Mission Estate Winery Concert promoters are predicting a sellout in the wake of the announcement guitar legend Eric Clapton will be taking centrestage in Napier next January.
It will be Clapton's only New Zealand performance as part of his massive world tour, which is receiving rave reviews.
When tickets go back on sale to concert club members only from noon tomorrow it is expected frantic inquiries will come in from Kaitaia to Bluff.
The 61-year-old blues and rock icon, nicknamed "Slowhand", signed on the dotted line about a fortnight ago, and a delighted Mission chief, Peter Holley, and Sport and Entertainment's manager of operations, Garry Craft, made the official announcement today.
Getting an artist of Clapton's stature was a major coup in what was a tough business, Mr Craft said.
"January 27 will be his only New Zealand appearance, then he is off to Australia," he said.
SEL managing director James Erskine said the status of the annual concert, now in its 15th year, was reflected in its being able to get hold of an artist of Clapton's stature.
"Artists have told us of the fantastic feeling they get on stage here," Mr Craft said. "This concert is unique, it is a total package, and I'm sure Eric will enjoy it."
The promoters were able to secure an early signing as Clapton's world tour was bringing him down under during summer. They began negotiations last November. Clapton is presently taking a break after a string of concerts in the US and next month will begin the European leg.
Clapton has been touring with a backing band which includes fellow ace guitarists Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II, with The Robert Cray Band as the opening act.
Mr Craft said the lead-in acts to Clapton's Napier concert had not been finalised and would have to be approved by Clapton's management.
This year's concert headliners, Olivia Newton-John and Chris De Burgh, failed to fire the crowd. But Clapton's show will be more closely aligned to what Rod Stewart's, with a mix of rock, blues and quiet numbers.
The Surrey-born musician started out in 1963 with blues-orientated rock band The Yardbirds, before joining John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers in 1965.
A year later, in what was arguably one of the first supergroups, he joined with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to form Cream. Iconic songs such as White Room and Crossroads followed, and adulation for Clapton's guitar playing was at its height.
He later played with Blind Faith, before shifting to the US and stepping into the background as a member of Delaney and Bonnie and Friends. He moved on to form Derek and The Dominos and created one of the great anthems of the era in Layla.
As a solo performer, he struggled with drugs and alcoholism and supported the creation of The Crossroads Centre - a drug/alcohol rehab centre. He has also supported charity and relief-fund concerts.
He is a Grammy Award winner and has an unprecedented three inductions into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It will be Clapton's first New Zealand stage appearance, although he has visited for trout fishing.
* Ticket prices are $98 for general admission, $185 for reserved seating, and a package of four reserve seats and car parking will cost $780.
- HAWKE'S BAY TODAY