Earls Court 1998 2nd Night (Beano-060)
Earls Court, London, UK – October 16th, 1998
Disc 1 (62:20): Opening, My Father’s Eyes, Pilgrim, One Chance, River Of Tears, Going Down Slow, She’s Gone, Driftin’, Tears In Heaven, Layla, Change The World
Disc 2 (69:02): Old Love, Crossroads, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, I Shot The Sheriff, Wonderful Tonight, Cocaine, Every Day I Have The Blues (w/B.B. King & Bonnie Raitt), Blues Jam (w/B.B. King & Bonnie Raitt)
Upon the release of Pilgrim in March 1998, his first album of original music since Journeyman in 1989, Eric Clapton toured the US and Canada for several months. He didn’t play in the UK until October and, when the tour visited London for three nights on October 15th, October 16th and October 17th, he played in Earls Court instead of the Royal Albert Hall.
Along with his touring band (Andy Fairweather Low, Nathan East, Alan Darby, Tim Carmon, Kenneth Crouch, Steve Gadd, Katie Kissoon, Chyna, and Charlean Hines), he was supplemented with a 20-piece orchestra with Nick Ingman as conductor during the UK dates only.
Soon after these shows ECEC (Zig Zag Records) was released, a six disc set with the three shows in excellent sound quality. Earls Court 1998 2nd Night (Beano-060) debuts a brand new audience recording. It is an excellent stereo audience recording taped very close to the stage with absolutely no audience interference. There is a small tape defect at 5:12 in “My Father’s Eyes,” but there are no cuts.
The tape opens with the band walking on stage and playing the song from the new album. “Thank you very much… and good evening. We’re gonna do for the first half of the show or third, songs form the album I put out this year Pilgrim. I hope you like it. Then we’ll go back and visit the past. We hope you’ll like that too.”
It’s overall an wonderful performance. In an online review, posed by Jan Armstrong, it’s pointed out that “Eric however, was really chatty all the way through, introducing each of the new songs – explaining that the set was divided into three parts – with the Pilgrim stuff first. He laughed and joked with Nathan and Alan the whole time, and I’ve rarely seen him so cheerful on stage. He was obviously enjoying himself. For those of you are interested he was wearing a blue Nike T-shirt, jeans, and brown suede loafers. He wore his glasses for the Pilgrim set only, and he was clean shaven – a fact that took two whole songs to sink in!!!“
The new songs have a much heavier and more raw quality live than their studio counterparts. Both the title track and “One Chance” are extremely tight and creative. So passionate they are that Clapton jokes, “I hope we don’t ‘peak’ too soon…there’s always a danger of that, you know!”
The come close to peaking too soon with an intense “River Of Tears.” Clapton and East sing in nice vocal harmonies at the end, a nice new arrangement of the piece. The cover tune “Going Down Slow” segues seamlessly into “She’s Gone” where Alan Darby actually upstages the star in the dueling guitars solo in the song’s middle improvisation.
“Drifin'” from From The Cradle starts off a short semi-acoustic interlude in the middle of the show. “Tears In Heaven” receives a big response, as does the unplugged arrangement of “Layla.” Tim Carmon has a nice jazzy little keyboard solo.
“Change The World” starts off with Clapton and East jamming a bit before finding the well-known melody. The orchestra really helps the song, adding a stirring string section to the melody and adding an ephemeral quality to the track. For an acoustic song, it is extremely intense, and in the excellent sound tape one can almost see him bending the strings in the song’s instrumental solo.
A nine and a half minute version of “Old Love” follows. Kenny Crouch dominates the improvisation in the middle, playing first a mellow, jazzy melody before playing in a quicker tempo Latin samba style. Although some criticized this, it fits perfectly with the mood of the piece, which is mean to display the musical interests of the other members of the band.
“Crossroads” is played close to the way Cream played it in the sixties, and it segues directly into “Have You Ever Loved A Woman.” The backing vocals in “I Shot The Sheriff” make it sound close to the Bob Marley original. The orchestra again adds much to the arrangement of “Wonderful Tonight.” Katie Kissoon sings mind blowing vocals in the end, prompting applause from the audience and acknowledgement from Clapton himself.
“Cocaine” closes the set. Before the encores, Clapton strolls back onstage and says “Ladies and gentlemen, Bonnie Raitt and …B.B. King!!!” Instead of “Before You Accuse Me” they rip into “Everyday I Have The Blues” with Clapton and King singing the verses and trading guitar riffs. Afterwards they play a slow blues with Bonnie Raitt making up the lyrics as they go along. It’s a magical moment for an already amazing concert.
Earls Court 1998 2nd Night is packaged in a double slimline with inserts containing several photographs from the event, including the guests during the encore. Given the sound quality and unique performance, this is one of the best Clapton titles to come out in the past couple of months and is worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)