Here is a review of our recent Christchurch gig:- mags4dorset
"AFTER MIDNIGHT were founded in 1985 - and in guitar-vocalist Mike Hall, they have a front man who not only looks like Eric, but sings and plays to the Clapton standard too."
- Tony Jones, Newcastle Journal
"AFTER MIDNIGHT, featuring Slowhand Impersonator Supreme, Mike Hall, were formed 33 years ago, long before tribute bands were thought of as an integral part of the scene."
- Peter Hepple, The Stage
"Quite apart from his appearance, Mike Hall has been an ardent fan of Clapton since first seeing him playing with Cream at Newcastle's Club A' Gogo in 1966."
- Mike Jamieson, Newcastle Evening Chronicle
"AFTER MIDNIGHT have become something of a rock institution around the North East scene. Not only is Clapton the major influence on the group, Mike Hall has an uncanny resemblance to the great man. In fact, he looks more like Clapton than Clapton does in recent times! And as a guitarist, Mike too is outstanding. He is backed by superb musicians."
- Mark Iveson, Leisure Magazine
"I went to see Classic Clapton at Irvine Magnum Theatre years ago and had a better night there than I did at the SECC watching Slowhand himself. Well worth going to see them. Great show and they play all the hits."
- Stephen Warwick, North Ayrshire
After Midnight leaves crowd hoarse yet happy
Hexham Queens Hall - Friday 21 November 2014
Peter Lewis (Hexham Courant)
In May next year Eric Clapton will celebrate his 70th birthday by playing five nights at the Albert Hall. Arty posters by Peter Blake no less; real five star cultural excitement!
In the course of a long career with the Yardbirds, Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek and the Dominoes and latter solo work, Clapton has played the London venue more than 200 times. Little wonder that he has described the place as his front room. His life, punctuated by personal crises, is encrusted with awards and praise for the quality of playing.....is he the greatest guitarist of all time? Discuss!
His greatest fans, the true aficionados, are in no doubt and at the forefront of that admiration is the tribute band After Midnight, founded and led by Mike Hall nearly 30 years ago. They will be celebrating that auspicious anniversary at the Sage Gateshead in December 2015.
There have been few changes of personnel over the decades, a tribute to Halls shrewd management and their own excellence. The unique selling point of the group has, however, always been Halls physical resemblance to his idol; he looks more like the popular image of Clapton than Clapton himself. And he too plays well in the style of the maestro without any sickening attempt at impersonation.
Every few years After Midnight visit the Queens Hall. The gigs sell out mainly because the band bring their own faithful audience of friends and acquaintances. The evening is thus full of requests and dedications. The atmosphere is more akin to a revival meeting than a gig and is none the worse for that.
I note that the last time the Courant covered a After Midnight gig, the review was highly favourable and full of technical praise. Pleased with my past expertise, I only belatedly noted that it had been written by my younger son, Jamie Lewis, himself an accomplished guitarist.
He would have been pleased to note that the musicianship of Mike Hall, Paul Warren on keyboards, bass guitarist Dave Robson and drummer Danny Davison, if anything has sharpened over the years. All too often tribute bands seem bored by the repetition but this group exuded energy and joy throughout the evening.
The audience were knowledgeable and eager to join in and we all went home hoarse and happy.
Peter Lewis (Hexham Courant)
Pickaquoy Centre Orkney - Saturday 28th April 2012Leah Seator (The Orcadian)
Photos by Tom O'Brien
performed by After Midnight
Diss Corn Hall, Norfolk - Friday 8th March 2013
The very personable Mike Hall, as he is happy to acknowledge, looks a bit like Clapton, and he certainly plays like him, but with his broad Geordie accent, and daft anecdotes and very un-Clapton like sing-alongs, no-one could be under the illusion he was trying to be Clapton. Far from being a tribute act, a term coined long after Mike starting touring with After Midnight (a mind boggling twenty seven years ago), this is more like a celebration, and one the capacity audience at the Corn Hall was happy to join in with.
The evening, if anything, was more like a primer, as if being readied for a Clapton exam. We were taken through the songs of the Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos, but were also given a taste of George Harrison, and Robert Johnson, and even a touching homage to Alvin Lee, the recently departed guitarist of Ten Years After. It's worth remembering that while Mike Hall is adjusting his style to suit the decade, Dave Robson is having to play bass like Jack Bruce, and then like Carl Radle, while Danny Davison has to play like Jims McCarty and Gordon, and then bash out the mighty fills of Ginger Baker. Marry that up with the lovely whooshing Hammond sounds provided by Paul Warren on keyboards and you have an extraordinary talent on stage, that anyone who appreciates good musicianship, can enjoy.
A week later, and I'm still humming White Room and Layla. They really woke me up to how many good tunes the man has. I thought the show was great, because Mike wasn't really impersonating Clapton, he was just enjoying his music with us. If you think your knowledge of the Clapton canon extends only as far as the hits, Mikes band will remind you how many good tunes the man has, and how many you know. And even if you dont recognise a single tune, just sit back and enjoy the musicianship.
performed by After Midnight
Penicuik Town Hall - Saturday 10th September 2011Craig Hodge (Penicuik What's On)
There have been a lot of decent Tribute acts who have played Penicuik Town Hall. We've even had a few who looked like the act they were proposing to sound like. We've had a couple who sounded a bit like the act. Last night we were blessed with both. I don't think I'd be out of hand by saying that last night After Midnight was one of the most professional acts I've ever seen at the Town Hall.
I don't know about you, but when guitarists strum their guitars in between songs etc. I find it really annoying, it's like boy racers revving their cars for no reason. None of that last night. You got an introduction by Mike (Eric Clapton look & sound alike) on what part of Eric Clapton's extremely influential & varied career it came from. Then the song was executed, & personally I thought brilliantly every time.
I asked my friends what they thought. They were of the same opinion as myself & I think 99% of the hall was too. After Midnight was one of, the best Tributes to have played Penicuik Town Hall in many a year.
I would personally like to thank Mike for dedicating a song to me, as it was my birthday last night (& he didn't know). Plus he wasn't to know that "Can't Find My Way Home" is actually one of my favourite songs of all time! We were treated to great repertoire of Eric Clapton songs from Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos etc right up to his solo work. Fantastic stuff.
One of my friends was even talking about popping along to some of After Midnight's other Scottish & North of England dates!
Craig Hodge (Penicuik What's On)
Classic Clapton on stage at Penicuik Town Hall
performed by After Midnight
Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, N Yorkshire- 19th February 2011Andrew Sugden (YorkshireGigGuide)After Midnight began their 25th Anniversary tour in the fabulous, magnificent Georgian Theatre in Richmond with a full house eagerly awaiting a night of Eric Clapton classics. Begining with "Key to the Highway" they took command of the stage and led us through Clapton with Yardbirds, Clapton with Cream, Clapton with Derek and The Dominos and Clapton with John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. Indeed, non-stop Clapton for a whole wonderful evening.The intimacy of the theatre allowed both audience and band to interact with the music - handclapping, cheering and singing along with the group. Swept along with the well-known tunes the interval came all too soon. During the interval I managed to catch up with Asia Pickup who won 2 tickets in our competition and brought her Grandma with her. Mike Hall was more than happy to have a photograph taken with her and presented her with one of their CDs as an extra treat.The second half, which they called "Unplugged Clapton" was rather more relaxed but just as exciting and entertaining as their first session as testified by the enthusiastic cheering audience. A truly great evening from a multi-tallented band consisting of:- Mike Hall: Lead vocals and guitar, John Forster: Bass and backing vocals, Paul Warren: Keyboards and backing vocals and newest member (of 4 weeks) Neil Cochrane: DrumsCatch the website for a list of venues:- www.classic-clapton.com
The struggle through the fog to travel from Leeds to Richmond which almost stopped us seeing this band was worth all the effort to get there. It did not seem to matter that the same fog was with us on the way home because we remembered the evening we had just so much enjoyed.Well worth seeing!OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
performed by After Midnight
The Sands Venue, Gainsborough - Friday 25th July 2008 (LIVE INTERNET BROADCAST)Fabulous Performance at Gainsboroughby Ray Witham (West Sussex)Just had a wonderful Friday evening listening to you and the chaps from the comfort of my front room, had a few friends round and we sung along to Promises and Pretending (one I haven't heard for a while) among other EC greats, superbly done by you and the band. It was great to have you chaps playing literally in house. Just finished listening to my all time favourite "Estonian" tune that I was once told was by the Cheeky Girls... It's been a great performance and we have thoroughly enjoyed it, please keep up the good work.Hope John got over all that Vodka drinking and you'll never beat the Irish for singing along to well known tunes... Please thank Paul, Vince and John again...Until we meet again at a concert or the next Internet broadcast, will definitely invest again thanks for the heads up..."Mike Hall IS Eric Clapton".
