20
Feb
09

Blind Faith not needed for these two

Last February, Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood played three sold-out concerts at Madison Square Garden. It was the first time they had played specifically billed together since their successful, but doomed-from-the-start Blind Faith project in 1969.

winwoodclaptonThey had performed together in early 2007 at an English festival, Clapton joining Winwood’s touring band, and later that summer at Clapton’s Crossroads Festival in Chicago. Their set, which closed the event, had Winwood this time playing with Clapton’s band. It’s all documented on the DVD of the festival, and it’s a spectacular performance by both.

I was a little surprised and very pleased that the MSG shows sold out so quickly. I would think because of Clapton’s name, even though I’m a bigger Winwood fan. Still, I’ve liked and listened to both over the years. It was a big boost for Winwood who, although he has enjoyed great success at various times in his career with the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and later as a Grammy-winning solo artist, has always flown a little under the radar of the general public. This despite a creative, influential and lasting catalogue that stands up to any of the great ’60s artists.

The concerts gave Winwood’s latest album Nine Lives, released last spring, a deserved boost as it turned out to be his most successful in years, debuting in the Billboard Top 10. But since his return to continual touring in 2003, Winwood had already released one of his best albums in About Time (2003) and played live with an exceptional band that has included rotating chairs on drums, percussion and tenor sax, along with gifted Brazilian guitarist Jose Neto, whose latest album Winwood produced.

It was announced recently Clapton and Winwood will tour 14 cities this year and a DVD and CD will be released from the MSG shows. Unfortunately for us in the Northeast, New Jersey is the closet they are coming. No Boston, nothing in Hartford or one of the casinos. And although it’s been noted ticket prices are varying according to venue, they are expected to be quite pricey.

I’ve seen Winwood’s band six times since 2003, ranging from opening for the Grateful Dead at the Meadows to playing the tiny Bowery Ballroom in New York for two long sets to a memorable outdoor set at the Ives Center in Danbury on the campus of Western Connecticut State. And I strongly recommend seeing the Clapton-Winwood show.

But I lament it being at one of these mega-arenas and I won’t be investing in it this time. It’s too difficult to get good seats at these places, too expensive and too far to travel. Yeah, say it, I’m getting older. But I don’t think it’s just that. I just don’t care for the mega-arena experience.

In a previous post, I mentioned seeing the original Blind Faith in their second American concert at Kennedy Stadium in Bridgeport of all places. That was a post on Delaney Bramlett’s passing and told of how anyone could see Clapton was so into Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, the concert’s opening act, it was only a matter of time before Blind Faith was history. And that’s what happened. Blind Faith, despite recording a lasting and revered album with some bonafide standards such as Can’t Find My Way Home and Presence Of The Lord, was doomed because of the superhype employed by manager Robert Stigwood and an exhausting and unsatisfying touring scheme with which the band had to cope. Remember, Clapton wanted to be in the Band at this point in his career and make music something  akin to the Bearsville quintet. Blind Faith delivered on the music but they were rushed out the door to make big live bucks too quickly.

I wrote of my remembrances of that concert for a Winwood site several years ago. I’ve found the note and posted it here. By the way, the story behind the canceled Newport gig was a lost item and omitted from several books that included touring information. I helped correct this with the help of a couple of webmasters who have restored it to history. Here it is:

Blind Faith was scheduled to debut in the U.S. in Newport, not at the
festival but a special concert. In fact, we bought tickets to the show and were
quite excited to have third-row seats at Fort Adams State Park, where the Jazz
Festival was held for years. However, about a week before the show, it was
canceled. The promoters backed out because of problems they had with prior
rock acts there. Actually problems with fans destroying property. So, Madison
Square Garden became the debut. What a place to open the tour. The band was
doomed from the start with these type of management decisions. Luckily for us,
another show was added in Bridgeport, Connecticut, not far from where we
were at the time.
        In fact, I have a little story. The promoter of the show, Ben Segal,
was the father of a drummer I was working with, Beau. We got into the show
free and stood backstage or what would pass for backstage at the outdoor
football field, a roped-off area near a portable stage. We went out front during
their set because the sound was obviously better there. There were no seats on
the infield. They sounded very good and played much the same set as the
European concerts. Though I was disappointed that Winwood played
keyboards, not guitar, on “Had To Cry Today.”
      It was interesting to note that when Clapton arrived he stood to the
side of the stage, grooving on Delaney & Bonnie. It was just the second
concert! Also, Dave Mason was the guitarist for D&B, rather a coincidence.
      One last thing, Janis Joplin showed up, actually looking quite well. I wound
up standing in a group of people with her. She was quite funny and was
continually asking where Clapton was. Heady times.

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9 Responses to “Blind Faith not needed for these two”


  1. February 23, 2009 at 7:07 pm

    Janis Joplin…Eric Clapton…Blind Faith — all I can say is “wow!” You must have seen some extremely memorable shows in the 1960s and early ’70s. Did you ever see the Beatles? How about the Rolling Stones (pre-Ron Wood)? The Mothers of Invention? The Jefferson Airplane? Were you at the Doors show in New Haven when Jim Morrison was arrested on stage?

    Also, do you remember a Connecticut band from the ’60s called the Blue Beats? I used to have one of their 45s (“Extra Girl” on Columbia Records), but I sold it several years ago because its condition wasn’t all that great. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate a better copy since.

