We travelled some 700 kms (there and back) to the small walled-in town of Lucca (the only one apparently left in Italy with standing walls), not too far from Pisa, to see “Mr. Slow Hand” himself, Eric Clapton. He began on time at 9:30 pm and played for 2 hours non-stop with just one encore. He began with “Pretending” which is one of my favourite. Clapton was backed up by 11 members, including some pretty young guitarists who could have even been his kids (just think of the honour of playing next to him!).
This was the second time for me to see Clapton. The first was way back in 1995 in Rome. He began that concert by saying, “If you’ve come to hear my old hits, forget it, as I’m only going to play blues”. Which he did. In Lucca instead (a splendid town by the way) he played some old and new hits, such as “So Tired” and everyone’s favourite, “Cocaine” and “Layla”.
His opening act was the great American soul-rock guitarist, Robert Cray. A special treat as Cray later joined Clapton for a few tunes, including “Crossroads”. While staring at Clapton, I kept on thinking about his long relationship with friend George Harrison, especially on the song “Layla” which was named in honour of George’s first wife, model Patti Harrison (who then hooked-up with Clapton). So great was their friendship that they remained good friends with Clapton rendering George homage one year after his death in London’s famous Royal Albert Hall with the “Concert For George” concert. I also kept on thinking about the concert for Bangladesh. Harrison had organised that event in 1971 in New York’s Madison Square Garden to also help his dear friend and mentor (on the sitar), Ravi Shankar, Norah Jones’s father. He got some good friends involved, such as Bob Dylan and Clapton. Harrison’s assistants would rush to JFK to await for Clapton’s plane from London, but he wasn’t there. So they’d go back. And he still wasn’t there. He finally showed up but was in pretty bad shape as he was going through a rather bad period with drugs (Dylan on the other hand was extremely nervous to be on stage again). But there was the great Clapton on stage playing next to Harrison, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. The guitar solo part as we all know belongs to Clapton who had originally recorded it with Harrison, and, if I’m not mistaken, is on The Beatles’s “White Album”.
Clapton played about 20 songs that night in Lucca. Someone in the 1970s had written on a wall somewhere in England: “Clapton is God”! Slow Hand’s performance in Lucca still confirmed that unique statement (all pics by M. Rimati)!