P.S. Did join in with Tulsa Time too.All the bestOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
Ray Witham (West Sussex)
performed by After Midnight
Queens Hall, Hexham - Friday 25th January 2008 (SOLD OUT)A Classic double take of Claptonby Jamie Lewis (The Hexham Courant)Mike Hall and the guys have been doing this for 22 years, something that he notes several times from onstage as if he cant quite believe it himself. The sets heavy with his earlier stuff, cherry picking from his time in the Yardbirds, John Mayalls Bluesbreakers, Derek and the Dominoes and his solo singles.The theatre was packed to the gills for the show and the age range of the audience was a testament to Claptons enduring appeal amongst both sexes and all ages.
Vocally, Hall has Clapton nailed. Things started to pick up on their version of All Your Love. The band finally took off when sinking their teeth into Creams I Feel Free. Mike Halls had it easy in comparison. He only has to look, sing and play like Clapton. Vince Mason on drums had to muscle up to Ginger Baker, Aynsley Dunbar and Hughie Flint. However, out of all Claptons drummers, Masons tightly reined-in snare pops and carpet bomb tom rolls brought to mind a well-medicated Jim Gordon. Bassist John Forster had an equally tough line of shoes to step in and out of. He jumped from Carl Radle to Ric Grech and made light work of Jack Bruce.To their credit, the band knocked out some tough numbers with aplomb and even threw in some slightly more obscure Clapton classics for the obsessive fans. That may sound like a contradiction to the casual reader, but Clapton fans know what Im talking about. By the end of the night, there were some fantastic renditions and we were all singing along to Tulsa Time as one. Pedantic niggles were forgotten, grins were plastered across our faces and everyone had forgotten for a few wonderful moments that Mike wasnt actually Eric Clapton. Thanks to After Midnight and their equally talented audience. For one night only, it couldve been the Albert Hall on a Saturday.OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
Reviewed by Jamie Lewis (Hexham Courant)Wonderful Tonight... that's CCby Jon Wallis (The MAGAZINE, Haywards Heath)Not an empty seat in the house and the anticipation growing with After Midnight in mind. The air guitar is perfectly tuned so let it begin. The lights go down and Slow Hand begins his magic. Eric (aka Mike Hall) starts with a couple of classics then comes the blues, and God you can feel the energy and emotion.The first set was full of absolutely amazing tracks from the Blues Breakers through to Cream, each pitched perfectly in its own way.
The interlude beckons and it's time to reflect on the pure brilliance I have seen. But there is still more to come. It is time for the acoustic set. What can I say but "Wow!". Tears in Heaven is a moving track, and tonight it felt like I was the only person in the room and they played it just for me. Hold on, a change of pace and out comes the Fender Strat again. Then it came like a bolt of lightening from the gods that riff from Layla. After Midnight played it perfectly and kicked proverbial butt.Every track was played to perfection. The evening was enjoyed by all, and the After Midnight guys would be welcomed back any time with open arms. If you get the chance to see this brilliant band, take it. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. Reviewed by Jon Wallis (The MAGAZINE, Haywards Heath)OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
performed by After Midnight
Cheltenham Town Hall - Friday 14th January 2005 (SOLD OUT)Reviewed by Ron King (BBC Radio Gloucestershire)When Ron King heard about a Clapton tribute act coming to town, he was sceptical. Could they possibly live up to the work of the guitar legend? When I was told that Eric Clapton tribute act After Midnight were coming to Cheltenham Town Hall, I wondered who could possibly do that successfully? Read on. The stage was set up, the band's instruments ready to go. As expected, Fender Stratocaster guitars (so often seen in Eric's hands) were present and correct.After Midnight soon took to the stage, opening with Crossroads. Guitar vocalist Mike Hall looking and singing like a clone of Clapton. I wondered if he had borrowed Eric's voice for the night.
