grew even more as the heart-warming, sentimental and absolutely timeless song Wonderful Tonight began to echo through the park.
The audience at the front of the stage overlooking the VIP section were comprised mostly of older couples in their 50s and 60s, who had suffered the heat with a resilient determination to reserve their good spots for the legend – a long-standing friend of the family – who, with amplifier bent against the feedback, proved he was undeniably the greatest guitar soloist in the world. Dressed casually on a stage which overlooked thousands and thousands of keen faces across London’s Hyde Park, Clapton delivered to British Summer Time’s third day a flawless set revealing intellect, skill and passion, as well as his continuing status as an influential father figure.
The set ended as it had begun, on a high note with myriad voices echoing in unison along with Cocaine. When the show finished and it looked like the stage was being cleared, the audience would not give up, pleading “more, more, more!” until, to their pleasure, Clapton and Santana returned to the stage for a duet of High Time We Went. The fluid, fearless guitar lines of two of the most iconic figures in music history – who have played with almost every famed guitarist and musician, including the best in the game, Jimi Hendrix – delivered a spectacular performance with no flashy licks, but honest, wholesome, killer riffs, undoubtedly leaving London beaming with a joy that will resound for a long time to come.
Photo: Pooneh Ghana
For further information and future events visit Eric Clapton’s website here.
Watch Eric Clapton perform Layla live here: