During a two-hour set Thursday night, Eric Clapton took fans on a reverse trip through his musical career, beginning with his newest songs and rounding out the night with a little Cream.
Clapton, wearing a casual all-black suit and black sneakers, kicked off the first of two sold-out shows at Chicago’s United Center with “My Father’s Eyes,” the first single off his new album, Pilgrim (Reprise). He then dove into a six-song stretch of new material including “One Chance,” “She’s Gone” and “River of Tears,” which — when backed by a 20-piece string orchestra — delivered an even more poignant reminder of Clapton’s pain from the loss of his son, Conor, in 1991.
Midway through the show, Clapton was accompanied by his guitarists Andy Fairweather Low, Nathan East and Alan Darby for a mellow, around-the-campfire-feeling, three-song acoustic set featuring “Tears in Heaven,” “Layla” and “Change The World.”
Once the entire band plugged back in, the show became more upbeat with an R&B, bluesy feel that brought the crowd to its feet. In all, the last 40 minutes highlighted Clapton’s earlier work with songs like “Crossroads,” “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Cocaine” — the show’s closer.
Returning for an encore, Clapton transported the audience back to the late ’60s by turning on the psychedelic lights and playing one of his oldest tunes — “Sunshine of Your Love,” a true highlight of the show.