Personnel: Eric Clapton (vocals, guitar); Doyle Bramhall II (guitar, background vocals); Derek Trucks (slide guitar); Chris Stainton, Tim Carmon (keyboards); Steve Gordon (drums); Sharon White, Michelle John (background vocals).
Audio Mixer: Simon Climie.
Recording information: The Ipayone Center, San Diego, California (03/15/2007).
Eric Clapton recorded The Road to Escondido, a collaborative effort with his laconic idol J.J. Cale, in 2006 but the pair didn't play supporting concerts due to Cale's aversion of touring. He wound up showing up for one show: a date near his home in San Diego, playing five songs on March 15, 2007 at the iPayOne Center. That guest set forms the heart of 2016's Live in San Diego, a double-disc live album released three years after Cale's death. Effectively, this marks Clapton's second tribute to Cale since J.J.'s passing -- in 2014, he assembled The Breeze: An Appreciation of J.J. Cale -- but this brief mid-concert set perhaps illustrates the love and affection between the two men better than either The Breeze or The Road to Escondido. Mainly relying on chestnuts (although the new "Anyway the Wind Blows" kicks off the set), the chemistry is there along with a palpable affection between the two musicians, with Clapton following Cale's lazy lead. It provides a nice contrast to the heavy blues that dominates the rest of the album. Working with a band featuring guitarists Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks plus drummer Steve Jordan, Clapton opens up with no less than five Derek & the Dominos numbers -- including "Got to Get Better in a Little While," not released while the band was active -- and then concludes with a bunch of blues covers (Robert Cray shows up for a closing "Crossroads"), along with his own "Wonderful Tonight" and "Layla," the only two big hits on the album. That kind of crowd-pleasing isn't part of the intention of this particular concert. Instead, Clapton decides to devote the majority of his set list to the guitar, which helps offset the easy-rolling grooves of the Cale showcase. Combined, it amounts to one of his most satisfying live albums. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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