Eric Clapton has been hinting about scaling down his touring for some time. At age 69, he's not into the travel and wear and tear required for major tours anymore. It's not like he has anything left to prove at this stage, anyhow. One wish he had though, was that when he turned 70 and really started to scale down his live shows, was to play Japan and the Far East again, areas that have proven a mutual love fest for Clapton and his fans alike. In early 2014, Clapton did just that, documenting the tour, including his 200th show in Japan, on the new Blu-ray Planes, Trains And Eric.
The disc mixes 13 complete live performances with backstage footage and interviews. It is sort of a travel log of the tour and gives a behind the scenes look at what makes a modern Eric Clapton tour work. The disc opens with an interview from Singapore in March 2014, where Clapton said he could have gone the lucrative corporate gig route, but that there was no real feeling between the artist and audience doing that. He also admits that the only real way to build momentum as a band is to go on tour. For this tour, he had Paul Carrack on organ, Chris Stainton on keyboards and returning members Steve Gadd on drums and Nathan East on bass. It's a lineup Clapton feels comfortable with and it shows in the music.
The first musical cut is a gritty "Tell The Truth." Clapton is the only guitarist in the live show these days and, that being the case, he pushes himself musically, delivering searing leads on this great blues-rock number. That's the case on "Pretending" as well. While Clapton struggles a big vocally on some of the higher parts, his playing is as good as ever and the band keeps pace.
A Tokyo interview finds Clapton revealing he now loves rehearsal, where he didn't before. He refers to this band as his security blanket and states that his greatest wish was that he could be in a band where he could walk off the stage during the show and sit in the audience with nothing being lost musically. He may have found it with this bunch. Carrack admits during an interview that while he may not be as well known of a session player as some of the rest of his band, it is often what one doesn't play that makes a difference. His playing and vocals add a great element to Clapton's band and he gives a strong performance on "High Time We Went," which runs through the end credits.
Clapton takes to acoustic guitar for the finger-picked "Driftin' Blues." Throughout the song and through "Layla," Clapton proves as adept at acoustic as he is at electric guitar. Other highlights include a funky "I Shot The Sheriff" and a groove-laden "Cocaine." Both songs feature extended intros showcasing Clapton's excellent band.
The video is presented in 1080i High Definition 16:9 and looks great. Audio options include LPCM Stereo and DTS -HD Master Audio 5.0. Both sound and picture are fine throughout and the documentary is well filmed.
It would be a shame if Clapton scaled back or stopped his touring altogether as he still delivers live. Eric Clapton - Planes, Trains And Eric shows an artist who has lost none of the ability that made him famous in the first place having fun making music with his friends. At this stage, that should be all Clapton has to do.