By Ray McDonald
Eric Clapton sounds tired.
Talking to “Rolling Stone” Magazine, the 67-year-old guitar legend says he plans to stop touring once he hits 70. Eric says he still loves to perform, but the rigors of traveling – such as dealing with immigration officials and security checks – is proving too much. I can identify with him; who hasn’t wanted to flee the airport after being asked to empty the contents of a carry-on bag?
However, it also has me thinking about the great concerts I’ve seen in the past…and how we shouldn’t assume that our favorite acts will be around forever. Clapton himself put on one of my all-time favorite shows: in 1987, he hit North America with the all-star lineup of Phil Collins on drums, Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, and Nathan East rocking the bass. Clad in a linen suit, Eric broke nary a sweat while striding the stage of Washington’s Capital Centre – all the while ripping off classic riffs on his Stratocaster guitar. Here’s a clip of Eric in his mid-’80s regalia.
I saw the Rolling Stones in 1981 in San Francisco; and three years before that, I witnessed Neil Young on his legendary “Rust Never Sleeps” tour. How long will we have them? (Who knows — Mick Jagger may well still be doing the full Mick Jagger when he’s 100.) I caught John Martyn in concert in 1984; the great folk-rocker died in 2009. Currently, Lady Gaga is sidelined after undergoing hip surgery. She suffers from a joint inflammation – or is it something more?
I’m not trying to be morbid here – and I wish Lady Gaga a speedy recovery. I’m simply saying “carpe diem,” and let’s be grateful for the many wonderful artists who still travel the globe, sharing their gifts.
Finally, Eric Clapton may be crying wolf about hanging it up. In that same “Rolling Stone” interview, he says “I retire at the end of every tour. When I’m on the road, I’ m gritting my teeth and putting up with hotels and sleep deprivation and upset tummy. But when I’m off the road, the road suddenly seems like a magical idea again.”
Clapton kicks off his next tour on March 14th in Phoenix, Arizona, and for those of you who can’t see him live, his 21st studio album “Old Sock” arrives on March 12th. Catch him if you can – and just for fun, how about sharing your favorite concert memories?