An Exceptional Legacy (Beano-052)
After videotaping his “Unplugged” special and warm up dates in the UK, including those in Birmingham and Sheffield, Eric Clapton continued his annual series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Twelve nights were scheduled before two final UK dates in Glasgow and his first US tour in two years.
The focus of these shows were the newly written acoustic songs for the television special. However, the bulk of the set relied upon tracks from his previous album Jouneyman, songs from this mid-eighties output and a generous dose of Cream and solo classics from the seventies.
Unlike the previous two years, where he made a return to his blues roots, the styles chosen for these concerts show a conscious attempt to avoid the blues and to emphasize other styles. Even “Crossroads,” the Robert Johnson cover, is played more rock than blues.
Unlike other years, these RAH shows have received scant attention from silver bootleg manufactures. The first and fifth nights (February 12th and 17th) were pressed by Silver Horse records (using appallingly bad audience tapes) and represent the extent to which these shows are available.
An Exceptional Legacy presents four of the twelve from very good to excellent audience recordings. None of these shows have been pressed onto silver before and represent a very good cross section of the Royal Albert Hall run of shows. They were made by the same taper who recorded the Birmingham and Sheffield shows which Beano also pressed and they have similar dynamics.
Exceptional Legacy Vol. 1 (Beano-052)
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – February 14th, 1992
Disc 1 (74:10): Opening, White Room, Pretending, I Shot The Sheriff, Anything For Your Love, Running On Faith, She’s Waiting, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Tearing Us Apart, Before You Accuse Me
Disc 2 (65:25): Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love
The first volume of An Exceptional Legacy contains the St. Valentine’s day show, February 14th. This is the third show of the twelve and the sound quality is very good, similar to the second Sheffield show. The set list is similar too except that “My Father’s Eyes,” played in the first two Royal Albert Hall shows, has been dropped. It would be played again on the twenty-fourth, but wouldn’t be played live again until the Pilgrim tour in 1998.
Because of the omission, this is the shortest of the twelve, clocking in at just over two hours.
After “She’s Waiting,” Clapton jokes around with the crowd, telling them “we’ll take a breather and sit down. It’s hot tonight, innit??”
At the end of the show, when they start to play “Wonderful Tonight,” Clapton finally acknowledges the signifacne of the day, saying “I’d like to dedicate this song, on Valentine’s day, to Steve Ferrone and Amanda who got engaged today and shortly to be married.”
The show ends with “Layla” and with the encore section of “Crossroads” and “Sunshine Of Your Love” including the drum and percussion solos. This is a good show, but much like first Sheffield it tends to drag along on autopilot.
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – February 18th, 1992
Disc 3 (70:55): Opening, White Room, Pretending, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Running On Faith, She’s Waiting, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Malted Milk, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Tearing Us Apart
Disc 4 (77:15): Before You Accuse Me, Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love
February 18th is documented with another very good recording which captures the atmosphere of the show excellently. It has a bit more echo than the February 14th show, but has a much better live sound. The only issue is the in “Tears In Heaven” and “Signe.”
The taper has problems with his recorder during those two songs and they are barely audible on the tape. Things clear up afterwards, however, and the rest of the concert is crystal clear.
Clapton sings the opening songs with much passion and energy, especially “Pretending.” He can also make his guitar sing like in a gorgeous performance of “Running On Faith.”
The unplugged section of the set was expanded in the February 17th show with the addition of two shows from the television special. The first is the Robert Johnson cover “Malted Milk.” It’s played in the exact same arrangement as it would be played in the From The Cradle tour in 1994.
The second is an acoustic arrangement of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” another song from the “Unplugged” special. Both numbers receive a loud ovation and will remain in the set for the rest of the RAH concerts and Glasgow, but will be dropped for the European and American dates later in the year.
The latter half of the show is also very strong. Clapton has a lot of fun in “Before You Accuse Me,” and the entire band take their turns in both “Old Love” and “Badge.”
An Exceptional Legacy Vol. 2 (Beano-052)
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – February 22nd, 1992
Disc 5 (70:11): Opening, White Room, Pretending, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Running On Faith, She’s Waiting, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Malted Milk, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Tearing Us Apart
Disc 6 (79:55): Before You Accuse Me, Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Band Introduction, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love
The set list for the two shows in the second volume are identical. Both include the long acoustic section and both lack “My Father’s Eyes.” The sound quality for both is also identical: very good to borderline excellent with exceptional atmosphere.
February 22nd is the seventh RAH show, right in the middle of the set. The band attain a high level of professional slickness with very little left for individual improvisation.
Nevertheless the emotional weight carried by Clapton’s vocals and soloing sets these shows apart and stamps them with individuality. At the opening of the show they play a hostile version of “White Room” with Clapton practically sneering the lyrics.
“Anything For You Love” drags across the stage and “I Shot The Sheriff” is very long with some of Clapton’s most creative heavy metal riffing. But also quite beautiful is the soft “Running On Faith.”
At the end of the show the normally reserved RAH audience become very much engaged in the music, cheering along to “Layla” and the percussion solos in the long encore set. It’s a great show even though it’s lacking in rarities.
Royal Albert Hall, London, England – February 23rd, 1992
Disc 7 (70:24): Opening, White Room, Pretending, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Running On Faith, She’s Waiting, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Malted Milk, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Tearing Us Apart
Disc 8 (79:55): Before You Accuse Me, Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Band Introduction, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love
February 23rd is the eight RAH. Like the other three shows, this is the first time it’s been issued on silver pressed CD before. There is a small cut before “Circus Left Town” eliminating some of Clapton’s introduction. It’s a professional performance and is notable for a very long dramatic pause in “Badge.”
This was a strange time for Clapton, who was less than a year from the death of his son Conor and his process of grief. It produced many beautiful tunes of introspection which leads to the ineluctable conclusion that his pain spurred great creativity.
An Exceptional Legacy is packaged in two fatboy jewel cases which are housed in a slip cover to store them all together. A little paragraph is printed on the back of the slipcase. Beano extended a lot of effort in manufacturing and releasing these shows from Clapton’s “Unplugged” period. For many and various reasons they have been very scarce in the past with only a handful of representatives.
For Clapton collectors, this is a great collection of newly released tapes.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)