Eric Clapton / Steve Winwood

Live from Madison Square Garden [2 DVD]

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Eric Clapton's new millennium has largely been defined by collaborations with friends, beginning with a duet album with B.B. King following through with a Cream reunion and closing with tours with his former Blind Faith running mate, Steve Winwood. Clapton and Winwood did three concerts together at Madison Square Garden in February 2008 and the results were fruitful enough to spawn this double-disc album -- along with its accompanying DVD set -- and a moderately scaled 2009 tour. Live from Madison Square Garden culls 21 highlights from those three nights and spreads them over two discs, sequencing the songs so Traffic numbers alternate with selections from Blind Faith, Derek & the Dominos, blues standards, a handful of Clapton's hits, and a heavy dose of Hendrix, who has no less than three songs here. That extended salute to Jimi is a good indication of the vibe here -- this is a genuine shared co-billing with Clapton and Winwood trading vocals and solos almost equally. There's not much ego here and not much hunger, either, with the two stars sliding into a relaxed groove that yields plenty of rewards. There's a comfortable touch to their playing that's greatly appealing, and the straightforward setting places the spotlight directly on their interplay. Clapton and Winwood might roll easy but they can still create some sparks, sometimes in unexpected places, such as the somewhat forgotten '80s hits "Forever Man" and "Split Decision," both which are highlights here. Ultimately, this isn't an album of moments, but rather a sustained whole that finds Clapton and Winwood egging each other on to produce a wholly satisfying, if not quite surprising, reunion. [A DVD version was also released,]

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