NEWS-Wish you were {t}here- Eric Clapton, John Paul Jones Arena, October 12, 2006

Eric Clapton's sold-out show at the John Paul Jones Arena was a parade of talent, with even consummate musicians like Doyle Bramhall II, Robert Cray, and Derek Trucks subordinated under the weight of Clapton's legacy. Tickets were expensive, but one really can't put a price tag on the chance to watch Slowhand shepherd a greenhorn like Trucks along on the path to greatness. In the spotlight for a brief solo on the slow blues "Little Queen of Spades," Trucks' own guitar prowess brought the audience to its feet and demonstrated more narrative ability than Peter Frampton and that bloody talkbox ever could.

The latter half of the set turned into a hit parade, stacking rock radio staples like "After Midnight" and "Wonderful Tonight."  But "Layla" was clearly the highlight: the approving roar of the audience overpowered even that explosive opening riff.

Excellent musicianship doesn't necessarily imply excellent showmanship, though; Clapton seemed rather stoic for the entire show, with very little stage presence or audience engagement. In other words, he gives as much of a damn as might be expected of a 61-year-old who at this stage in his career doesn't have to answer to anybody– which is to say, absolutely none at all. But he crossed the watershed point in his rise to pantheon permanence decades ago, and he deserves a thumbs up and a sold-out arena almost by default.

Fortunately, there to pick up the slack in the wake of Clapton's listlessness was electrifying playing from young-buck guitarists Bramhall and Trucks, who were featured just as much as the great man himself. Together they showed that blues-based rock will be able to thrive long after its biggest standard-bearer is gone. 

Trucks' slide guitar playing was alternately tender and rhapsodic and showed why he has few peers on the six-string. In comparison, Bramhall's brand of aggressive, dirty Texas blues sounded downright evil. It takes some serious chops to share the stage with Eric Clapton, but these two matched the master note-for-note in the jaw-dropping department.

Clapton isn't God, but he might be Adam, and last Thursday night, he introduced 16,000 people to Cain and Abel.