Eric Clapton Starts Royal Albert Hall Run With Classics and Covers

May 18, 2009 10:53 AM ET

On Saturday night Eric Clapton kicked off an 11-date residency at the Royal Albert Hall in London with a diverse two-hour set that featured old favorites, new covers and a mini acoustic set. The show marked Clapton's first appearance at the cozy venue — he once compared performing at the Royal Albert to "playing in my front room" — since a string of shows in 2006.

Clapton opened with "Going Down Slow," before digging into his 1989 Journeyman record for the soft-rock "Anything For Your Love." Playing with a lean six-piece band and two backup singers, Clapton handled most of the guitar work and clearly missed the intense interplay with his regular touring guitarist Doyle Bramhall II, who opened the evening with his own band, Arc Angels. "Old Love" was an early highlight and featured keyboardist Tim Carmon trading the first of many solos with Clapton.

"It takes me a half hour of playing before I get the nerve to speak," joked Clapton prior to taking a seat for a handful of acoustic numbers. A roar erupted from the sold out crowd after the first three notes of the all too familiar unplugged "Layla." Clapton followed with the old chestnut "Lay Down Sally" and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Not Dark Yet." He wrapped up the five song acoustic set with the classic ballad "Over the Rainbow."

Clapton and Co. plugged the electric guitars back in to rip through "Badge," and the evening's climax came with a brilliant performance of "Little Queen of Spades," a Robert Johnson tune from Clapton's 2004 album Me and Mr. Johnson that featured multiple blues-drenched solos. The band followed with Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me," another cut from the Journeyman album, which has been a staple on Clapton's recent tours. The lights were then dimmed as stars floated up the multi-panel back screens and Clapton worked through the obligatory "Wonderful Tonight."

Clapton closed out his 15-song set with a scorching version of "Cocaine" and needed only his signature "Crossroads" as an encore to send the faithful home happy. The run at the Royal Albert Hall continues through May 31st. Clapton will then land Stateside with former Blind Faith companion Steve Winwood on June 10th in East Rutherford, New Jersey, to begin a 14-date tour of the U.S.

Set List:
"Going Down Slow"
"Anything For Your Love"
"Key to the Highway"
"Old Love"
"I Shot the Sheriff"
"Lay Down Sally"
"Not Dark Yet"
"Anytime for You"
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
"Little Queen of Spades"
"Before You Accuse Me"
"Wonderful Tonight"

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