Eric Clapton dazzles at the Royal Albert Hall

Is Slowhand giving us the finger? Nahhhh.
Is Slowhand giving us the finger? Nahhhh.

This past weekend, Eric Clapton kicked off his 11-date residency at London's Royal Albert Hall with an electrifying, diverse two-hour set that featured classics, new covers and a mini acoustic set.

The string of shows mark Slowhand's first appearance at the legendary venue - he holds the place in such high regard that he likens performing at the Hall to "playing in my front room" - since a similar residency in 2006.

Performing with a six-piece band and a pair of backup singers, Clapton handled most of the guitar duties himself - would we have it any other way? - as his regular fellow touring guitarist, Doyle Bramhall II, opened the shows with his own band, Arc Angels.

"It takes me a half hour of playing before I get the nerve to speak" Eric Clapton, joking to the crowd at the Royal Albert Hall

Highlights of the Saturday's opening show included a bracing version of Cream's Badge and an inspired reading of Robert Johnson's Little Queen Of Spaces that featured some vigorous blues soloing.

A sparkling acoustic set

"It takes me a half hour of playing before I get the nerve to speak," joked Clapton prior to taking a seat for a handful of acoustic numbers that included Layla, Lay Down Sally and a cover of Bob Dylan's Not Dark Yet. He wrapped up the five-song acoustic set with a luminous version of Over The Rainbow.

Plugging back in, Clapton closed the night with two scorching signature tracks, Cocaine and Crossroads.

The run at the Royal Albert Hall continues through 31 May. After that, Clapton will head to the States with former Blind Faith companion Steve Winwood, where he'll begin a 14-date tour in in East Rutherford, New Jersey on 10 June.

Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar WorldGuitar PlayerMusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.