Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood soar again
Tuesday, February 26th 2008
By Jim Farber
New York Daily News
They didn't actually bill themselves as Blind Faith.
But the band that played the Garden Monday night boasted the two most esteemed players from that sanctified '60s act, and they featured its signature material.
While the classic-rock pair in question - Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood teased the world with a quickie warmup set at the Crossroads guitar festival in Chicago last July, they had not shared a stage for an entire evening since the dying days of Blind Faith in 1969.
The two appear again tonight and Thursday with their unnamed band at the Garden. No other dates are scheduled.
As such, the Garden shows have as much importance by definition as Cream's reunion concerts from two years ago, if not quite the earth-shattering resonance of the Led Zeppelin reunion from December.
So did the night live up to the epic expectations? In places, definitely.
Especially the Blind Faith songs. The rub is, there aren't many of them. The band produced only six in all (one a jam). Last night, the band offered four, adding a fifth piece left off the original LP (the rote "Sleeping in the Ground," instead of the far more revelatory "Sea of Joy.")
They opened the nearly 2-1/2-hour show with "Had to Cry Today" with both stars taking fierce leads.
Throughout the night, Winwood offered the more trenchant guitar work, hewing closer to the tune, while Clapton spun fancifully around it.
Winwood's voice showed no loss of its choirboy purity. The range of his vocals - the wind he can whip up - still dazzles.
On the Faith material, the players - which also included bassist Willie Weeks, keyboardist Chris Stainton and drummer Ian Thomas - cohered as an organic band. But in much of the rest, it seemed more like stars sitting in on each other's songs.
That quibble didn't hinder a rash of highlights. Winwood's highflying vocals added soul to Clapton's "Tell the Truth." The latter's solos brought Traffic's "Pearly Queen" to fuller fruition. And for Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," they both fell utterly into sync.
Peaks that stellar allowed the show's more workmanlike moments to be forgiven, and made one hope we don't have to wait another 40 years to see these two hook up again.