Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler shiver spines in Vancouver

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 7, 1988

By Steve Newton

Of the three big guitar names in seminal British blues-rock–Page, Beck, and Clapton–only the latter has chosen to take a player of his own calibre on tour with him. The match-up of Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton is one made in guitarist’s heaven, and most anyone who saw them at the Coliseum last week (September 28) would agree that celestial rock sounds were the order of the night.

They started things off with a slowed-down version of “Crossroads”–the Robert Johnson classic that became a Cream standard–and the crowd on the floor immediately charged up the aisles to the front of the stage. When Clapton knocked off the familiar opening riff of another Cream gem, “White Room”, the folks up front did the heavy metal shuffle (stand still and shake your fist), redoubling their efforts when Slowhand kicked in his wah-wah pedal for a little psychedelic blues. You could see Clapton’s’ Chesire grin from up in the media box no problem, and throughout the show it was evident the living legend was having just as much fun as the slack-jawed fans soaking up his God-given gifts.

There wasn’t much in the way of fancy lights and fog effects, and there wasn’t much need for them either. Clapton likes to speak with his fingers, so there was little between-tune patter. It was just one great song after another–tunes like “I Shot the Sheriff” and “Lay Down Sally”, which showcased Knopfler’s chicken-pickin’ country licks. On the super-sensitive “Wonderful Tonight” a not-so-sensitive fan crawled onstage, jumped around, then did a cannonball back into the crowd. He was a pretty solid-looking guy, so most likely whoever he landed on did not feel too wonderful that night.

Clapton gave the nod to one of his favourite artists, J.J. Cale, with nifty renditions of “After Midnight” and “Cocaine”, and then brought the house down with his own killer number, “Layla”. One of the top five rock tunes ever written (add your own other four), “Layla” is one that rarely fails to send a shiver up this scribbler’s spine.

Ina typically classy move, Clapton allowed Knopfler the spotlight for the encore, a rousing version (what other kind is there?) of Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing”.

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