Monday, 28 July, 2014

 
Published March 07, 2014
Entertainment
Rock gods strike a chord
Eric Clapton, Rob Zombie, Korn and more rock the house live, reports DYLAN TAN
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Mellow to manic: For a swansong, Clapton's show (above) was a no-frills affair and crowd interaction, like his last show here in 2011, was restricted to two words - 'thank you' - which he yelled out after every other song or so. On the other extreme, shock-rocker Rob Zombie and his three-piece band put on a theatrical rock show to rival Alice Cooper's gig here in 2011. - PHOTOS: LUSHINGTON (ERIC CLAPTON), ALOYSIUS LIM/LAMC PRODUCTIONS (ROB ZOMBIE)

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CONCERTGOERS' eardrums and necks got a real workout this week as various rock gods descended to play shows across the island.

Kicking things off quite aptly on Tuesday evening at the Singapore Indoor Stadium was Eric Clapton, the legendary English guitarist whose playing inspired a spate of "Clapton is God" graffiti across walls in England during the 1960s when he was just starting out as a member of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

He's come a long way since, to say the least, finding success with bands such as Derek and the Dominos, Cream, as well as a solo artist. Tuesday's gig was his fourth here.

If the fan note he penned in the programme of his Japanese tour is anything to go by, it is also set to be his final as the three-time Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductee, who turns 69 at the end of the month, also told Rolling Stone magazine last year he plans to retire from the road by the time he hits 70.

But anybody expecting a greatest-hits-type send-off a la the type of shows The Eagles or The Rolling Stones pull off might be slightly disappointed to learn that the 16 songs he picked to perform comprised mostly of blues standards and covers. Even his signature ballad, Wonderful Tonight, which appeared on the setlist and played in the Japanese shows, was passed over for an unknown reason.

But that wasn't to say there weren't any crowdpleasers; a mid-show sit-down unplugged segment featured Layla and Tears in Heaven and keyboardist Paul Carrack, himself a successful musician, took over vocals on a handful of songs including How Long, a 1974 hit for his band Ace.

Elsewhere in the near-two-hour show, Clapton paid tribute mostly to the various blues greats that have inspired him by performing blistering versions of Robert Johnson's Crossroads and Little Queen of Spades; as well as Willie Dixon/Muddy Waters' Hoochie Coochie Man; all of which allowed him to pull off his amazing runs and bends on the fretboard.

For a swansong, Clapton's gig was a no-frills affair and crowd interaction, like his last show here in 2011, was restricted to two words - "thank you" - which he yelled out after every other song or so.

At times it's easy to misinterpret his intense focus for glumness (or is it really the other way round, who knows) but the man's a rock royalty and he probably knows it.

As a result, the largely middle-aged crowd of 5,500 never once rose from their seats except to applaud him before he left the stage.

To Clapton's credit, it was a selfless display of his lifelong love of the blues and him repaying a debt to the great bluesmen before him - the very ones who inspired and turned him into the guitar god he is today.

But if Clapton's lack of showmanship might have been slightly disappointing for some, the four bands that played the first evening of the Singapore Rock Festival's two-night stand at Fort Canning the day after more than made up for things with plenty of rock star posturing on display.

Before the sun even set, Black Veiled Brides was up on stage, mixing leather with studs, while thrashing out their decadent brand of glam rock. More tattoos followed with Five Finger Death Punch driving the 6000 metalheads into a frenzy with their groovy set.

But those two acts came nowhere close to owning the crowd the way shock-rocker Rob Zombie did. Dressed in their Halloween best, the veteran singer-songwriter-filmmaker and his three-piece band put on a theatrical rock show to rival Alice Cooper's gig here in 2011. Zombie even paid tribute to the former, performing an excerpt of Cooper's classic hit School's Out in between Thunder Kiss '65.

Zombie left the final act of the night, nu-metal band, Korn, with a hard act to follow but somehow the crowd found enough momentum in themselves to continue their headbanging. Korn's energetic frontman, Jonathan Davis, however seemed to run out of gas faster than the audience and could be seen taking swigs of oxygen in between songs.

Radio-friendly rockers Alter Bridge and grunge veterans Alice in Chains share the stage on the second night of the festival to ensure the headbanging never stops. The music of both bands might not be as intense as the ones on the first evening's line-up but there will surely be enough sore necks to keep chiropractors busy over the next couple of days.

dylantan@sph.com.sg