Nectar of life

Music & lyrics
Last Updated : 15 May 2010, 10:58 IST
Last Updated : 15 May 2010, 10:58 IST

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It was like coming out of a long weird dream after landing at Mumbai airport from London, too hard to believe that me and my friends from Belgaum had just attended the last of the great gigs by Guitar Gods — Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck live at the O2, London. It all started off with an SMS from my friend Navin — ‘Pls check u r email’ and I was surprised to get an article on Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton’s concert in Japan and their their next tour starting at the ‘Mecca of Rock’  — London.

I called Navin immediately and told him that we should not miss this concert as this would be the last of the great gigs by guitarist of legendary group, The Yardbirds, the fountain head of supergroups like Cream, Blind faith & Led Zeppelin. Three weeks later we get an email from Dr Shirish, our rocker friend from Edinburgh in Scotland confirming that we had the tickets to the show.

Beatles tour

Soon, me along with my friends Navin, Sunil and Vinod left Mumbai for London. We were surprised to find our friend D Shirish all excited to receive us at the Heathrow airport who had driven all the way from Edinburgh to London (1200 kms) in his Volkswagen SUV, which he called the Magic Bus in which we would be touring UK. With temperatures below zero and a nice chilly breeze wafting by, we soaked in the new scenic landscapes and traffic passing by the highway to Liverpool listening to to music by Allman Brothers, The Grateful Dead, CSNY.

After a six-hour drive, we reached Liverpool — home to The Beatles whose music we had grown up on. We checked into our youth hostels (YHA) and asked the receptionist wether they had any live music playing around Liverpool; she told us that they still have live bands playing at the legendary The Cavern Pub where the Beatles played regularly in the early 60s. The Cavern Pub (as I write this piece) is shifted from the original location, has lots of local bands playing every night and is a breeding ground for artists like Alex Koroner, The Who among others. Dave Murray was the solo artist playing that night, strumming out songs of the Beatles to perfection. We met him outside for a smoke; he was surprised to know that we had come all the way from India to attend the Jeff Beck & Eric Clapton concert. So excited was he that he dedicated the next song All Right Now by The Free to ‘the guys from India’, much to the cheer of the local crowd.     

The next day, we did the ‘Fab Four Beatles Taxi Tour’ that transports you back to childhood — days of The Fab Four, the Penny Lane, strawberry fields, Elenor Rigby’s tombstone and the Beatles story museum at Albert Dock, which takes you on an enlightening and atmospheric journey into the life times ,culture and music of the Beatles. The same evening we left for Edinburgh in Scotland a six-hour drive through the scenic Scottish country side.

It was relaxing and we slept early in our service apartments by the waterfront with a very scenic view of the sea and dock. We also toured the historic city of Edinburgh to see castles, abbeys, towers and tombs with over 5000 years of history to share. We also did the Scotch whisky tour which enlightened us about the making of the ‘nectar of life’. Visiting the fishing town of St Andrews on the eastern coast of Scotland — a scenic town famous for Golf and universities — we enjoyed the famous Fish and Chips in the local pub and returned to Edinburgh the same evening.

Next morning, we caught the flight to London, did some local sightseeing, most memorable of which was the Royal Albert Hall where Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck and The Moody Blues were going to perform soon. We visited some old music stores in Notting Hill run by veteran hippie Bill called Stand Out because it is small, always crowded and boasts of a huge collection of very rare psychedelic music on LPS and CDs ranging from The Velvet Underground to Quicksilver Messenger, original posters from Fillmore East and Avalon Ballroom concerts.

That night we visited ‘Ain’t Know Nothing But...’ on Kingly street with top blues men coming in and jamming the whole night spontaneously to Blues classics like ‘Statesboro Blues’, ‘Crossroads’, ‘Little Red Rooster’ and many more for the audience.

The much-awaited gig

On the day of the gig, we were all charged up; slept all afternoon to be fresh for the big night ahead. We took the underground tube railway to Greenwich. The venue — O2 Arena’s massive Millennium dome, takes you by surprise as you get out of the train station. It was a celebration in more than one way with large crowds and a carnival like atmosphere at the O2.

The biggest celebration by far is the fact that for the third consecutive year, the O2 has been ranked as world’s number one music venue by Pollstar. It has taken the music world by storm with a 60,000 plus capacity and has hosted the world’s best music acts like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and Bob Dylan, and to add to the list, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck.
It was time for the world’s greatest guitarists to take the stage together in the UK after 40 years. The show started at 8 pm sharp to a packed house. Beck opened the show wearing a sleeveless white T-Shirt and shades. The 65-year-old still looked every inch of rock ‘n’ roller and can give new musicians an inferiority complex, as he ploughed through his eclectic set. He was backed by a brilliant band with Rhonda Smith as the lady on bass along with a full orchestra.

He played classics such as ‘Stratts’, ‘Blue Wind’, ‘Led Boots’ in his finger style and the wham-bar technique took us by surprise. Next, Eric Clapton started his acoustic set to perfection, playing classics such as ‘Layla’, ‘Running n Faith’ etc. His electric set was awesome as he played improvised and jam versions of tell the truth, cocaine.

The lights, lasers and sound took the space cowboys trip to ecstasy. There was a break for 15 minutes and we met a crowd mostly in their 40s and 50s and many youngsters sporting T-shirts of Jim Morrision and Jimi Hendrix, paying homage to the ‘gods of guitar’. Finally, the two great musicians came together on stage to a standing ovation from the crowd and started playing to our hearts content classics from  The Yardbirds such as ‘Hi Ho Silver’, ‘Want To Take You Higher’, ‘Brown Birds’ among others. They finally stopped
at around 11 pm with cheers from the crowd as they hugged each other and said goodbye.

If we had ever missed this event, we would repented it all our lives. We came out of the venue with satisfaction and gratitude for the musicians who gave us a life time memory, which will never fade away. A long cherished dream which was never a reality came true for fans like us from India, thanks to our friend Dr Shirish who was a perfect host a wonderful guide all the way. We flew back to India as the first rays of the rising sun dawned upon us. We wondered if such an amazing journey will ever come our way again or was it the last for the flower power generation?

Published 15 May 2010, 10:58 IST

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