Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton: Live Last Night


Live Last Night

Geezer rock doesn't get any more dignified than the set Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood delivered Saturday at Verizon Center.

Their first notable collaboration, in 1969 as the super-group Blind Faith, was fueled by a gimmick -- the cover of their one and only LP, featuring a topless preteen and phallically symbolic model airplane -- that would likely get band members on a sex offender registry today.

But that band's first show was 40 years and one week ago, and both Clapton and Winwood, two of the coolest kids of the '60s, are now in their 60s. So the BFFs from Blind Faith played on a bare stage backed by a small combo and with out any lighting tricks, and offered a two-hour set built around a credo of "Don't trust any song under 30!"

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

Clapton, 64, dressed in jeans and Docksiders (what would Robert Johnson think?), rarely strayed more than a few paces from a carpet that was placed center stage.

He was content to let his fingers do the moving, and he intentionally under-sang the choruses in songs he was sure everybody in the house knew better than he did. He opted for an unplugged version of "Layla," and crooned the lyrics while seated, a rock-and-roll king on his throne.

Winwood, 61, was the more exciting singer and instrumentalist by far. It looked like the veins in his head were just a few bars from bursting as he belted out "Can't Find My Way Home," and he had a wide smile when banging away at a grand piano for the Traffic instrumental "Glad" and during several licks-trading sessions with Clapton on Stratocasters.

Winwood, bless him, ignored the MTV-enhanced, lite-pop, '80s portion of his song book, though that was the most commercially successful era of his career.

The night had plenty of covers, all killers. Clapton was at his hard-core bluesiest on Sam Myers's "Sleeping in the Ground." The Winwood-led, slow-building version of "Voodoo Chile" and Clapton's re-creation of his Derek and the Dominoes licks on "Little Wing" reminded fans that Jimi Hendrix has never been eclipsed.

Winwood reprised "Well Alright," which he and Clapton had recorded with Blind Faith at a time when hip rockers were ignoring Buddy Holly's wondrousness.

Clapton, always generous with whomever he shares a stage, let Winwood have the last word, ending the night with a chillingly fabulous jam version of "Dear Mr. Fantasy," the Traffic classic that's been reintroduced to the mainstream through football commercials. The performance left fans, with a median age slightly younger than the headliners, screaming as if their youth depended on it.


By J. Freedom du Lac |  June 14, 2009; 8:52 PM ET Live Last Night
Previous: Bowen McCauley Dance/'Lucy's Playlist': Live Last Night | Next: Bonnaroo: Bruce, Phish, Bruce + Phish, NIN's Final March of the Pigs, Every Other Band in the World


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Great concert! Rude crowd. People were constantly running up and down the aisles to hit the beer stands before the 9:30 closing time. Made seeing the stage difficult.

Posted by: crwheat | June 14, 2009 10:11 PM

Yeah, the crowd was a little rude. Chattery for the first hour, till all the beer kicked in and they shut up and listened. Great set

Posted by: EricS2 | June 15, 2009 4:02 AM

"Geezer rock"? "Winwood . . .was the more exciting . . . instrumentalist by far"? "Jimi Hendrix has never been eclipsed"?

Please. People who were treated to this tour's version of Voodoo Chile have never heard, nor are likely ever to hear again, electric blues guitar played so well. As lovely as Winwood's voice and playing are, there simply is nothing like Clapton unleashed as he is with this group.

Let's just sit back and be grateful for the alchemical blending of this particular group of talents.

Tom Goddard

Posted by: goddardt | June 15, 2009 9:24 AM

great show and tour.............

Posted by: Iceman4 | June 15, 2009 10:05 AM

A bare stage? Was McKenna even looking at the stage? It was a beautiful stage with bright, backlit screens and at times, gorgeous lighting effects.

Winwood was by far the more entertaining and more personable of the two icons, and dare I say the better singer as well?

All in all, a terrific show from two of rock's finest musicians playing some of the best music ever made!

Posted by: klik21 | June 15, 2009 10:13 AM

do all of McKena's reveiws blow like this one? He's condescending. - may have to turn this feed back off!

Posted by: Max231 | June 15, 2009 10:23 AM

What a great show. We were in section 103 and the sound was really great; a good decible level and well mixed. My only complaint - I didn't hear everything I wanted to hear from these two legends. Long may they live - and tour!

Posted by: Sharon_59 | June 15, 2009 10:40 AM

Crappy review (was this guy even at the concert)? Winwood and clapton compliment each other perfectly. With 100+ years of musicianship between them lets hope they do this type of tour until they're 80. Clapton was outstanding on guitar and Windwood is simply the most versatile musician on the planet. Another 1/2 dozen songs would have been nice, but maybe the quality would suffer? Next time I'm going for the pricey tickets as the money would have been well spent.

Posted by: rallo | June 15, 2009 11:55 AM

The immature idiot who wrote this review frankly should be fired. His physical description of this music event is woeful inaccurate (maybe an eye and ear check) and the knowledge of the music and the artists is uneducated. WP--fire this person or get Donald Trump to.

