Rock : God: a correction

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The Independent Culture
"IF YOU see only one movie this year, see this one," always struck me as an unlikely hypothesis, but if you're a person who sees only one concert a year, you probably choose Eric Clapton at the Albert Hall. It's traditional and undemanding: Eric and his band play the blues for hours, barely varying the pace. As on From the Cradle (Warner), there was none of his own material, and his interpretations of Leroy Carr et al added nothing new. He said he had just discovered a Homer Harris song, "I'm Gonna Cut Your Head". But how excited can you get about discovering a song that's the same as all your others?

Not that it's all bad. "Hoochie Coochie Man", say, has such a primal black-magic cool that any rendition furnishes a frisson. Clapton was in huskily good voice, and he is, of course, a consummate, Clapton-ish guitarist.

But these were predictable pleasures. Today, when people discuss the blazing genius of Eric C, they're talking about football.

And why should anyone think that Clapton is God? It's Chuck Berry who's God. At 69, he still plays guitar like no one before him and everyone after him, firing his archetypal boogie riffs, while duck-walking across the stage, sweat dripping off his nose. He plays the audience even better. The lacklustre performer we've heard about was not at the Clapham Grand on Friday. In his place was a twinkle-eyed charmer who praised his fellow musicians ("Who says white boys can't play the blues?") and invited spectators on stage to dance. His voice retains its prim, semi-lisping mischief and he doesn't look very different from how he did 20 years ago. Unfortunately, neither does his shirt, a polyester eyesore.

Some of his lyrics, however, have moved with the times. "Rock'n'Roll Music" has a new verse: "Some people tell you that rock is dead / Been 40 years since that remark was made / But I'm here to prove that it's alive and well..." Indeed he is.

Did you see the Go-Gos' faces on Don't Forget Your Toothbrush when Chris Evans thanked Belinda Carlisle but neglected the others? That was why they split in 1985 (although the fact that they were taking an absolute hendrix of drugs at the time no doubt helped). Carlisle was getting all the attention. It was assumed that she was, to paraphrase Wham!, the Go- Go who was planning on going solo. At the Shepherd's Bush Empire, it still niggled. Carlisle was detached from the others, swearing and bitching but still too saccharine to be one of the girls.

But a niggle is all it was. The Go-Gos' new-wave surf punk - or whatever you call it - was stylish, good humoured and brash; and their personalities shined through.

Early hits like "Our Lips Are Sealed" were plain beside the Nineties songs: "Cool Jerk", and the current single, "The Whole World Lost its Head" (EMI), from the new compilation. They should have done a whole new album - and with any luck they will.

Chuck Berry: Southend Cliffs Pavilion, 0702 351135, tonight; Portsmouth Guildhall, 0705 824355, Mon; Bristol Colston, 017 9223682, Tues; Leicester De Montfort, 0116 233 3111, Wed; York Barbican, 0904 656688, Thurs; Glasgow RCH, 041-227 5511, Fri; Camberley Lakeside, 0252 836464, Sat; and touring. Eric Clapton: RAH, 071-589 8212, Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun.