Forever, for Eric Clapton, is apparently a relative term. No doubt to the delight of his fans, Ol' Slowhand's 2001 "farewell" tour was really just his way of saying "See you later."
Clapton hit the road again last month, kicking things off with the three-day Crossroads Guitar Festival in Dallas. It was a megafeast of vintage-guitar exhibits, clinics, and jams manned by a spectrum of Clapton's favorite players (from Robert Lockwood to Pat Metheny), with a Who's Who lineup packed in between. The fest and ensuing tour have shaken loose some serious jack in the name of Clapton's pet charity: the Crossroads Centre, the addiction-treatment center he established in Antigua in 1998. Crossroads was also the beneficiary of an auction of axes donated by Clapton and friends at Christie's New York during the tour's Madison Square Garden stop; a $7 million-plus take was highlighted by the price paid for "Blackie," Clapton's vintage '57 Stratocaster, which reportedly garnered $959,500.
Clapton's return to the stage coincides with another of his periodic returns to the blues for inspiration. And thanks to the tour, his recently released tribute/romp Mr. Johnson and Me has enjoyed a second wind on the Billboard album chart. Next time Slowhand says he's done, don't believe him.