Eric Clapton's concert at the Baltimore Civic Center last night was a distinct disappointment compared to his exhilarating 1983 tour. Two years ago the British guitarist responded to an all-star band with inspired, subtle playing that brought out the best of his blues and country roots. Last night there was no Albert Lee to challenge him, and Clapton played crowd-pleasing pop-rock arrangements rather matter-of-factly.

Though Clapton played with the same rhythm section as before, the new arrangements restrained Jamie Oldaker, Donald Dunn and Chris Stainton to simple, thudding riffs. Clapton played his usual fluid guitar solos but seemed to favor flash over substance. Some of his new songs, especially "Forever Man," had appealing melodic hooks, but others, like "Never Make You Cry," seemed to drag on endlessly.

Much better was the opening set by Graham Parker & the Shot. Some of Parker's newer songs, especially "Life Gets Better" and his new single, "Wake Up (Next to You)," have to rank among his best compositions. Instead of his old sputtering anger, Parker sang with a more subtle, more expressive control. Brinsley Schwarz added the best guitar solos of the night. Eric Clapton will perform at the Merriweather Post Pavilion June 27.