Posted by: vbunning | June 15, 2009 12:30 PM

What a concert !!! Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood Two iconoclast alive today. Their Musicianship superb. This was the echelon of the music world to me. I saw them February 28, 2009 show @ MSG. I thought that was awesome this was a much better show, the rhythm section was so tight, and the back up singers ...what a great idea. They just play their music.. and it is wonderful. The opening song, "I Had to Cry Today" makes you cry to hear it. Great show..look for more of this with Clapton/Winwood.
Thank you !!!

Ed Jones
Blackwood, NJ
FAN !!!

Posted by: eddnk | June 15, 2009 12:31 PM

Mr. McKenna clearly does not understand how Eric Clapton performs at concerts. Clapton does not want to be the front man and take all the credit. Clapton shares his music and wants to help others in their music abilities as well which really helps provide a better show. Slowhand does not need to jump up and down and run around the stage as does Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. If Mr. McKenna was expecting a concert with that type of feeling maybe he should check out the Jonas Brothers or Britney Spears.

Posted by: mjh0327 | June 15, 2009 12:39 PM

Great show. I especially got a kick out of how Winwood would sing lead on some of Clapton's songs which enabled EC to blow the roof off the dump. Jesus. You could tell that Clapton is over the moon at finally getting together with Winwood. I saw Winwood at the Meyerhoff Concert Hall in Baltimore earlier this year, but this was a whole different animal.
As far as the geezer rock comment - I got into it with somebody on line who was talking about how they were ancient history, and how the guy liked Coldplay (for instance). The comment was made that nobody would be paying to see Coldplay in concert 40 years from now.

Rock lives baybee

Posted by: Brue | June 15, 2009 1:37 PM

I've been going to rock concerts for over 30 years. As I've matured, my taste for music has as well. The concert I saw Saturday was the most polished, top-of-the-game rock concert I've ever witnessed. Steve Winwood was really great and I was pleasently surprised how well he could hold his own with the incomparable Eric Clapton. EC brings great music out in great musicians by allowing them to take lead, take center stage, take a rift & go wherever it takes them. He then brings his own zen to the song and delivers from his Slow Hand a work of art. Who was the Dynamo on the Yamaha organ? He was fantastic. The drummer was superb, the bass player right-on. The only reason I can see that neither of the last two played solos was because they didn't want to. EC would be glad to let them show their stuff.

EC is the best living guitarist in the world! He's taught himself an unmatched unique style. And he continues to challenge himself to learn the style of others, such as Robert Johnson, which was evident Saturday night with their rendition of "Driftin". What an impeccable blues player he has become. But the most enjoyable song for me was to hear his rock-out guitar-playing of "VooDoo Child". Stupendous - in Jimmy Hendrix style done as well as Jimmy would've had he lived to this day and matured in his music as EC has. Jimmy was in the room, and I for one am so pleased to see EC preserving the guitar legends of the past with his dynamite versions today.

Mr. McKenna is apparently a lightweight when it comes to understanding and appreciating the complexities and the nuances of mature rock'n roll. Too bad for him.

Posted by: ottrmoon | June 15, 2009 3:03 PM

The term "Geezer Rock" is extremely offensive to the two virtuosos who I witnessed at the Verizon Center. Eric Clapton has never sounded better and his playing with Steve Winwood makes him sound even better than I have ever heard him play before. Winwood's voice and instrumental ability are still very impressive. If that's geezer rock, then i hope I sound like that when I'm a geezer...which will not be too long.

Posted by: stuartflatow | June 15, 2009 3:41 PM

It would be cool to use an updated photo of Clapton and Winwood (preferably one from the June 13, 2009 Verizon Center Concert) unless Eric got a haircut when nobody was looking.

Great show. To bad the critic wasn't there to enjoy it along with the other 19,000 of us.

Posted by: BillN1 | June 15, 2009 4:00 PM

Here's a link to a video that looked a lot like the show. I think this was in NY.

Posted by: Brue | June 15, 2009 6:30 PM

I was surprised to read the comments on how good the sound was; in our seats (admittedly not the best ones -- high up to the side of the stage), the vocals were inaudible for most of the show -- which was a pity, because it was otherwise a really enjoyable show. Highlights: Crossroads, Little Wing, Voodoo Chile, Driftin', and the encore, Dear Mr. Fantasy. It was a gas to hear Glad in concert -- although I missed Chris Wood's sax. Clapton's playing was magnificent.

Posted by: clyde53 | June 15, 2009 8:07 PM

People, chill. "Geezer rock" mostly a term of affection. Face it, the vast majority of the audience was the same age as the artists on stage, 60ish. There were kids to be sure, mostly with their parents, but it's not like the crowd was the same age as the Jonas Brothers.

I was high up in 403 myself, and I thought it sounded pretty good myself. Not perfect since the speakers were still a bit softer than a arena show should be, but still good. Clear.

