Not all that much happens other than the music, itself during Eric Clapton’s sit-down performance filmed and recorded at Cowdray House, a splendorous old estate tucked away in the sedate English countryside. Apart from the aerial shots of the beautifully bucolic surroundings, Clapton walking the manicured grounds, and the scenes of a very deliberate load-in- careful not to ding, dent, or scratch anything in the stately manor- Clapton and his band substitute their annual celebratory run at London’s Royal Albert Hall with a simpler concept: a mild and mostly acoustic showing among the antiquities.
It’s probably, in context, just the diversion Clapton needed in the winter of 2021, and he conveys as much in his choice of relocation and repertoire (and footwear: soft, comfortable moccasin slippers, by the looks of things). The famed musician had taken his share of knocks over the past year- granted, some self-inflicted- with his stance on the pandemic, lockdowns, and the vaccine. Supporting himself with his loyal and longtime bandmates, Nathan East, Steve Gadd, and Chris Stainton, getting away from it all seemed like the right call. He’s relaxed and generally content with the relief of just playing music, offering touching tributes to Peter Green (“Black Magic Woman”) and dedicating the release to the session’s lone audience member: wife, Melia.
The set moves through Clapton’s full career, touching on his eternal affinity for the blues and for the country-dusted work of J.J. Cale, as well as his more recent output that focuses on Clapton the emotive singer rather than blazing guitarist. There are gracefully restrained renditions of “River of Tears” and “Tears in Heaven,” plus a take on “Layla” that updates and echoes the now-immortalized version from his multi-platinum, Grammy-winning Unplugged album; ground zero for Clapton’s shift from fiery Brit guitar god to more of an English gentleman crooner. The former does show up at times when Slowhand plugs-in on a few numbers, but mostly, this is Clapton as a tastefully aging master away on (imposed) holiday.