Eric Clapton, SECC, Glasgow <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Eric Clapton remains reassuringly at odds with the image of the ageing rock star. Not for him the gaudy fashions and hairstyles of Rod Stewart or any Rolling Stone bar Charlie Watts. In thin-framed glasses and a muted lilac shirt turned up, business-like, at the cuffs, the jowly sixtysomething is more academic than unreformed hellraiser.

Of course Clapton notoriously raised more than enough hell in his time, and shed each of the more predictable demons of rock stardom. That his live set loses a certain frisson with age comes as little surprise.

Despite the seated capacity of several thousand being full, there's an oddly muted response from the audience. Occasional whistles punctuate the polite applause at the end of each new song or solo (often the two are tricky to distinguish), while the odd ageing, sideburned malcontent sometimes drops a lone roar of encouragement in an attempt to enliven things.

Yet Clapton's fans, it seems, are as indisposed towards acts of frivolous emotion as he is - he plays well, he gets a nice round of applause, and hopefully everyone will hear a couple of songs they know by the end.

The first hour and more was very much an enthusiast's domain, mixing obscure blues numbers with lesser-known Clapton songs and some from his most recent album Back Home.

As much as the vast majority, you feel, just want to hear the hits, this seems to be the most rewarding segment for Clapton himself. He is a mesmerisingly fluid and expressive guitarist, and the subtleties of this work - be it the nouveau reggae of recent track "Revolution" or his dextrous sit-down unplugged set - are perhaps best appreciated in the state of brow-tightened contemplation the really serious fans adopt.

Yet Clapton doesn't make things easy on the armchair listener. Perhaps his patrons' lack of verve is more to do with unfamiliarity than lack of enjoyment, and his refusal to offer any explanation for the songs, or even their titles, adds to the vague air of impenetrability seemingly felt by many.

Payoff, though, came three songs from the end as another stamping blues solo dissolved into "Wonderful Tonight". This was what the swooning couples had been waiting for, and the yelling contingent from earlier are quickly rewarded with dynamic versions of "Cocaine", "Layla" and a thumping "Crossroads" as an encore. It was a long build-up to what most had come for, but they don't call him Slowhand for nothing.

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