One of the most influential guitarists of all time, Eric Clapton has been making music for nearly sixty years. With an undeniable career that spans from The Yardbirds to Cream to Derek and the Dominos to countless solo albums, there is simply no denying his legacy or talent. Performing countless shows, writing a library of songs, and collaborating with a phone book worth of other artists, it seems Clapton has been working non-stop forever. Well, unfortunately the global pandemic in early 2020 brought everything to a grinding halt, resulting in many live performance cancelations. Pretty bummed about the entire situation, Clapton stood fast in finding some way to facilitate his desire to perform, and the result is his latest live album, The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions.
Released on November 12, 2021 through Mercury Studios, the 17-track release consists of Clapton classic originals, some compelling Blues tunes, plus some select covers. As mentioned, a result of the pandemic shutting down the world, it’s inspiration was a direct result of the cancellation of Clapton’s May 2021 concerts that were to be held at the Royal Albert Hall. Keep in mind playing Royal Albert Hall is historic milestone for any musician, especially an English one. So being the inventive individual he is, Clapton assembled his band – Nathan East (Bass and Vocals), Steve Gadd (Drums) and Chris Stainton (Keyboards) – to jam out at Cowdray House in West Sussex, England to record this album.
All this in mind, The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions is a mostly unplugged set that is very reminiscent his amazing 1992 Unplugged album recorded nearly thirty years earlier. Stripped down as much as it could possibly be with no audience, no big sound system, or no venue, it is just the band in Clapton and his band playing some of their greatest gems for ‘the lady in the balcony’…his wife.
Adding up for over an hour of music, the set takes you journey through time and down memory lane. You have the Blues standard “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” kicking things off on a high note, then 1978’s “Golden Ring” with pure heartfelt vocals, but also a smooth rendition of “Black Magic Woman.” There is also another Fleetwood Mac cover with “Man of the World” which features some really deep and earthy tones, a great take on “After Midnight,” as well as a somber, yet beautiful performance of “Bell Bottom Blues.”
Later on the Blues classic “Key to the Highway” offers one of the catchier songs of the set while 1998’s “River of Tears” is taken to another level of heartbreak and sincere musicianship. And Clapton also throws in some more fan-favorites which include “Believe in Life, about his wife (Melia McEnery), “Layla” acoustic style, and the memorable “Tears in Heaven” which reminds us just how fragile life really is.
Honest, pure, and sounding stellar, The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions is a timeless and enjoyable listen that will touch your heart. It will grab your full attention and tell tales that dig deep underneath you skin, just like music is intended! Furthermore, if you are interested in seeing the actual performance, you can invest in the deluxe edition of this album which features Blu-ray video. One of the most pleasant surprises of 2021, and something you will find inspiration in, Cryptic Rock gives The Lady in the Balcony: Lockdown Sessions 5 out of 5 stars.