Sometimes, it is difficult to separate the art from the artist. In a time of – rightly – increased sensitivity and more care and consideration for our fellow man, the so-called ‘cancel culture’ has pulled countless stars off their pedestals. But Eric Clapton has remained invincible. From his horrific, racist tirade in 1976 to his aggressive anti-vax and anti-lockdown stance of recent years with oodles of controversy in between, the man remains an untouchable figure in British music – as is evident in this new release of his ‘Lockdown Sessions’.
After the music industry took a massive hit during the pandemic and all live shows were cancelled, many took to recording/broadcasting performances from home – the star-studded One World: Together at Home concert being perhaps the most popular example of this. Clapton has done the same thing, with this new album/film release of an intimate, stripped back performance of some of his greatest hits and deeper cuts.
There’s no denying the performance is solid and that Clapton is a remarkable musician. It is just so difficult to get past the controversy and truly enjoy his work the same way we can with less problematic musicians. Music is such a deeply personal thing for people to connect to, and Clapton’s vile and totally uninformed comments over the years make it difficult to connect with him. And this hasn’t gone unnoticed by others – Rolling Stone reported “despite being virulently against the concept of Covid-19 lockdowns — and spreading ridiculous claims about vaccines — Eric Clapton has gone ahead and announced his very own lockdown album”. It’s difficult to get behind this and not balk at the hypocrisy.
Special mention should go to Clapton’s band. Chris Stainton (keyboards), Nathan East (bass and vocals) and Steve Gadd (drums) are all fantastic, and given plenty of opportunities to shine. The visual recording also looks stunning, especially in 4K, while the audio mix is absolutely mesmerising – the Blu-ray and 4K include three options; Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and LPCM 2.0, and each are reference quality in their fidelity.
But ultimately, it’s difficult to ignore the hypocrisy of The Lady in the Balcony or separate it from Clapton’s controversy. Fans of the musician will be thrilled with this incredible release – available on a wide range of formats from vinyl to 4K UHD and everything in between. But for naysayers or those who remain on the fence regarding the artist, whether due to his talent or his behaviour, will probably not be won over.