M.E.N. Arena, Manchester, England
29th April 2004

Review by : Sue Smith

Excellent concert but needed more. Two hours is not long enough and it flew by far too quickly. It would have been nice if he had introduced his band. This was my 16th concert and Eric just gets better.

Review by : Bill Wilson

Disappointing concert. Last saw EC 3 years ago in Birmingham which was a much better show. The Manchester gig was a vehicle for his new album which is normal - this being very much blues oriented. The classics were there - Layla, Badge, Sunshine Of Your Love, Sheriff, etc but there was a gulf of missing material - hardly anything from the 80's or 90's. Really missed the solo acoustic set also. Only 1 encore was a further disappointment.

Review by : Steve McMinn

Eric Clapton's concert at the M.E.N. Arena had one of the most unusual surprises at the beginning that I have ever witnessed. As the band took to the stage in semi darkness, a dark rather bulky figure approached the mic with guitar around his neck. The lights came up to reveal not Eric as expected but local comedian, Peter Kay, who announced Eric would be a bit late as he was still in Gregg's having a meal-deal ! Peter filled in with a few jokes about ticket prices before "treating" us to a sing-song and his own rendition of "Tears in Heaven" with the lyric "Would you know my name, if you saw me in ... Bolton ?" The Arena erupted with laughter and we were joined by Eric from the side of the stage shaking his fist in mock anger before putting his arms around Peter who clearly was now in awe of his hero.

Eric launched into a crystal clear version of the classic "Let It Rain" ably supported his excellent band. I've not heard this for many years and it was refreshing to see Eric as enthusiastic as ever as audience joined in with the chorus. "Let It Rain" is an appropriate song for Manchester and on the strength of Eric's masterly control of his guitar and the superb harmonies, let it rain, rain rain !!!

A blinding "Hoochie Coochie Man" and the ever popular "Bell Bottom Blues" followed before we were treated to a very funky version of "I Shot The Sheriff." Eric then launched into his tribute to Mississippi bluesman Robert Johnson, demonstrating a variety of blues styles that was just awesome. You could just imagine Johnson's spirit looking down and marvelling at old Slowhand and wondering why more than 50 years after his death, a sell out 15,000 audience would pay 50 a ticket to hear his music celebrated with such style.

Highlight of the evening was a spellbinding version of Derek & the Dominoes', "Have You Ever Loved a Woman ?" Each band member in turn playing a solo before Eric winded up the intensity with a glorious guitar solo that made made the hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

"Badge" was dedicated to Peter Kay and Eric teased us with feedback before hitting the foot pedal prior to launching into the catchy guitar break. A sublime "Wonderful Tonight" was followed by the classic original riff of "Layla" and "Cocaine" as the crowd got to their feet at long last. Then it was over.

Eric returned with Robert Randolph, an excellent opening act and very talented guitarist in his own right, for Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" and a fast paced blues and then he was gone. Eric had played with great zest and enthusiasm - please don't leave it another 3 years before you return again.

Review by : Glen Pimborough

Regardless of the price you pay for your ticket this genius never fails to deliver. Right from the beginning when Robert Randolph and his Family band warmed up the anticipating crowd you just knew we were in for a treat. When the lights went down the audience roared with delight as they await their hero....but Eric never fails to surprise as on walked Britain's top comedian Peter Kay complete with guitar ''Sorry folks Eric can't make it tonight, he's in Greggs (sandwich shop) getting a meal deal'' after a few obligatory jokes the master walked on stage to an explosion of cheers. Eric went through his set of a mixture of blues & rock as if he does it every day of his life, and most probably does. With brilliant support from his backing band Eric brought the house down and had his audience screaming for more, how can a man who says so little have so many thousand eating out of his hands a goodnight had by all, including Eric and with Peter Kay thrown in (albeit for 3 minutes)! Excellent value for money. For those who will watching him over the next few months, you're in for a treat. ERIC AT HIS BEST!

Then followed some old classics with up-to-date arrangements, Got To Get Better In A Little While, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, and then Layla, done la Derek and the Dominoes, with the long ending I hadn't heard for twenty years or more. A blistering Cocaine brought the main set to its climax, followed by a two-number encore announced by the unmistakable opening riff of Sunshine Of Your Love. The final number was new to me, so I'm not sure of the title, but I think the chorus began Can my mojo work?

Worth the journey and ticket money - absolutely - wish I could afford to go again!

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