It wasn’t billed as a Blind Faith reunion, but Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton kicked off their three-night stand at New York’s Madison Square Garden Monday night with “Had To Cry Today.” And through the course of their twenty-song set they’d cover the entire A-side of 1969’s Blind Faith — the only album by the supergroup — hitting “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Well … All Right” and “Presence of the Lord.”
When Clapton and Winwood converged in London last week for rehearsals — with an all-star backing band consisting of bassist Willie Weeks, keyboardist Chris Stainton and drummer Ian Thomas — they decided to choose songs from each other’s catalogs to jam on. “There’s some perspective material that’s quite intricate and tricky and has got a lot of stuff going on,” Winwood told Rolling Stone before the gig. “And in some ways it’s best to head for simpler territory and then let the performance take over. Otherwise you spend all your time trying to remember bits and remember parts. So we’ve kind of erred a little bit on the simpler side. There’s a shed-load of material and we don’t have time to do all. We’ve honed it down and kept things that are better and more enjoyable to play.”
At MSG they touched on Winwood’s stints in Traffic, busting out “No Face, No Name, No Number,” “Pearly Queen” and “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” on which Winwood laid down a nasty guitar solo. Clapton sang the blues on “Forever Man,” “After Midnight” and “Crossroads.” They also played three tracks by their mutual friend Jimi Hendrix: The fourth song of the night was “Changes,” from Band of Gypsys, and later in the set they offered the one-two punch of “Little Wing” and “Voodoo Child,” with Clapton offering blistering solos. In the middle of the set, Clapton appeared alone, singing “Ramblin’ On My Mind,” which he first recorded with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers in 1966. Following that, Winwood took the stage by himself, pumping his B3 organ and wailing “Georgia on My Mind,” which he first recorded with the Spencer Davis Group in 1965.
“It’s a great, enjoyable thing for me to play with Eric,” Winwood told RS, when asked about the hoopla surrounding these historic gigs. “It’s a little bit surprising, the way there seems to be this big amount of anticipation — but I’m certainly very excited about it.”