Eric Clapton - Live At The Royal Albert Hall (2022)

By Eva Garcia de la Fuente

I dreamt that I was The Lady in the Balcony. 

I was lying on the sofa in the living room of a friend's house. The vinyl of Eric Clapton's latest album, The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions, was playing. I closed my eyes, and just as I was about to reach for the sky, I woke up on a "balcony" of the Royal Albert Hall. It was the first concert of the Spring 2022 UK / European tour.

Since his debut in 1964, Clapton has played more than 200 times at the Royal Albert Hall. It has been almost his second home for the more than 50 years he has been playing. It was completely full and there were even people standing on the top floor, with binoculars so as not to miss a thing. I thought: let's take advantage of this magnificent dream!    

I went to get a beer. Eric here, Eric there, Eric was there, Eric came. Standing in line at the bar it seemed like we were all going to see a friend.   


Many like me had miraculously managed to exchange tickets for the 2020 concert that was cancelled due to the Covid pandemic. May 7, 2022 was sold out. You never know when the last live show of these legendary monsters is going to be.    

I was surprised when I realized that the entire theater was ready, tidy and seated to see the opening acts. So much anticipation must have been worth it, Andy Fairweather Low was playing. Andy is one of Clapton's fifth generation, about 73 years old, with an impressive resume as a guitarist, composer, producer and vocalist. In recent years, he has accompanied Eric but was also a regular guitarist for George Harrison, among others. It can't be easy to be Eric Clapton's opening act, but I recognize that his 30 minutes were exceptional.


First part of the concert, electric. 

Eric took his Stratocaster, "looks at me" and sings: "Take me by my hand and Lead me to the Water". And I thought: with you to infinity and beyond!....
 It was the first song and we were all already completely surrendered. Eric doesn't talk, doesn't change guitars and hardly pauses between songs, so he kept going straight through, with Andy and everyone else backing him up. He had a lot of good support. It was 30 min that went by in a second.     


Second part of the concert, acoustic.

Eric took off his jacket, sat down on his chair at home, on a very cozy carpet, and started playing his guitar. The first chords already caused a tsunami in the theater, you could hardly hear the music because of the applause: it was the turn of the acoustic version of Layla. All the women present there had wanted to be Layla at some point in our lives. When we had not yet recovered, he continued with Tears in Heaven, and as we all know what this song represents for him, more than one of us ended up crying. And, if that wasn't enough, that intimate and sentimental moment, so close to the audience, he finished it off with Wonderful Tonight. In short.


Third part of the concert, electric.

Eric stood up. During a few minutes of pause, we all regained our composure and I took the opportunity to take a look at Doyle Bramhall II's gear. Bramhall has been accompanying Eric on concerts for years: Fender telecaster, Gibson ES-335 and an interesting, well-populated pedalboard (two 'COBs' and an 'Experience' from Prescription Electronics, 'The Zoink Machine' from Acid Fuzz, plus Dunlop's classic 'Fuzz Face', Strymon's 'Flint' reverb and Way Huge's 'Blue Hippo' chorus, among others).


 played again in its best version, the original, the electric one, for at least 10 minutes. Eric linked one song with another until exhaustion. He got tired, or fed up, who knows, and left.

As the audience didn't move from their seats, he treated us to an extra number in which the bassist, guitarist and keyboardist sang. Clearly there was no intention of being more generous than was fair and necessary. And just like that, he disappeared. In his line.   

After two hours of deep sleep, I woke up alone on my "balcony".     


© Eva García de la Fuente / Guitars Exchange