Blind Faith Nears End of U.S. Tour
LA Times, August 25, 1969
By Robert Hilburn
Eric Clapton, the superb guitarist with England's Blind Faith, was relaxed after a recent appearance in Los Angeles. He had just gone through the final major test of a hectic United States tour that many felt was asking too much, too soon of rock's newest supergroup.
It isn't easy being part of a supergroup; the standards are so high, the demands so great, the pressures so intense, the critics so ready to pounce on any mistake or sign of weakness. But that's the only life Clapton and the other members of Blind Faith have known since the group's formation last spring.
"We weren't sure we would be ready for this kind of tour so fast," he said at a post concert reception at the Inglewood Forum. "We weren't sure we would be able to play before 16,000 people and have the music feel like we wanted it.
"We had first thought about a tour of smaller, more intimate clubs, but there were so many pressures for us to play the big halls that we had to go through with it. If we had only played small clubs, a lot of people would have been upset because they couldn't get in."
There is, of course, ample reason for all the interest in Blind Faith. The group is composed of Ginger Baker and Clapton from Cream, considered by many to be the best English blues-rock outfit ever, and Steve Winwood from Traffic, another respected English rock group. The fourth member is Rick Grech, who has worked with various English musicians.
More than 150,000 persons turned out last June to hear the group's debut in London's Hyde Park. "Blind Faith took the stage to a welcome that would have outroared a goal at Wembley," London's Sunday Mirror reported.
The buildup for Blind Faith's appearance at the Forum started early. A thick publicity kit from Atco Records arrived several weeks ago, heralding the group's U.S. tour. It contained nearly a dozen pictures, an itinerary (24 concerts ranging from New York's Madison Square Garden to Chicago's Amphitheatre), biographies and a feature story that left little doubt about the group's high place in the rock hierarchy.
Glitter Dampened by Album
Though there was much early excitement about the Blind Faith tour, some of the glitter was dampened by the group's debut album. Except for two cuts, Clapton's "In the Presence of the Lord" and Winwood's "Sea of Joy" (featuring Grech's electric violin), it was a disappointing effort. The album left a lingering doubt about Blind Faith. Perhaps the supergroup title was being given out too hastily.
When Blind Faith took the stage at the Forum, the audience was cordial but reserved. There was, to be sure, a "Clapton is God" sign (one of the fads from the Cream days) posted at one end of the arena, but the audience was waiting to be convinced.
Though the strength of individual members of Blind Faith was obvious from the start, the effectiveness of them as a group varied greatly from song to song. The mood of the concert was not helped by the necessity to turn on the house lights at times as security guards escorted a few individuals out of the Forum.
But Blind Faith played through it all. Gradually, the audience got more and more into it. After a powerful drum solo by Baker, the audience was on its feet roaring its approval. Whether the closing excitement was in respect for the individual talents of Blind Faith or the collective strength of the group was unclear. But the applause was long and loud.
Grateful Tour Was Nearing End
At the reception, Clapton, a 24-year-old former art college student, seemed grateful the tour was nearing its end. He was looking forward to getting back to England for some rest and to begin work on the second album.
"The first album was recorded under a tight deadline. We had to get it done within a certain time period," he said. "Im pleased under the circumstances, but we'll have all the time we need on the second one."
On the next tour, the group will concentrate on smaller clubs, he added. "But I'm pleased with this tour. Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco were the big worries because that's where all the attention is focused. The reaction was good in each place. Tonight's was probably the best."
Blind Faith may not have scored a clean knockout in its U.S. tour but it survived with grace. It didn't succumb to the pressures and pitfalls of the huge arenas and the supergroup madness. Now that the dues have been paid, things should get better. There is certainly enough raw talent in Blind Faith to justify its supergroup rating. The next album and tour should be more natural and rewarding for everyone concerned.