On Saturday night, Eric Clapton took the stage at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. This event is notable not just because it alerted us to the fact that there is a music venue called “Smoothie King,” but because by doing so, the musician and public-health skeptic effectively undid the ridiculous stance he took on Covid vaccines earlier this year.
While the rest of the music industry has embraced vaccine mandates as the only way of ensuring safe concerts, Clapton has taken the opposite tack, vowing never to perform at a venue that requires proof of vaccination.
He broke that absurd promise by playing Smoothie King, which, according to its website, is following New Orleans regulations that require all ticketholders 12 and above, as well as staff and participants, to either prove they have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine or provide a negative test taken within 72 hours. Moreover, they must wear a mask while not eating or drinking.
Clapton made his grand proclamation against vaccine mandates in July, shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that vaccine passes would be required to enter nightclubs and venues in the U.K. “Following the PM’s announcement on Monday the 19th of July 2021 I feel honor-bound to make an announcement of my own,” he wrote. “I wish to say that I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present. Unless there is provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show.”
Clapton, who was previously famous for his skill as a guitarist, has spent the past year complaining about Covid-19 regulations, vaccinations, and touring mandates. First, he teamed up with Van Morrison for anti-lockdown tracks “Stand and Deliver” and “The Rebels,” before releasing his own song, “This Has Gotta Stop.” The musician is vaccinated, but famously regretted that decision, expounding upon the supposedly “disastrous” side effects he said he suffered. (Maybe he should start a band with Nicki Minaj’s cousin’s friend?)
A representative for Clapton did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone‘s request for comment, but perhaps the singer has had a change of heart. Or, more likely, adhering to the strict rules he rashly set for his tour would mean canceling several planned dates. After all, his next scheduled show, on Tuesday, at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, will require either vaccine or a negative test for entry come October.
UPDATE: In a post on Facebook, Clapton has denied that he violated his promise by playing Smoothie King. “The title of Rolling Stone’s article claims that the venue in New Orleans required a vaccine mandate for entry,” the statement reads. “This is DISINFORMATION. The venue did not require exclusively a vaccination as condition for entry. Rolling Stone’s article goes on to contradict the title in the body of the text. This is simply bad sensationalist journalism.”
As stated above, Smoothie King’s vaccine requirement allows an exception for attendees who can show proof of a negative test taken within 72 hours. This is the same rule as many, if not most, venues and events that require vaccination, and is a typical part of what is meant by the term “vaccine mandate.”