Royal Albert Hall, London, England
4th May 2004

Review by : Gina Whelchel

I was at May 4 & 5th RAH shows - and Dallas, OKC & Ft. Lauderdale. This review is from Ft. Lauderdale June 15, 2004.

The Office Depot Center in Sunrise Florida is a fairly new arena that is 872,000 square feet seating 20,000 for a concert. Most seats were filled by the time EC took the stage. Our seats were stage left, under the jumbotron having just bought them the day before the show. We had a great view watching Lee Dickson work with the line up of Eric's guitars plus I'm a big fan of Nathan East who serves this side of the stage well.

I think I have more to say about Robert Randolph & the Family Band, as now seeing them 4 times in the past month - I"m hooked on them! Plus I've met him after 2 shows and he's as nice as he can be. A gentle man who knows the importance of bringing JOY to the people.

When Robert Randolph took the stage at 7:35 to light clapping, most of the seats in the front rows were still vacant - there were only 2 lone people up front. Robert kicked off his set with a "Billie Jean" instrumental cover that lasted about 10 minutes. Robert never works from a set list so you never know what you're going to get. The crowd didn't seem to recognize Robert's music so their applause was scant. This worried me a bit as to how that might affect Clapton's performance knowing he was most likely listening from the back and judging the audience. After Robert's 3rd song he addressed the crowd saying "How Ya'll tonight? We came here with our dancin' shoes on!" Then he introduced everybody in the band as his cousin, which you know, Jason Crosby is a white guy so that got alot of laughter!. He continued "It's been a long time since we've been in South Florida and it's good to be touring with Eric Clapton." That got a good response from the crowd and they launched into "Slow Train a Comin." Robert changed to a Gibson for this number. Then he launched into "Purple Haze" returning to his slide. He rocked the crowd as they recognized this Hendrix classic. The last song he did in the set is the one where he gets the crowd involved, dancing, stomping and singing back. Robert changed instruments taking on the bass first, then over to pound on the drums. I had been dancing in the aisle but was told by the Gestapo security to sit back down. This unfortunately colored the rest of my show experience as they continued to hassle me the rest of the night anytime I stepped out of the boundary. He left the stage at 8:10pm and by this time, the arena had filled up considerably.

This was a strange crowd. Mostly 50s and a jaded upper East coast crowd. Fort Lauderdale could be called New Jersey of the South. I'd say a very drunk crowd based on this intoxicated jerk behind me who verbally harassed me while we waited for EC between sets. He called me obsessed as he watched me take these notes in my journal. What is the Japanese word for "asshole"? I thought about asking security to remove him since they were taking their job so seriously but just tried my best to ignore him instead. I will have to say the Oklahoma City crowd was the best ever audience I've been in. Why can't all concert audiences be that HIP? I'm with Eric on that one - I'd take that audience on tour with me anytime too!

I noticed that both the Hammond organ and Stainton's electric piano were set up, so I was hopeful Billy Preston would be back in the show having not been at the New Orleans show over the weekend. The house lites went blue at 8:35pm as the band entered the stage, EC being the last one on to great applause. I don't think it was Billy on the organ afterall, but I think it was Gregg Phillinganes - I never got a confirmation on that and EC still didn't introduce the band. Billy has lost a lot of weight since early May making him unrecognizable so I'm not sure. I read later Billy Preston is in Los Angeles all week helping with the funeral of the late great Ray Charles who will be buried this Friday.

Eric began with "Let it Rain." The set list continued exactly the same as all the other American shows and RAH. In spite of my own negative experience of the crowd and the heavy handed security, Eric rocked the arena. You would think after the success & excess of Crossroads Guitar Festival and then hitting the road playing many consecutive nights since, the man would be dead dog tired and not playing full out. Not one bit. Instead, I think the experience he had in Dallas only fueled his passion for playing and he's riding the crest of the wave. He played low on the neck all night and put in runs behind Stainton's piano I've never heard before on "I want a Little Girl". It was said long ago that Eric plays one spontaneous masterpiece after another. That was evident this show for sure. On "Hoochie" the second song, he was already rockin' back and forth on his heels as he's been doing this tour when he's deep into his playing. He grinned alot to the band and watched Doyle with appreciation when he took his leads. He had to take a sip of water after Hoochie and nodded to the band in agreement - that was HOT!

He said "Thank you" after every song and added early in the show "It's good to be playing for you tonight." He was sporting his short sleeved blue cotton shirt, baggy jeans and his suede grey sneakers, and those spectacles that have been described as owlish.

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