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Published: 2008/06/20
by Dan Warry-Smith

Eric Clapton with Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, ON 5/27

Don't let the clear and sunny Toronto sky fool you. Even in late May, it can still get wintry once night falls here

Robert Randolph made note of the nip in the air throughout his 40-minute warm up set. As he and the Family Band stomped their way through a dependable selection of songs, including a rollicking "Voodoo Chile" cover, the briskness of the breeze turned bitter. The multi-generational crowd, curled up in blankets and scarves, cheerfully remained undaunted as the sun crept below the horizon and the man of the hour emerged.

Promising to warm the place up, Eric Clapton brought the blues and rarely strayed from that focus. Backed by a deservedly rock-solid band and still bursting with vitality, the guitar legend offered versions of "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "Little Wing" within the first four songs to let everyone know what kind of party it would be. While a scant few moments of the show would qualify as mindblowing, a healthy serving of familiar material always ensures a good time.

Slowhand's soulful voice outshone even his guitar on some songs, his robust rasp bringing the lyrics to life with sincere passion. "Outside Woman Blues" in particular showcased Clapton the Singer, but the undisputed star in the house was just building steam…

Clapton the Guitar Player is the draw which keeps fans coming back, and he would shine brilliantly, cutting through the Northern chill with sublime note selection and soul. Whether solo acoustic or full-on rocking, the seminal master was consistently on point. The set-closing combo of "Layla" > "Cocaine" expectedly brought the house down, the latter providing Clapton's only use of a pedal all evening.

Having successfully bested the elements and thrilled the masses, Clapton got his "Mojo Workin" in a tidy one-song encore and bid Toronto a fond farewell. As aging classic rock acts go, his authenticity and skill place him in the upper echelon. And that’s the kind of cool people can still get behind.

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