Loving it As the band warmed up they sounded more and more like Clapton, comprehensively covering most of Eric's hits, obviously well rehearsed and loving the music. All age groups were represented in the audience. Two young girls (who I later found to be sisters) called Emma and Melanie were all but jumping from their seats, totally in awe. We heard many instantly recognisable songs from the days of John Mayall, Cream, Derick and the Dominoes, right up to the present day.Cheers It was clear that everyone enjoyed the night's entertainment. At the end of the night the audience cheered at stamped their feet, demanding an encore. Mike Hall looked and sang just like Clapton, playing great guitar. Although I have yet to hear anyone play quite the same as Eric, tonight was certainly as close as could be expected. As Fiona (my guest for the evening) commented, it really was "wonderful tonight". Reviewed by Ron King (BBC Radio Gloucestershire)OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
performed by After Midnight
Howden Park Centre, Livingston - July 29th 2005 (SOLD OUT)
Reviewed by Graeme Scott (Classic VRN1287 & Blues Matters Magazine)
Mike Hall and his fellow musicians filled this nice medium sized hall in Livingston and played the sounds of classic Eric Clapton to a very appreciative audience. For those of you who bemoan the arrival of 'tribute' acts I say, that if you are selective about which ones you go and see, you can have a cracking good night out. Tonight we were taken through the full range of Eric's career with Mike and the band paying homage to Eric and doing so in great style. The evening was split into three sections. Set one was electric and opened with driving versions of Crossroads, Badge and Lay Down Sally and Hoochie Coochie Man. By now nicely loosened up they continued through Let It Rain, I Feel Free, For Your Love, Bad Love and a very accurate Bell Bottom Blues. Steppin' Out a terrific Wonderful Tonight and White Room brought this first half to a close.
Walking around at the break you could hear the buzz and the positive vibes from the audience as they talked about the band. This was going down well.
I have seen After Midnight before and knew that after the break we were in for an acoustic section and tonight the guys just played so enthusiastically and relaxed that you felt they could do no wrong. The choice of songs in this set is very important as stripping things back to basics exposes any weaknesses in interpretation. Before You Accuse Me, Tears In Heaven, Nobody Knows You, Layla, Change The World and San Francisco Bay Blues had just the right balance to satisfy everyone and it was clear the band were pleased with the reaction. The third and final set was back to electrics again with I Shot The Sheriff, Hideaway, Willie & The Hand Jive, Cocaine, Further on Up The Road, Sunshine Of Your Love and a storming full version of Layla bringing the audience onto their feet demanding more. The band responded with Motherless Children and the sing-along Tulsa (Livingston) Time. Full marks to After Midnight - Mike Hall (guitar & vocals), John Foster (bass & backing vocals), Vince Mason (drums & backing vocals) & Steve Hutchinson (keyboards & backing vocals) for a very tight, entertaining evening of Classic Clapton plus very good sound by Drew Clark of TWS Audio.
Reviewed by Graeme Scott (Classic VRN1287 & Blues Matters Magazine)OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
performed by After Midnight
In Concert at Dean Crowe Theatre, Athlone, Eire - Thursday 11th November 2004
Clapton fans come away happy!
by Christina Kelly
Dean Crowe Theatre was host recently to the music of Eric Clapton, as played by acclaimed tribute band "After Midnight". A good crowd turned up on 11th November, and the band covered a broad playlist of the guitar legend's back catalogue. Mike Hall (an uncanny replica of Eric Clapton) was impressive on lead guitar and vocals and, had you closed your eyes, you may be forgiven for thinking that the great man himself was visiting Athlone. Ex-Animals member Steve Hutchinson blew the crowd away with solos that showed exactly how talented this band are. Bass guitarist John Forster was the butt of many jokes but played to the audience, anticipating how many Guinness he would manage after the show. There was a friendly banter throughout the set, which really endeared this tribute band to those who came to hear their favourite songs. I went with friends - all major Clapton fans - and they too, were convinced. This is a good band. Afterwards, we all agreed that the most notable songs of the evening were the trademark "Cocaine" (which received a revival as a backing track for the acclaimed "Fahrenheit 9/11"), the classic "Layla" (played twice, but the second time nearly blew the roof off the theatre!) and "White Room". There were also a smattering of songs which, on glancing at the playlist, seem unfamiliar, but the second the intro begins, realisation sets in. Although not a die-hard Clapton fan, I recognised - and liked - over 90% of this set.
