Like almost everyone around the world, tour bands and solo artists were also badly affected by the COVID-19 shutdown. Eric Clapton, who was quite vocal about this, was undoubtedly one. Instead of an appointment in May 2021 that he had to cancel at the Royal Albert Hall, Clapton took his longtime bandmates, bassist Nathan East, drummer Steve Gadd and keyboardist Chris Stainton to Cowdray House in West Sussex, England, for an almost exclusively acoustic session that was The lady on the balcony: lockdown sessions.
Much like his famous MTV Not connected Album, The lady on the balcony: lockdown sessions is a calm, sedentary master class of a performance with 17 songs. And although he is certainly in the center of the action, with his stronger vocals than ever and his always adept guitar playing, the old “slowhand” is so well served by his well-rehearsed company that it seems as if we would be one of the best at a rehearsal four pieces on the planet.
Clapton plays on a 12-string through the first few songs, East plays a big stand-up bass, Stainton plays a handful of keys, and Gadd takes turns playing his little set with his hands and sticks. If you’ve ever wondered if Steve Gadd is one of the best drummers in the world, check out this The lady on the balcony: lockdown sessionsand you come through a real reassurance.
In the first half of the performance, the band is exceptionally brilliant. You manage a short, fluctuating revision of “Black Magic Woman”. On “Bell Bottom Blues” East switches to acoustic bass to provide a solid, smooth, arpeggiated background that turns the song very upside down. It’s not so plaintive here.
Included at the end are “Layla”, “Tears In Heaven” and a spectacular trio of electric blues when EC switches to a big hollow-body electric. The boys run through “Long Distance Call” and “Bad Boy”, both with Stainton’s expert keyboard tickling and the ender, as well as the hardest tune of the evening, “Got My Mojo Working”. The lady on the balcony: lockdown sessions comes in a variety of formats, but if you’re lucky enough to catch the DVD of this intimate show you’ll also be treated to some spectacular shots of the grounds from Cowdray house.
~ Ralph Greco, Jr.