Narendra Kusnur's music musings …

The cream of Clapton


Mike Hall, the man behind the Classic Clapton tribute

RETRO is king. Exactly a week after the previously-reviewed Elvis Presley tribute by Garry J Foley at the Bandra Fort Amphitheatre, we had Mike Hall doing an Eric Clapton tribute.

This was on January 17, when the Willingdon Catholic Gymkhana, Santa Cruz, was packed to capacity. Part of the MLA Ashish Shelar Neighbourhood Winter Festival, the event ‘Classic Clapton’ was coordinated by Dereyk Talker.

Guitarist-vocalist Clapton has had thousands of followers in India. After all, he has done some great work over the years, right from bands like the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos, to almost four decades of solo work.

Well, why are we repeating what everyone knows? Let’s suffice it to say that Hall, who hails from Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, did a stupendous job. His guitarwork was first-rate throughout, and though his vocal timbre was slightly different from the legend’s, he had the crowd singing along.

Hall had come to Mumbai in 2009. But while that was at Bandra’s St Andrew’s Auditorium, the open-air environment of WCG gave a completely different feel. It was a half-seating, half-standing arrangement for a mixed crowd, with people of all ages. While the youngsters just listened to and admired the ongoings, the middle-aged and even older people sang along and danced.

The previous day, this blogger missed Hall’s performance at Phoenix Marketcity in Kurla. At WCG, after the opening act Rebecca Nazz, he came on and did a string of Clapton hits. One of his early numbers was JJ Cale’s ‘After Midnight’, which had the audience on their feet. Other gems included the brilliant ‘Lay Down Sally’, the Willie Dixon-penned and Muddy Waters-popularised ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’, George Harrison’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (Clapton played guitar on that, uncredited on the original album) and the Freddie King classic ‘Hideaway’.

The Cream masterpiece ‘White Room’ was done perfectly, specially the famous wah-wah coda. On a more romantic note came ‘Wonderful Tonight’, which Clapton had written for ex-wife Pattie Boyd. Other electric numbers were Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Little Wing’ (which Clapton had covered) and the Cream version of Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

The show also had an unplugged set, including Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’, the acoustic version of ‘Layla’, and ‘Tears In Heaven’, which Hall dedicated to the late David Bowie – the song was originally written by Clapton for his four-year-old son Conor, who died after falling from the 53rd floor.

Extra-popular songs like JJ Cale’s ‘Cocaine’ and the electric version of ‘Layla’ were kept for the latter part. All in all, the fans were thrilled by the fabulous selection, the quality of musicianship and the sheer liveliness of the show. For those who’ve had ‘blind faith’ in bluesbreaker Clapton, this was his ‘cream’.

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