For former Radiator Dave Malone, Jazz Fest 2014 is going to go down as one of the most memorable.
Malone played the Samsung Galaxy stage with the Raw Oyster Cult on Saturday, April 26, sat in the grandstands on the Acura stage to watch Eric Clapton make his Jazz Fest debut the next day, and he will wrap up this year’s festivities with a Radiators reunion next weekend.
With a killer Raw Oyster Cult set already under his belt, Malone and his wife climbed the stands to the right Eric Clapton as the guitar legend took the stage. While it may seem easy for Radiator fans to assume that Malone had seen Clapton before, that wasn’t the case.
“He’s one of my heroes from when I was a kid, and when opportunities arose, I was always playing when he was, so I never got to see him,” Malone said. “It so happened that I could see him this time, and I’m glad I did.”
With a setlist that included half a dozen songs on the acoustic guitar and songs by members of the backing band, Clapton’s show was not what some fans were expecting.
“Of course people are going to get all irritated on Facebook if they don’t hear ‘Wonderful Tonight’ or ‘Tears in Heaven,’ and all that stuff,” Malone said. “But I was grateful that he felt comfortable enough to just play.”
Malone speculates that Clapton was paying homage to New Orleans, one of the epicenters of the blues for as long as the blues has been around. The set may not have had the force of a charging electric wall of hits from the 70s, but it did have a relaxed quality that allowed Clapton to stretch his muscles wherever he could.
“He didn’t put on a show so much as he just felt comfortable enough to approach it from the heritage of a true bluseman,” Malone said. “Having said that, I’m glad I heard ‘Crossroads.’ I would have loved to have heard ‘Badge,’ or ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses,’ or ‘White Room.’ But hey, just for the chance to get to see him, I was very appreciative.”
While Clapton may have been the biggest name on the stage, Malone said he was blown away by the backing band, which included Paul Carrack from Ace and Squeeze and Chris Stainton.
“Paul Carrack has been one of my favorite singers forever,” Malone said. “Chris Stainton was in Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, who played with him at Woodstock, and he played with just everybody as a session player.”
The Joe Cocker connection may account for Clapton’s choice of songs for his encore. In a set that included a lot of slow songs with the occasional fast paced number mixed throughout, Clapton ended with “Cocaine” before leaving the stage for a few minutes, only to return for an encore of Joe Cocker’s “High Time We Went.”
“I’m very surprised that he [Clapton] would elect to not close with something familiar, because that’s kind of the antithesis of show business,” Malone said. “But listen, as far as I’m concerned, the man can do any damn thing he wants. He’s earned the right. The guy’s been through so much shit and made such great music, and he’s reinvented himself 10 times probably, and had a child tragically die, and he’s still with us, and still playing his ass off. As I said, I was just very glad to be able to see him.”
“I already enjoyed next weekend already,” he said.