Posted by: EricS2 | June 16, 2009 12:03 AM

This review is an example of a critic who writes a review for himself, not the readers. He amuses himself with his cleverness, but reveals his ignorance and arrogance to those of us who were lucky enough to attend the show. Unlike some "revival" rock acts that are clearly in it only for the money, this concert featured two of the finest rock and blues musicians of the past 40 years pushing each other to create music that transcended the notes on the page. Winwood's voice is still haunting and astonishing, and Clapton's guitar work maintains his fabulous technique while adding layers of richness and color.

Posted by: dzl1 | June 16, 2009 1:14 AM

Something tells me that Clapton & Winwood would not like to be referred to as "Geezers" or their music described as "Geezer Rock". They played Saturday Night at the Verizon Center with all the fervor and spirit of a teenager. Combine that energy with the fantastic music they played it was a one-of-a kind show that I will always remember. At 2 hours and 15 minutes most younger bands these days would be hard pressed to keep up.

My favorite was Little Wing and the searing version of Dear Mr. Fantasy was a great finish to the night.

Posted by: johnmccloskey | June 16, 2009 9:24 AM

I traveled over 5 hours from NC to experience this show and not only was I NOT disappointed, I sat absolutely dumbfounded at the incredible talent that was displayed here. Blind Faith was my favorite album and group in high school back when it was released....arm UP (turntable arm was always up - meaning that the album would be played over and over again, especially all through the night) and still have my old vinyl with the young bare-breasted girl on the cover. The reviewer of this concert should have never been allowed to cover it for he knows not what he saw. If he had, he would have realized, like so many of the readers around my age have, that he was seeing a concert that will remain legendary long after I die. Yes, Hendrix was there in spirit smiling as Clapton smoothly wailed on that Strat and, in my opinion, sounded much better than Hendrix. Winwood was absolutely incredible as several times, his performance brought tears to my eyes. I appreciated the concert goers that were as enthusiastic as I was though it seemed like the majority didn't know any songs except JJ Cale's, "Cocaine." Too bad for they missed out on two of the greatest from the "Geezer era"...when a joint was as good as a Nod! As for the sound quality, I was 80 feet from the stage. No way I was going to drive up from NC and get inferior seats!

Sorry, young'un McKenna, you missed the show...were you secretly watching the Jonas Brothers or New Kids on the Block on your iPod??

Posted by: ddkNC | June 16, 2009 2:49 PM

Dear Washington Post:

Taking shots at the musicians' age is childish. Especially since in this case you are reviewing a concert by two titans of rock n' roll. Clapton and Winwood have collectively played in at least 8 bands, churned out hit after hit after hit, and are two of the most accomplished, dazzling musicians and composers from the U.K. And they still manage to sell-out stadium-size arenas despite their age.

Maybe if you hadn't spent so much time on the snark, you could have focused on the sound. These two are virtuosos and deserve respect.

It was one of the best concerts I have ever been to IN MY LIFE. Just an amazing show. Voodoo Chile was a sonic assault. The level of musicianship was incredible. Winwood's voice was a marvel.

And, the picture you have here is not from the June 13th show, nor from the current year. All around shoddy job, Washington Post.

Posted by: NW_Washington | June 16, 2009 3:58 PM

Steve Winwood was fabulous. Clapton was also great, as always. I do wish they had played longer, however -- the show was only just over two hours. Oh well -- they are in their 60s, although you might not know it by the way they played. I am glad I was there.

Posted by: | June 17, 2009 1:11 PM

This show was a religious experience for me eclipsed only by a trek to Machu Picchu and a visit to the Great Wall. I predicted to my friend, however, that the Post review would be written by morons who wouldn't understand the history or musicianship involved. I was correct, evidently. Is everyone who now writes for the Post under that age of 30? I resent that the print edition didn't even bother to carry the review. How do McKenna, Freedom du Lac, and Malitz manage to stay employed???? Cancel my home delivery, please!

Posted by: laurie17 | June 17, 2009 1:45 PM

I'm a little late with this! I agree, it was a great concert. I was a big Traffic fan and it was so good to hear those songs. I thought Winwood held his own next to the great one. The two together were wonderful.

Posted by: sarahbc727 | June 17, 2009 3:44 PM

I drove fom Pittsburgh with my 16 year old son and it could not have been a more worthwhile adventure. I loved the musicianship of both players and agree with many others....this may have been the best concert I have ever seen! Glad I was there. Really glad that my son heard Winwood and Clapton play Glad.

Posted by: carsonj | June 18, 2009 1:45 PM

Very good concert reflected in a poorly written and factually wrong review. I know everybody has left the building at the Post, but to let the copy machine boy in charge of the section is way too wrong and sad

Posted by: JORGEK1 | June 18, 2009 2:51 PM

>this may have been the best concert I have ever seen! Glad I was there. Really glad that my son heard Winwood and Clapton play Glad.

It was great when they played that - I was playing air piano on that because I had memorized the riff and everyone was cracking up. What a great tune.

Posted by: Brue | June 21, 2009 1:51 PM

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