It was hard to shake the feeling inside the hallowed halls of The Forum in Los Angeles on Monday night. Was this it? Was this really going to be Eric Clapton’s last stand? The former Yardbird, Cream member, Blind Faith guitarist, et al has only played a few shows over the last several years, and this four-night stand in LA was the last event on the docket, coming quickly on the heels of a similar run at Madison Square Garden. It really felt like this could be the last acts in one of the greatest careers in music over the last 50 years.
Clapton has openly talked about his late-life disdain of touring. “The road has become unbearable,” he told Uncut back in 2014. “It’s become unapproachable, because it takes so long to get anywhere. It’s hostile everywhere: Getting in and out of airports, traveling on planes and in cars.” Then last year, he revealed that he’s lately been dealing with chronic nerve damage.
“I’ve had quite a lot of pain over the last year,” he said to Classic Rock Magazine. “It started with lower back pain, and turned into what they call peripheral neuropathy, which is where you feel like you have electric shocks going down your leg… [It’s] hard work to play the guitar and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that it will not improve.”
Even as he copes with the rigors of life on the road and degenerative nerve disorders, Clapton remains one of the best pure guitar players on planet earth, a fact that was driven home time and again during his incredible performance on the Forum stage. Whether acoustically, on tender ballads like his elegy to his son Conor, his eternal love-letter to George Harrison’s wife Patti Boyd, and the sardonic “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” or through his trusty, electrified Strat on burners like Cream’s explosive, psychedelic “White Room,” the glitzy “Cocaine,” or his immortal take on Bob Marley’s “I Shot The Sheriff,” the ease at which he ripped off both rhythm parts and solos was jaw-dropping. Bathed in blue and white light, eyes clenched shut, Clapton played like a man set on fire.