Music Blu-ray Review: Eric Clapton - Planes, Trains, and Eric

At two hours and 25 minutes (not counting bonus material), this is an epic concert documentary.

By , Contributor
Among the embarrassment of classic rock-oriented riches available from Eagle Rock Entertainment this holiday season is Planes, Trains, and Eric. This 145-minute film combines documentary footage from Eric Clapton’s 2014 Mid and Far East Tour, recent interview footage with Clapton and band mates, and (of course) a lot of excellent concert performances. Personally, I generally prefer a straightforward concert film with any behind-the-scenes material saved for an accompanying documentary piece. But Planes, Trains has a nice, relaxed flow that actually combines the two elements well. It’s subtitled “The Music, The Stories, The People,” and it delivers exactly as promised.

Though never delving especially far below the surface, Clapton shares some interesting thoughts about life on the road at this late stage in his career. We hear from the likes of musicians Paul Carrack, Nathan East, and Steve Gadd, all speaking on the pleasures of playing night after night with a blues rock master like Clapton. The vibe is down-to-Earth and honest, not hung up on any idol worshipping or ego massaging. Musical highlights include a pulsating “Pretending,” an intense workout on “Cocaine,” and a gorgeous “Tears in Heaven.” The Unplugged arrangement is dragged out for “Layla,” which is an obvious crowd-pleaser.

Visually, Eagle Rock’s Blu-ray presentation offers a generally solid, though somewhat mixed, visual experience. The concert footage is sharp, though sometimes bright lighting blows out the contrast a bit (and there’s sometimes a distracting flicker effect on Clapton that is apparently an intentional part of the lighting). The interviews are surprisingly noisy, seemingly a result of being underlit. The audio is offered in DTS-HD MA 5.0 and LPCM 2.0 mixes. After screening the film in DTS-HD, I can attest to the power of the low end—this mix packs a pleasingly floor-thumping wallop. No complaints in terms of audio.

Ten minutes of bonus material includes a discussion of football, a rollicking take on “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” a discussion of “Guitars in the Desert,” and a slow-burn performance of “Alabama Woman Blues.” Each is afforded its own chapter, but if you start at the beginning it will thankfully play through them all. Planes, Trains, and Eric is complemented by a neat little booklet with photos and newly-penned liner notes. Clapton buffs, dig in.

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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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