MEETING ERIC The band formed in 1985, just after Eric Clapton's appearance on Live Aid, and named themselves "After Midnight" - Eric Clapton's first big hit in the States. Initially the band did covers of lots of different artistes, but eventually settled on emulating their idol. "I've always been a big fan", lead singer and guitarist Mike Hall told the Athlone Topic. "I saw Cream play live in 1966 at Newcastle Club a Go Go and I was sold. I've been in and out of bands all of my life, but once I started playing Eric Clapton's music, it all just took off from there - it's our 20th anniversary next year! We've had loads of great reports and established Eric Clapton special nights - long before tribute bands were ever heard of." Mike explained that while they began playing in local pubs and clubs, it wasn't long before they began playing much larger venues. "We first came to Ireland in 2001, and this is our second visit; we'll be playing eight gigs in eleven days this time around." The band are all full-time musicians and say the music comes first. Playing at venues all over the world, the band have seen Eric Clapton fans in all shapes and sizes. Tyne Tees Television were so impressed, they made a programme about them, called "Cover Their Tracks". They filmed the band's concert at a Newcastle Theatre, in front of 600 ecstatic fans. It was broadcast in August 2000 and received rave reviews, leading to national recognition for the band. It was after this that After Midnight decided to call their shows "Classic Clapton performed by After Midnight". "I've met the man himself twice. Once was backstage at the Birmingham NEC, when my friends dared me to knock on the stage door. The security guard answered and said 'Come in Mr Clapton' ". Mike did indeed venture in but the guitar great was more amused than annoyed, and now even owns a copy of After Midnight's tribute CD! Mike has often been confused for his idol by music lovers and has become accustomed for being mistaken for the rock legend. "My friend Alan Clark joined Eric Clapton's band, so I got to meet him again through that. Alan also told Eric what we were doing, and Slowhand went as far as to write me a message of encouragement (written on a Concorde menu!) He's a really nice guy." Eric Clapton has been a major international star since the mid 1960's, when he revolutionised electric guitar playing, with his virtuoso performances in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. He is the only triple inductee into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (as a member of both The Yardbirds and Cream and also as a solo artist). The band are all set for an appearance on TV3's Ireland AM where Mike will play an acoustic song and chat to the hosts about his upcoming dates around the rest of the country. Christina Kelly, Athlone Topic
OoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO CLASSIC CLAPTON
performed by After Midnight
In Concert at The Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne Monday 3rd July, 2000 (sold out)The best of Clapton was played that night. Mike came on with a typically laid back rendition of Crossroads. From Clapton's Cream days there was White Room, Sunshine Of Your Love and my own favourite Badge. All Your Love and Steppin' Out were from his time with John Mayall and Little Wing from his Derek and the Dominoes period. Clapton solo efforts included She's Waiting, Bell Bottom Blues, I Shot The Sheriff, Bad Love, Knockin' On Heaven's Door, Cocaine, Lay Down Sally and of course After Midnight. After the interval, Mike and the band came on for an acoustic set that included Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out, Tears In Heaven and the acoustic version of Layla. Then it was back to good old rock. They finished with the classic rock version of Layla, and returned for the encore with Motherless Children and Tulsa Time. Now there's a nice cross section of music. Mike gave one of his most relaxed and expressive performances. All too often the venue itself makes a gig. Mike clearly loved this venue and responded by giving his fans exactly what they wanted. His singing and guitar work was exceptional. Okay, people will read this and wonder why I'm writing a glowing review on a tribute band, one of many playing gigs today. But before you dismiss them as yet another bunch of wannabies, you should sit and listen to their gigs. These guys are quality musicians playing quality music. Mike does not attempt to emulate Clapton. He's his own man and he puts his own unique stamp on the music he plays. I think Clapton is the greatest guitarist in the world, but because he's had such a varied career, he's played a lot of stuff I don't care for. It's to Mike's credit that he makes everything accessible. As I said before, there's a possible bandwagon coming. The band will be playing more gigs outside the north-east. They've already had one major appearance on TV. Go and see a bit of north-east culture! Mark Iveson, Leisure MagazineOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoOoO
BBC Online Review
Whitley Bay Playhouse, Friday 9th February 2001
by Julie Smith, BBC Tyne Online
''Having established themselves as one of the north east's longest running bands, it seems appropriate that they chose to kick off their national tour, After Midnight at a north east venue. I checked them out at Whitley Bay Playhouse, in early February.
The first thing I noticed when the lights came up was the uncanny similarity of lead singer Mike Hall, to the real Clapton. And, in tribute to the tribute band, the standard of their performance was truly professional. The Clapton copycats belted out classics including Crossroads, Badge, All Your Love and Wonderful Tonight.
The dynamics between the band were excellent. Mike Hall is a true artist with a passion for music. He is not only a great singer, but is also a competent guitarist. He interacted well with his band and the audience.
After the interval and a quick costume change, Mike and the band performed their ''unplugged'' section. The acoustic set included Before You Accuse Me, Tears in Heaven, Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out and Layla (unplugged). This was my favourite section of the gig.
But no time for feeling too mellow, the band swiftly got on their feet to sing a powerful rendition of Cocaine. And it was not just the band that got to their feet.
