The stairway to classic-rock heaven extended straight into the Hollywood Bowl on Tuesday night as '60s British rock heroes Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood closed their all-too-quick 14-city, three-week U.S. tour with a nearly 2 -hour excursion through the music they created, individually and collectively, three and four decades ago.
Even without considering any of the music that either Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has made in the past 30 years, they had plenty to draw from, starting with a generous sampling of the material from their brief 1969 stint together in the super group Blind Faith, and dipping into Claptons subsequent tenure with Derek & the Dominos and Winwoods with Traffic.
The highlight of the evening was their take on Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Chile." At the end of the regular portion of the show, Clapton peeled off the opening lines of the song, one rock guitar deity saluting another. Then he marshaled his troops on a fearless extended trek through its dynamic intricacies, swelling and condensing, advancing then retreating, Winwoods vocal injecting sinewy soulfulness in place of Hendrixs gruff, sensual attack.
Even though they werent responsible for the songs creation, it fit in with their own songs that spoke to a time when the prime movers in pop music were more interested in musical and spiritual exploration than getting their songs placed in TV commercials or the closing credits of hit films.
Clapton, 64, and Winwood, 61, used their collaboration to revel in their shared love of American roots styles from blues to soul to R&B, Winwoods whiskey-drenched voice as supple as ever, and paired sympathetically on several numbers by Claptons sandpapery vocal cords. Lowdown, Tough Luck Blues and How Long let Clapton flex the six-string prowess that generated those Clapton is God scrawls on subway walls all those years ago -- not just the blinding flurries of distortion-sheathed runs but gossamer-light pianissimo passages as well.