Gig Review by Andrew Lindsay

This is the sixth year of British Summer Time concerts in Hyde Park and the sustained quality of acts suggests that there will be many more to come. Four axe men of the highest calibre grace the Great Oak Stage on this hot steamy sold-out Sunday before culminating with headliner Eric Clapton.

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Photo courtesy of BST by Pooneh Ghana

Clapton turns in the most polished and assured performance. Wearing a now fashionable waist coat his opening gambit “it’s coming home” (that will be a football reference then) delights the sold-out Hyde Park. Despite having lived a life in twelve bars he looks remarkably trim and sprightly. His vocals and guitar playing are undiminished (“he’s seventy-three you know”). The band is superb too with Paul Carrack (organ and vocals); Chris Stainton (keyboards) and Doyle Bramhall (guitar) fleshing out the tunes with concise well judged solos.

Opening with ‘Somebody’s Knockin’ from the relatively recent I Still Do album the show ranges from classic rock (‘Crossroads’; a  vigorous top-notch ‘Cocaine’), slow blues (‘Little Queen of Spades’; ‘Key to the Highway’; ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’) and an intimate four song acoustic interlude. The hummable crowd pleasers are present and correct (‘Wonderful Tonight’; ‘Tears In Heaven’). Proceedings are further enhanced by a couple of guest appearances. First up is Marcy Levy, “the lady that wrote this song” (‘Lay Down Sally’) who duets with Eric and lays down a neat closing harmonica solo. She stays on for her other co-write from 1977’s Slowhand: ‘The Core’. There are more smiles when Carlos Santana kicks off the encore with a signature solo which has Eric grinning from ear to ear. ‘High Time We Went’, written by Stainton along with Joe Cocker, is a fiery and appropriate closer as the clock strikes 10pm.

Quite a few of the 65,000 crowd were hoping for a second encore featuring another guest but it was not to be. Steve Winwood had remarked earlier in the day that it was forty-nine years ago that he and Clapton had first appeared together in Hyde Park for the debut of Blind Faith. That occurred on a similar hot summer’s day but the show was performed for free on a tiny stage with a hopeless sound system. The weather may not have changed but everything else had and that’s a good thing.

Carlos Santana’s set got off to a cracking start as he drew heavily on his first two albums: ‘Evil Ways’ and ‘Black Magic Woman’were sublime and ‘A Love Supreme’ has had me running back to his 1973 collaboration with John McLaughlin. Unlike Winwood and Clapton, Carlos is no singer so much of the show is fronted by the two vocalists, Ray Green (also much fun on trombone) and Andy Vargas. They ramp up the party atmosphere and at one point get a significant proportion of the crowd to jump up and down as well join in with the ever beguiling ‘Smooth’. The nine piece band is dominated by percussionists and they concoct a frantic carnival stew which climaxes with ‘Toussaint L’Ouverture’ , featuring a finger blistering solo with a snippet of Clapton’s solo from ‘My Guitar Gently Weeps’.

Steve Winwood’s set is a facsimile of his Manchester show earlier in the week even down to Steve’s now trademark light blue shirt and white ‘T’. The only differences are that he now sports a flat cap (the sun is blisteringly hot) and ‘Light Up’ is dropped due to time constraints. The performance is punchier and better suited to an afternoon in the park than to an evening in a classical concert hall. Against a backdrop portraying all of his albums – a body of work that’s more than a match to that of Clapton and Santana – Winwood proves that he also their equal when it comes to the electric guitar. His solos on ‘Had to Cry Today’ and ‘Dear Mr Fantasy’ were masterful. Jose Neto was no slouch either as he burnt up ‘Low Spark’.

Two other virtuoso guitar players impressed during the day. Texan bluesman Gary Clark Jr. let loose some liquid guitar runs on the lengthy ‘When My Train Pulls In’ and on a new track ‘Low Down Rolling’. The highlight was ‘Our Love’ which twinned a tender soulful falsetto with a delicate guitar solo full of warmth and tenderness. Check him out here playing ‘Please Come Home’. Stunning.

Lukas Nelson and The Promise of the Real were also something special. They’ve been Neil Young’s band for the past three years and they certainly raised Neil’s game on his 2016 UK tour. With songs like ‘(Forget About) Georgia’ and the cosmic country soul of ‘Spaceship Ride’ featuring some very tasty guitar and organ, Lukas was not out of place on this illustrious bill.

Across the park on two of the smaller stages I caught some of Chas & Dave’s set near to The King’s Head pub. It was very well attended but neither the new songs (‘When Two Worlds Collide’; ‘A Little Bit Me’ nor the old ones (‘Rabbit’) were my Rosie Lee. Over on The Summer Stage The Americans, a four piece from California, impressed with their rootsy banjo/guitar driven tunes. Patrick Ferris doing a particularly fine vocal job on ‘I’ll Be Yours’ and ‘Last Chance’. Definitely one to watch.

Clapton was wonderful tonight. Long may he continue to perform and to entertain. Let’s cherish him while we can since it was a year ago almost to the day that the great Tom Petty bid farewell to London on this very stage: “Take it easy London. Make it last all night”.

Setlists: 

Eric Clapton: Somebody’s Knockin’; Key To the Highway; Hoochie Coochie Man; Got to Get Better In a Little While; Acoustic Interlude [Driftin’; Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out; Layla; Tears In Heaven]; Lay Down Sally; The Core; Wonderful Tonight; Crossroads; Little Queen of Spades; Cocaine; High Time We Went.

Santana: Soul Sacrifice; Jingo; Evil Ways; A Love Supreme; Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen; Oye Como Va; Total Destruction To Your Mind; Maria Maria ; Foo Foo; Are You Ready; Smooth; Love Peace & Happiness; Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Steve Winwood: I’m A Man; Pearly Queen; Them Changes; Can’t Find My Way Home; Had To Cry Today; Low Spark of High Heeled Boys; Empty Pages; Higher Love; Dear Mr Fantasy; Gimme Some Lovin’.

Gary Clark Jr. : Catfish Blues; Ain’t Messin’ Around; Travis County; Next Door Neighbour Blues; When My Train Pulls In; Low Down Rolling; Don’t Owe You A Thang; Our Love; Bright Lights.

Footnote:

About Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park

Set in London’s beautiful Royal Park, the event kicked off in 2013 with The Rolling Stones reliving their legendary 1969 gig and has not let up since, featuring now famous shows from Carole King, Stevie Wonder, The Libertines, Blur, Florence + The Machine, Kendrick Lamar, Black Sabbath, Taylor Swift, The Who and so many more.

Every year, each headliner is joined by a full supporting line-up across multiple stages, from major superstars to handpicked developing acts performing for fans from across the UK and the world.

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