"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Clapton is OMG!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I will be on a vacation, if you can call visiting relatives "vacationing" all next week, so if I'm not Johnny-on-the-spot with comments and emails and general e-communicating, it's because I can't find any WiFi in Decatur, Illinois.

And now, on to our topic of the day.


I have a list of men who make me giggle like a school girl. I suspect I'm not the only woman with such a list. Men have their lists, too - although they probably don't feel the urge to giggle.

At the top of my list is Eric Clapton. He's been there since 1972, when I went to the movies with a date and saw Concert for Bangladesh. My date was bored (and boring), but I was enrapt. The camera did a slow pan from the stage to this:

It's not a very clear picture, but it's from the album, History of Eric Clapton, which I immediately went out and bought after seeing him. He was so beautiful, standing there, playing with a quiet command of the guitar. I was in love, and his music, I soon learned, was brilliant - a twofer!

Little did I know that Clapton, at the time of the concert, was so deeply in the grip of drug abuse, his friends doubted he would live much longer. Thankfully, he overcame his addiction and went on to write and play more great music.

Last year, I went to see him in concert for the first time. I tried to get my guitarist son, Marcus, to join me, but he resisted, so I took a girlfriend. Eric was just as quiet and unassuming as ever, but his music spoke volumes. I came home from the concert babbling about how great it was, for about two weeks, until Marcus finally sighed and told me, "Man, now I wish I'd have gone."

So when Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood brought their tour to the Hollywood Bowl, I asked Marcus if he wanted to go. This time, he said yes. The trip was mostly uneventful, if you don't count the fact that the shuttle parking lot was full and I had to find street parking (did I mention parallel parking is not in my DNA?), and the trip home took almost two hours because the freakin' freeway was closed for construction.

But the concert itself was heaven. Steve Winwood has the same musical authority over keyboards that Clapton has over the guitar - phenomenal. And whoever is in charge of translating the stage action into what's shown on the Jumbotron screens should be given a medal, and a whole lotta money. The camera work focused on Clapton's (and Winwood's) hands, to showcase their skills.

Here's what they looked like:

Marcus loved it so much he requested a souvenir t-shirt, something I usually have to ask if he wants. We fought our way into the booth, then fought our way out of the booth and joined the herd of people looking for the shuttle back to the parking lot. My minivan, parked on the street, awaited us, unharmed. It was a good evening.

The only blemish on the event was when a man (probably my age but looking older) asked Marcus if the seat next to him was taken. It was, technically, since I had bought an extra ticket. I'm pretty anal about this at events: did you pay for this seat? Then no, it's not available, off you go, etc. But Marcus said no, so the man sat down… and proceeded to light up a joint. I'm proud to report my inner
Peri rose to the occasion.

"Excuse me," I reached across my son to get the moron's attention. "Could ya NOT do that in front of my SIXTEEN-year old?"

It was said in a combination of sarcasm and "I'm a mom and I know how to use it," and startled the guy so much, he stubbed out the joint and said, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Five seconds later he left to find a friendlier corner to light up.

One of the bright points of the evening, besides sharing music I love with my teenager, was to discuss the technique of each musician, and the differences between playing jazz, rock and blues. We noted that, while Winwood is a very capable guitarist, his hands look more at ease at the keyboard. Clapton's fingers are completely relaxed when he plays, even when the music is blisteringly fast.

They were both prime examples of the best of any talent, whether it's in the arts, or sports or even the mundane everyday jobs - the best make it look easy. Clapton's fingers slide up and down the frets like he's merely breathing in and out. Winwood's hands ripple across the keys like someone running along a path. It took them years to get to this point, but their combination of hard work and talent produced results.

For the writers here, do you think this translates to what we do? At what point have you written enough words that you can call yourself a vocabulary virtuoso?
Stephen King says, in On Writing, there are four categories of writers: bad, competent, good and brilliant, and that you can't turn a bad writer into a good writer or a good writer into a brilliant writer, but you can turn a competent writer into a good one.

What do you think separates the good from the brilliant, in any endeavor?

I will leave you with a clip of one of my favorite Clapton/Winwood numbers, Presence of the Lord. Marcus had never listened to the whole song, and was amazed by the shift into blazing hot guitar territory from the unassuming blues intro. Enjoy.


N A Sharpe said...

Wow! LOVE the YouTube clip! These are both such remarkable performers - so much talent.

Its fun going to these concerts with your kids...who make the supreme sacrifice of being seen in public with their parents...then you catch a glimpse of their faces when they experience the music of these remarkable artists...and for a time they are in complete sync with you. Priceless.

Nancy, from Realms of Thought…

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Sounds like a great concert - except for the moron that lit-up. You handled it perfectly. I think to develop any type of skill you have to continue to learn from others in the field and practice, practice, practice. Enjoy your vacation even if you are just visiting relatives!


Patricia Stoltey said...

I can just see you as Mom at that concert. Great story.

Teresa M Burrell said...

Wow, good for you, Gayle. Sounds like a fun time. T

K. A. Laity said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Makes me miss George Harrison all over again, sigh. His send off (Concert for George) is one of the best shows of all time, not only because there are such great artists there, but because they're all playing with such love.

Nick Lowe has the same sort of relaxed authority with a guitar, like he was born holding it. You can see my write up of a local show he did to get a flavor of it.

Proud Member of ALA!

I support fair and equitable library access to ebooks and so should you.