  2. 2 Paul
    February 24, 2009 at 8:09 am

    I’ve seen quite a few shows over the years, most likely in the hundreds. And I hope to write a bit about some of them.

    I did see the Beatles at their second Shea Stadium appearance in the summer of ’66, from the boonies way up in the right-field upper deck. I also saw the Stones twice, both in Connecticut, first at the New Haven Arena in November ’65 and then Dillon Stadium in Hartford in spring ’66. The Mothers, not until the Overnite Sensation tour. And the Doors, that’s a good story but it was not at the infamous New Haven concert. It was at Boston’s Back Bay Theater in early 1968. I hope to expand on these soon.

    The Blue Beats? Yes. I knew Lance Drake. The Blue Beats actually played at my senior prom although Lance was already out of the group at that point (1967). Extra Girl is an excellent single, one of the best to come out of the state. I have a version of it on what you have to call a gray-market item. Great group.

  3. 3 45vinyljunkie
    February 24, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Paul,

    Below is the link to a website with a bunch of color photos from the Beatles’ 1966 concert at Shea Stadium. Several black-and-white shots from the group’s show at Crosley Field in Cincinnati — just two days before the Shea show — are also included.

    http://www.pbase.com/tg6string/beatles

  4. 4 Paul
    February 25, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Very cool. Thanks Jerry. Five bucks, amazing huh?

  5. 5 scott powers
    February 28, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Hey Pablo,
    What a fun site to find… Very interesting tale of Blind Faith. My first introduction to that band — other than knowing that’s where Clapton had landed — was hearing all the fuss about the album cover, with the under-aged, bare-chested schoolgirl. I never saw that cover until years later when the album was re-issued. I remember that whole thing being a huge ordeal in the states, and actually, kind of creepy. For years, I had the album with the white background and standard band photo shoot (Ginger Baker looking, well, baked).

    What is the story with that girl, would you know? Was she a relative of a band member or a family friend? I still don’t get the artistic value of that, but what do I know? I think the four members of the Who peeing on Who’s Next is brilliant. 🙂

    I remember being told the girl was there for Shock Value, sort of Zappa-esque or Beggar’s Banquet-esque, but I don’t know if that’s true. I certainly don’t think of Clapton, Baker, Winwood or Grech as Shock Value guys.

    Anyhow, what a band Blind Faith was. Your story chronicles their demise wonderfully. Janis? Very nice company you kept…

    And that made me remember: I know you’re not a Dave Mason fan, and no question he is dwarfed by Winwood and Clapton (I haven’t bought anything by him post-vinal), but some day see if you come upon “Certified Live” from around ’76. It was a double album with a fantastic backing band and he did plenty of D&B, Traffic and a surprisingly sizzling version of All Along The Watchtower.

    Nice Site… Keep on going, my friend.

  6. 6 Paul
    February 28, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Hi Scott,

    By today’s standards the original cover of the Blind Faith album was definitely creepy. Although at the time it was released not so much. It was a completely different era as far as sexual awareness, and nudity was becoming a lot more accepted on a lot of fronts. Although let’s face it, the girl is underaged. It’s a wonder you still see it printed in CD club catalogues. But, you know, there were a lot of jazz albums well before that with partially dressed or nude models, so who’s to judge?

    The album cover that you have on vinyl was quickly printed and rushed out when there was a slight uproar at the time of release, but the original was recently used on the Deluxe Edition of the album. I do know the story behind it and since you’re interested I’ll post something on it.

    As far as Dave Mason, I actually like quite a bit of what he’s done, particularly Alone Together, which I consider his best, and Headkeeper, which he hated but I like a lot. My only quarrel with him is his relationship with Traffic and Winwood. Although I do have to say perhaps my favorite Traffic album is the self-titled second on which Mason made some big contributions, You Can All Join In and Feelin’ Alright just to mention two.

  7. 7 joe nunes
    March 3, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    paul, interesting stuff… i have a copy of that blind faith album with the original cover, but must be an american re-release on rso records. your entry reminded me of a great but strange traffic concert i saw at the old boston tea party in back of fenway pahk back in the early ’70s. the club was way overpacked, like sardines, and we were sweating, gyrating to the music in the front, when flutist chris wood started crumpling, as if in slow motion, and collapsed to the floor as winwood, mason and capaldi looked on but kept on playing, going into an extended jam, and toward the end of the tune wood suddenly started moving and unfolding and got up and then played his flute part as if nothing had happened. it was so eerie. i wasn’t sure if he had actually blacked out and came to in the nick of time or if it was all choreographed, although it sure didn’t seem like it, seeing the frozen look of surprise on winwood’s and mason’s faces as the events unfolded. anyway, fun snapshots of memorable times and great music in an extraordinary era…

  8. 8 Paul
    March 4, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Joe,

    That’s fascinating. I also saw Traffic at the Boston Tea Party, but before it moved to the Fenway Park area. It was spring 1968 and the original venue was in a small building, actually once a synagogue, on Berkeley St. I remember I had to take the MTA up Beacon St. to get there from BU.

    They were just a trio, Mason having been dispatched for the first time. You must have caught them when he was momentarily back in the group. I don’t know many people who actually saw him perform with them during that era.

    Chris Wood was always a bit of a strange bird, especially live. But Winwood often credits him with being a major inspiration for turning them on to all different kinds of music.

    Thanks for sharing that.

    Paul


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