Various Artists

A Concert By The Lake

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This two-hour show recorded at Wintershell Estate in Surrey, England is a yearly event, assembled and hosted by by Procol Harum's Gary Brooker, to raise funds for health-oriented charities. This one took place somewhere in the mid-2000s (liner notes are nearly nonexistent for this and other specifics, such as the non-superstar bandmembers) and featured Eric Clapton, who pretty much steals the show from the rest of the guests such as Katie Melua, Queen's Roger Taylor, Ringo Starr, Paul Carrack, and a reticent Mike Rutherford, who hardly seems plugged in, either physically or psychologically. There are highlights, but considering the firepower involved, it's a somewhat disappointing show. Things get off to a spirited start with a crackling instrumental run-through of the Champs' "Tequila" followed by a pretty good Paul Carrack-sung Mike + the Mechanics track, and then four songs featuring Clapton. Even with his typically low-key presence, Slowhand raises the stakes considerably with a bluesy "Reconsider Baby," a jaunty "Lay Down Sally," and a jumpy "Willie and the Hand Jive." His lead guitar on Carrack's Ace-era evergreen "How Long" helps make it arguably the disc's finest moment. The proceedings slow considerably with folk-jazz vocalist Katie Melua's short set, and come to a screeching halt with a trio of momentum-killing Roger Taylor ballads. Queen's drummer turned frontman and Melua are better known in the U.K., so perhaps their presence is warranted, but neither seems inspired. Starr gamely runs through three crowd-pleasing hits on autopilot. They generate a singalong reaction from the high-end attendees, almost all in tuxedos and evening gowns, but don't register as more than blandly pleasant to the home audience of geezers. Clapton returns for a rugged "Stormy Monday" with legendary U.K. trombonist Chris Barber distracting attention with his horn more than contributing to the mood. The guitarist then introduces the Drifters and a quartet of youngish, red-suited men (none old enough to be an original member) try to motivate a singalong to "Under the Boardwalk" and a gospel-infused "Stand by Me." Clapton runs through "Cocaine" for the umpteenth time and the show ends with everyone contributing to a turgid version of Genesis' "I Can't Dance." It's a strange, even bizarre choice for a set closer and it never ignites. The high-definition Blu-ray presentation and camera work are crisp and clear, the Surround Sound audio well mixed, and the backing band (which includes veterans such as drummer Henry Spinetti, Andy Fairweather Low, and a trio of comely female backing vocalists) is solid. Still, with this lineup there should be more fireworks than just those shot off behind the stage during the finale. About half is good enough to justify your time, but despite its charitable intentions, this remains a missed musical opportunity that was probably more fun to experience in person.

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