Eric Clapton’s ‘The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions’: Still Superlative, But…

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Eric Clapton performing “Layla” during the recording of the Lockdown Sessions album

After the pandemic caused the cancelation of his May 2021 concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall, guitar legend Eric Clapton repaired to a country house in West Sussex with his longtime accompanists Nathan East (bass, vocals), Steve Gadd (percussion) and Chris Stainton (keyboards). There, they performed a mostly unplugged set that has just been released in a CD/Blu-ray package called The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions. The lady in question is the show’s audience of one: Clapton’s wife, Melia.

Watch the album trailer

The superlative 17-track, 73-minute program features some of Clapton’s best-known numbers, including “Bell Bottom Blues”; “Tears in Heaven,” the song he wrote with Will Jennings after the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son; and “Layla,” the number he penned with Jim Gordon about his then-future wife Pattie Boyd, here in a version so different from the Derek and the Dominos original that you may initially not recognize it. Among the other standouts are two songs by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green (“Black Magic Woman” and “Man of the World”) and such Clapton-associated blues classics as Jimmie Cox’s “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and Big Bill Broonzy and Charles Segar’s “Key to the Highway.”

Watch the performance of “Black Magic Woman.” (“This one’s for Peter… “)

As recent features in the Washington Post and Rolling Stone have reported, Clapton has lately headed down the same lamentable road as Van Morrison, complaining about vaccine mandates, not to mention posing with Texas’ radical-right Governor Greg Abbott. Last December, Clapton even released a song called “Stand and Deliver,” a collaboration with Morrison that equated pandemic lockdowns with slavery. Unlike that record and Morrison’s bizarre latest release, however, The Lady in the Balcony avoids such subjects. And it makes clear that while Clapton may have lost at least a portion of his mind, he hasn’t lost a bit of his musical talent.

Watch them perform “After Midnight” from the sessions

Clapton has an extended tour planned for 2022. Tickets are available here and here.

Related: Our recap of opening night of his 2021 U.S. tour

Jeff Burger

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