ERIC CLAPTON: LIVE AT THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL. Documentary starring Eric Clapton, Paul Carrack, Chris Stainton, Nathan East, and Steve Gadd. Directed by Blue Leach. Rated G (check classification). 116 min.
This is a concert film of Eric Clapton's "70th. Birthday Celebration" tour, performed at London's Royal Albert Hall. The film begins with an in-depth report about Clapton's history at the famous venue. The concert itself was performed on May 21, 2015, and was part of a brief run at the Hall. Eric Clapton is the most performed-artist in the history of Royal Albert Hall.
The concert has seventeen songs in it, all made famous by the rock and blues musician throughout his lengthy career The soundtrack for the movie includes hit singles, written by Clapton and other artists, including Joe Cocker, such as "Layla", "Tears in Heaven", "I shot the Sheriff", "High Time Went" (Joe Cocker), "Driftin' Blues", "Cocaine", and "Wonderful Tonight". The last of these songs was written by Clapton himself, and beautifully captures the mood of melancholy and longing.
Clapton has been at the top of his profession for over 50 years. The documentary demonstrates that he clearly relishes being back at the Royal Albert Hall, where he has given over 200 performances. As Stainton, his keyboard colleague describes him in the film, "he goes where he is on the night". Throughout the performance, Clapton plays his electric and acoustic guitar, and sings. Background vocals by two supporting artists (Michelle John and Sharon White) give a wonderful soulful accompaniment to his singing, and the documentary features scenes of Albert Hall, both inside and outside. Several rock bands that have accompanied Clapton in his career (such as "Cream", of which he was a Member) are featured briefly with affection.
It is a concert film that provides iconic footage of a legendary musician. What makes this film special is the celebratory feel about it, and Clapton's unbelievable playing - showing that time has in no way diminished his talent. Clapton is unquestionably the master of his guitar. He owns it.
Cinematically, the camera sweeps the viewer across the performers on stage, and then to the front and back of the audience which is visibly enjoying Clapton's extraordinary talent. The emotional highs of the audience's reactions are obvious, and the film features a Blues song ("Crossroads") written by Robert Johnson that is historically important, because Johnson helped to inspire Clapton originally. The film captures particularly well the emotions associated with all the songs.
The empathy between audience and performer is tangible and makes the film special, not just for those who know Clapton's singing and playing well, but for anyone who appreciates musical skill, and virtuosity. In this film, Clapton delivers both with tireless energy.
The film is well-produced and technically very proficient, and makes excellent use of sweeping, long-shots and searching close-ups of musicians, their instruments, and their hands. But above all, it is the music that holds attention. It is hard not to be caught up in the excitement of the sound, and the raw intensity of the occasion, as the audience rapturously rises to its feet for songs that are its favourites, such as "I shot the Sherif" and "Cocaine".
The film is without a doubt, Clapton's special evening. Entering his eight decade, it is obvious that his talent will not be with us forever, and the film has been directed and produced to be a fitting tribute to him as a legendary artist.
The film is on limited release, like the recent distribution of the movie, "Roger Waters The Wall" which is a documentary of a concert performance by Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd. In similar fashion, this film is designed to capture Eric Clapton as artist-performer in an intimate and idiosyncratic way. It highlights very effectively the creativity of a famous musician, and the effect is heightened when the huge audience Clapton is singing and playing to, becomes lost in the excitement of his sound.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting
Eagle . Warner
Released October 14th., 2015