Music Reviews

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Madison Square Garden, New York
Monday, Feb. 25

It took nearly 40 years, but the supergroup Blind Faith made its return to Madison Square Garden on Monday night for the first of a three-night stand. Well, OK, it was really just Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood (drummer Ginger Baker is AWOL and bassist Rich Grech died in 1990), but these shows marking the duo's first full performances together since 1982 are plenty historic enough.

The classic rock stalwarts, who earned raves last year for their short set at Chicago's Crossroads festival, delivered a two-hour, 20-minute show featuring two-thirds of Blind Faith's recorded output -- that translates to all of four songs -- as well as numbers from their respective solo careers and Winwood's stint with Traffic. Beginning with Faith's "Had to Cry Today" and ending with an encore of "Crossroads," it was a blues-heavy set list guaranteed to please the sold-out baby boomer crowd.

Clapton's most recent foray into his past with the Cream reunion shows seemed a distinctly chilly affair, but he clearly was having a terrific time onstage with this former bandmate. Halfway through the show, he commented: "I've been looking forward to this for a long time. ... I'm enjoying it, so I hope you are. So who knows, maybe we'll do this a bit more, I think."

Performing with a tight three-piece band that included Willie Weeks (bass), Chris Stainton (keyboards) and Ian Thomas (drums), the duo traded vocals and instrumentals with well-practiced ease. Clapton's electrifying solos provided fresh energy to such numbers as Traffic's "Pearly Queen" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy," while Winwood's fluid keyboard work and still-soaring vocals enlivened such songs as Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" and Clapton's "Tell the Truth." Winwood strapped on a guitar for most of the Blind Faith songs, as well as numbers including the rollicking "Low Down."

Each star also delivered one solo number, with Clapton performing an acoustic version of "Ramblin' on My Mind" and Winwood delivering a nicely moving take on "Georgia on My Mind."

Of course, the Blind Faith classics including "Had to Cry Today," "Presence of the Lord" and "Can't Find My Way Home" garnered the biggest responses, but such Clapton standards as "Forever Man" and "After Midnight" came close.
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