Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood
Live at Madison Square Garden

3.5 out of 5 stars
Reviewed for Coffeerooms by Mike Jefferson


Blind Faith, one of rock's earliest and most heralded supergroups, is often held up as a prime example of what not to do when you get four famous artists together to make music. The principals had impressive resumes - vocalist/keyboard player/guitarist Steve Winwood came to prominence as a 14 year-old hit maker with The Spencer Davis Group before forming the legendary art rock band Traffic (my favorite group, by the way) with drummer/vocalist Jim Capaldi, sax/flute/keyboardist Chris Wood, (and occasionally guitarist Dave Mason). Eric Clapton had plied his trade as a blues guitarist with the Yardbirds and John Mayall before he formed Cream with power vocalist/bassist Jack Bruce and psycho drummer Ginger Baker. Baker (who Clapton didn't want in Blind Faith because of his heavy heroin habit and combative disposition), had rattled the traps for British blues pioneer Graham Bond. Bassist Rick Grech was the least familiar name in Blind Faith, but he'd received rave reviews for his work with blues/folk rockers the Family, and would later heighten his profile playing with Traffic and KGB. Despite their pedigrees, Blind Faith was finished within a year; Clapton because was disillusioned with the hype surrounding the group and Winwood was ready to go solo.

Blind Faith left behind a six-song LP that became a rock cult classic. Forty years and just as many albums later, the group's principals, Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton, joined together for a concert tour. The DVD of their stop over at Madison Square Garden fulfils the promise of the group's only album. Although Winwood and Clapton never dubbed the tour a Blind Faith reunion, you can bet Ginger Baker (who wasn't invited) seethed while concert promoters cashed in on the group's rep while he was gathering dust in South Africa. Rick Grech had a better excuse for not signing on - he'd died in 1990.

To flesh out their Blind Faith tribute set, Winwood and Clapton raided their own massive back catalogues, but they did so with a twist -- Clapton chose Winwood's songs and vice versa. As a result, a few unexpected performances pop up. The list is constructed so one of the best singers in the world (Winwood) handles most of the vocals and an acclaimed guitarist (Clapton) gets to do what he does best. Since Blind Faith only released half a dozen songs, its surprising Winwood and Clapton omitted one of the group's best -- "Sea of Joy." Maybe Winwood couldn't hit the song's herniated high notes anymore, or Clapton felt there was no point in doing it without Grech's gypsy wind violin solo.


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