TICKETS TORN IN HALF:October 10,1994-ERIC CLAPTON @ Madison Square Garden /with Jimmie Vaughan & The Tilt-A-Whirl Band

NYT:(partial)Eric Clapton knows he’s taking two kinds of risk with his current tour, which started a two-night stand at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Instead of his own hits, he played two hours of vintage blues, including most of the material on his new album, “From the Cradle” (Reprise). One hazard is that he’ll displease fans who want to hear “Layla” or “Tears in Heaven”; he simply declared that if there were requests, “we will ignore them.”

The other problem is more difficult: can Mr. Clapton, who has been an English rock star for nearly three decades, convincingly sing and play music by black Americans from the Mississippi Delta and Chicago? Can the student, with all the diligence and good will in the world, hope to live up to his models? Here, too, he was prepared. Between songs, the video screens that flanked the stage showed old photographs of blues performers, but the opening one was of a theater marquee announcing a “Minstrel Monarch.” The tradition of white musicians’ imitating and profiting from black styles is as old and troubled as American music itself; Mr. Clapton seemed to be admitting that it’s not over, but that he wants to show respect.

His solution was to be part scholar, part rocker. He recreated the arrangements and (as best he could) vocal approaches of songs from Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Ray Charles, Bessie Smith, Albert King, Freddie King, Otis Rush and lesser-known figures like Eddie Boyd, Big Maceo, Jimmy Rogers and Leroy Carr. And he tried to play them so that after a slow start, the music moved beyond homage and rekindled the spirit of the songs.

Set List:

01. Motherless Child

02. Malted Milk

03. How Long Blues

04. Kidman Blues

05. County Jail

06. Forty Four

07. Blues All Day Long (Blues Leave Me Alone)

08. Goin’ Away Baby

09. Standing Around Crying

10. Hoochie Coochie Man

11. It Hurts Me Too

12. Blues Before Sunrise

13. Third Degree

14. Reconsider Baby

15. Sinner’s Prayer

16. Can’t Judge Nobody

17. Someday After A While

18. Tore Down

19. Have You Ever Loved A Woman

20. Crosscut Saw

21. Five Long Years

22. Born Under A Bad Sign

23. Groaning The Blues

24. Crossroads

25. Ain’t Nobody’s Business

26. Sweet Home Chicago *