When I settled in my seat at the Whitley Bay Playhouse, I was unsure as to what the next few hours might bring. Almost two hours and twenty odd songs later, I felt satisfied, I had dispelled some of the rumours about tribute bands. The members of this band are professional, quality musicians and well worth a listen.
The Prince of Wales Centre, Cannock
Saturday 3 March, 2001
Nowadays, many tribute bands manage to look or sound like the original, but can't always do both. What makes Mike Hall special is he looks, sounds AND plays like Clapton. And as one of the punters remarked as he left the theatre - we'll soon need tribute bands to tribute bands.
Mike Hall and his band After Midnight meandered through decades of classics, and slipped in an acoustic section. The Cream section, which included I Feel Free, White Room, and Sunshine of Your Love, was an absolute treat. An almost capacity audience, with a wide-ranging age span enjoyed renditions of Layla, Cocaine, Wonderful Tonight, Lay Down Sally and Tears in Heaven.
What also made the night particularly enjoyable was being able to enjoy a band playing a tribute to someone who's still alive. For once, the audience can leave the theatre after a good night out, which doesn't have to be tinged in sadness.
Quite a few times Mike Hall referred to a Clapton Concert which took place at Birmingham's NEC less than a month ago. And several in the audience had attended that concert. They didn't expect the Prince of Wales, Cannock to recreate that awesome spectacle. But thanks to some excellent musicianship, quality sound by AMCO, and lighting which reflected the mood of the songs, few can have gone home disappointed.
This was the first Classic Clapton concert to take place at the Prince of Wales. The audience and Mike Hall would like a replay next year.
Janet Lee, Chase Post, Thursday 8th March 2001
CLASSIC CLAPTON unplugged!
performed by After Midnight
In Concert at The Live Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne Friday 21 February, 2003 (sold out)
This was my first ever visit to the Live Theatre, and I must say I was very impressed. It is a rather intimate affair that provides the perfect backdrop for an evening of top-notch acoustic music. Sitting down near the bar, I made myself comfortable in anticipation of the show..
After Midnight take the stage. This was the second time I had seen them live, the first being back in November when they had done an excellent 'plugged' set at the Customs House in South Shields. During that gig, they had set aside time to perform a few acoustic numbers, and it was on that premise which found me here tonight, to witness a whole evening of Classic Clapton Unplugged.
The show kicked off with the same song that Eric kicked off his Unplugged album with, the Journeyman classic 'Before You Accuse Me'. Straight away you know where the band are coming from. Mike Hall looks uncannily like the man himself, with his greying beard and black-rimmed glasses and he is complemented by a very tight band in which Ray Snowdon on keyboards excels.
The band immediately found a groove that the audience appreciated. This was not a gig that started quietly and built up, but rather set the standard with the first track and maintained it for the remainder of the evening.
A few of the songs were from Clapton's Unplugged album, but rather than duplicate the old master himself, the band added new songs to the set that Eric had not even performed unplugged before. Tracks like Bell Bottom Blues, Promises, Ramblin' On My Mind and Let It Grow were all given an airing and it was great to hear these numbers stripped down and given the acoustic workout.
The highlight of the evening for me was possibly Old Love, another song from the acclaimed Journeyman album. Here it was Mike's vocals that stood out, accompanied by some sumptuous keyboard playing from Ray Snowdon that sent shivers down your spine.
Mike also excelled on his solo spot during While My Guitar Gently Weeps. It's a difficult song to play at the best of times, and totally unsupported by his band (who were taking a 5 minute break), Mike handled guitar and vocal duties to an incredibly high standard, while the crowd watched in awe.
The funky groove of Change the World was another notable inclusion that really got the crowd going, while Tears In Heaven was the predictable show-stopper that everyone was looking forward to.
The concert closed with Layla, that went a step further than Clapton's unplugged version, by including the famous piano outro. The trading of notes between Mike and Ray was exceptional and a fantastic way to end the set. The crowd's appreciation demanded an encore and we got it in the shape of Wonderful Tonight, with it's emotive guitar playing, and lastly, a Tulsa Time sing-a-long.
On reflection, it was a magical evening, full of wonderful tunes that are increasingly hard to see live these days. To any fans of Eric Clapton, or any aficionados of classic rock and blues, Classic Clapton are an essential band to check out on the live circuit. As far as tribute bands go, there are not many who do it better. Eric Clapton would be proud.Rahul Shrivastava