Monday, March 10, 2014

Eric Clapton Live in Singapore 2014 - He Came, He Played, He Said Thank You

The last time legendary musician Eric Clapton was in Red Dot Island, it was in 2011.

Red Dot Diva had to miss his concert then because it wasn't a good year for her. Coincidentally, so were his first two times performing here (1990 and 2007).

When it was announced that Mr Slow Hand himself was coming back to the island on March 4, 2014 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, Red Dot Diva jumped at the chance to score herself a SGD 298 ticket to watch him live. (Thanks to a better current financial position and pal Ryan for helping to book those tickets!) After all, Clapton is getting on in years, and she wasn't sure if she will get a chance to experience his guitar magic live ever again.

Concert day came and right from the start, the atmosphere felt very different from past concerts that Red Dot Diva has been to. The crowd was definitely much older, way beyond the average middle-aged band and into silver-haired territory. Like what Ryan said, "You know you're watching a legend, when people requiring walking assistance turn up."

Inside the hall, there was no free standing area (no surprise, there). Red Dot Diva and Ryan had upper level seats on the left of the stage with a pretty good vantage point, but they were nowhere near to the stage for a clear eye-level view. Most of the 6,000 seats were filled, including those set up on the ground level front section.

At 8.20PM or so, the stadium lights dimmed. Without much fanfare, Eric Clapton and his band members strolled on stage like they owned it. The audience whistled and clapped. Clapton murmured a "thank you" and promptly launched into his first song "Pretending".

From the view of one of the giant screens, it was clear that at 69 years old, Clapton looked quite world-weary. Despite that, he still gave a solid performance, his fingers flying by the frets and producing those trademark slides and licks that made Clapton's style his own.

About one-third through his set list, Clapton played one of the crowd favourites "I Shot the Sheriff", and Red Dot Diva could feel the blues groove full on in the stadium. It was absolutely hypnotic.

However, that same feeling may not have hit even one-quarter of the audience at the Indoor Stadium. It was mostly an older Caucasian crowd, and one would have thought that the Westerners would be more uninhibited than the locals at concerts. But this was one concert where Red Dot Diva hardly saw anyone really grooving, nodding their heads to the blues beat, or clapping to the rhythms of Clapton's more driving songs. No one stood up in their seats, and almost everyone looked as if they were there for a symphony orchestra.

It was just sooooooo weird. And awkward.

Sitting beside Red Dot Diva was a Chinese socialite in a skin tight dress who she couldn't stop flicking her long straight hair while chowing down on kacang puteh and beer. When she thought people were noticing her, she would pretend to bop her head to the music but it seemed pretentious. Then, there was this bored girlfriend of a concert fan who slept on his shoulder almost throughout the concert. It is amazing how many rich concert-goers who are willing to shell out SGD 298 for a ticket, and then end up wasting their time not enjoying the music.

Clapton and his band did not seem to care bout the lack of connection between player and audience, however. During some songs, Clapton seemed lost in his own world, his fingers moving adeptly across his guitar strings. After almost every segment, he only muttered a simple "thank you", and then continued to the next song.

Red Dot Diva and Ryan did not bother whether the people around them thought they were too enthusiastic either. They were determined to enjoy themselves. In need of a de-stressing, Clapton's blues was Red Dot Diva's perfect remedy, so she shimmied in her seat and head-bopped to the tunes. During one particular song, they were both clapping their hands and cheering even though the people around them stayed quietly in their seats.

Red Dot Diva's favourite part of the concert has got to be the acoustic segment, which included "Layla" and the wonderful "Tears in Heaven". The latter was done in a very laid back reggae style giving it a lighter feel than the original version.

There were other songs that were also enjoyable, like "Before You Accuse Me". Clapton's band was super-tight and keyboardist Chris Stainton was awesome, particularly on the Hammond organ.

Then, at about nearly two hours in, the band played their last song and left the stage quietly. This was when the crowd really showed some real Clapton love. There were whistles, foot stomps and yells for an encore.

They all did come on stage again for another song, "High Time We Went", which was sung by Paul Carrack. After which, with just a few waves and no stage bow by the entire band, the concert concluded. Just like that.

Red Dot Diva was really hoping that Clapton would play "Wonderful Tonight", but he didn't. And later that night, one of her friends asked if he had played "Cocaine" since he was previously banned from performing it here. The answer was no, he didn't play it either.

There was no doubt that Clapton is a master in his field. And it was an absolute honour to watch him live on stage and share those 2 magical hours in his presence. Red Dot Diva just wished that the audience had been more visibly appreciative while he was here. Especially when Clapton seems to have hinted that he may no longer be touring upon reaching the age of 70.

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