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By David Werther.

Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, Live From Madison Square Garden (DVD 7599-39992-5, 2009)

           The first DVD in this two-DVD set consists of concert performances, interspersed with some interviews with Clapton and Winwood. The second includes extended interviews, and a few additional performances. The interviews provide the key to this successful Clapton-Winwood collaboration. Winwood talks about his discovery of blues music and his desire to share it. Clapton emphasizes the importance of remembering one’s roots and honoring them.

           The reverence of these musicians for their roots reveals them as remarkably humble men. When Clapton has the spotlight to himself, in a solo performance, he eschews his own compositions in favor or Robert Johnson’s “Rambling on My Mind.” Likewise, when Winwood has a solo spot, he ignores his own work in favor of the Hoagy Carmichal/Stuart Gorrell, “Georgia on My Mind.” And the centerpiece of the show is Otis Rush’s “Double Trouble,” which ends with a beaming Steve Winwood directing the applause to Eric Clapton.

           Winwood and Clapton also honor their contemporaries. They play two Hendrix songs, “Little Wing” and “Voodo Chile.” The latter is especially appropriate, given that Winwood accompanied Hendrix on the original recording. In an interview, Clapton describes his feelings about peforming the song, “I felt like I was stepping off a cliff doing it. . . that’s a big call that one.” They also do a song by one of Hendrix’s bandmates, Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes.”

           The show begins and ends, sans encore, with Clapton and Winwood both playing guitar on Blind Faith songs, “Had to Cry Today” and “Can’t Find My Way Home.” The other songs from the Blind Faith days are: “Sleeping in the Ground,” “Presence of the Lord,” and “Well All Right.”

           With relatively few audience shots, and lots of attention to the interplay between Clapton and Winwood, as well as some close-ups of their fingerings on the fretboard and keyboard, the film allows us to enjoy the Clapton-Winwood chemistry and the intensity of their performances.

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