Two Birds From The Yard (Tarantura TCCEDJB – 1, 2)
Both Eric Clapton’s and Jeff Beck’s stylistic development over forty years have been divergent bordering on being complete opposites. While Clapton has become much more orthodox in playing the blues, Beck has never shied away from playing free-form improvisational jazz fusion. Yet they are bound together simply because they both played in the same band forty years ago The Yardbirds, and neither were in the band for a long time.
Given the contrast of their styles, it is remarkable hearing them play together. They guested at each others shows over the years including the ARMS tour and during Beck’s run of shows at Ronnie Scott’s at in the end of 2007, but the two shows in Saitama were the first time they shared a bill together.
The significance of these two shows is not lost on the unofficial labels attested by the numerous different editions. Since these are contemporary shows, the various releases don’t simply regurgitate the same old tape sources with different remastering, but rather all use their own unique recording. Two Birds From The Yard on Tarantura offers the two shows in deluxe packaging from the same taper who produced numerous Clapton tapes over the past twenty years beginning with the Clapton / Harrison tour in 1991. His work is characterized by the use of excellent DAT tapes and by trying to capture the entire experience of attending a concert in Japan, so the opening announcements, closing announcements and travel home are all audible.
Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – February 21st, 2009
Disc 1 (79:27), Jeff Beck Set: announcement, turn off the lights, JB appears, The Pump, You Never Know, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, Stratus, Angel Footsteps, Led Boots, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat / Brush With The Blues, Freeway Jam, Blue Wind, A Day In The Life, band introduction, Peter Gunn Theme, SE / announcement
Disc 2 (63:34), Eric Clapton set: interval, turn off the lights, EC appears, Driftin’ Blues, Layla, Motherless Child, Running On Faith, Tell The Truth, Little Queen Of Spades, Before You Accuse Me, Cocaine, Crossroads, SE / announcement
Disc 3 (61:56), Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck Set: Opening, You Need Love, Listen Here, Compared To What, Here But I’m Gone, Outside Woman Blues, Brown Bird, Wee Wee Baby, Want To Take You Higher, Announcement, Goods Information, Concert Information, Goods Information, concert Information, Cleaning Job, Goods Information, Concert Information, Announcement, Leaving from Arena, Tour Book Stand, CD Stand, Return Cameras, Leaving through Gate A, CD Stand, KEYAKI-HIROBA3
This was the first of two shows at the Saitama Super Arena. As this was a weekend show, it started at 5PM, which is typical of Japanese concerts. The tape for the first Saitama show is and excellent stereo DAT recording. It begins with the opening announcement and with Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue” played over the PA before Jeff Beck walks onstage. Both artists had to pare down their setlists to fit the format and whereas Beck opened his solo gigs in Japan with “Beck’s Bolero,” in Saitama he opens with “The Pump” followed by the funky “You Never Know.” Tal Wilkenfeld tends to overshadow the rest of the band as she delivers a lyrical bass solo in “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers.”
The final song of the short set is the instrumental cover “A Day In The Life” with Beck’s singing guitar taking the place of the voice. The original set list as printed for the stage included two additional songs, “Big Block” and “Where Were You,” which would have followed but were dropped. A fun version of the “Peter Gunn Theme” is the only encore performed. The disc ends with a the twenty minute intermission between the two sets, hearing the audience mill around the arena while they wait for Clapton.
Clapton begins his set with three solo acoustic numbers, the cover “Driftin’ Blues,” the “Unplugged” acoustic arrangement of “Layla” and the Barbecue Bob cover “Motherless Child.” The centerpiece of the set comes with intricate versions of “Tell The Truth” and “Little Queen Of Spades,” the latter lasting more then thirteen minutes long.
Disc three picks up the show where Beck comes on stage and plays with Clapton’s band. It is a small pity that Beck’s bassist Wilkenfeld didn’t also add to the jam session on stage. Their first collaborative number is a Clapton-oriented number, the Willie Dixon blues cover “You Need Love.” A Beck oriented song “Listen Here” follows, sounding much more jazzy than its predecessor and segues directly into the Gene McDaniels cover “Compared To What?”
“Here But Gone” is the hip Curtis Mayfield tune which Clapton has been covering on his current tour. Clapton plays a perfunctory solo but Beck truly takes off with several interesting developments of the main theme. “Outside Woman Blues” is the old “Blind Willie” Reynolds tune which Cream used to cover. The evening ends with a cover of the Sly And The Family Stone song “Want To Take You Higher,” an interesting and appropriate closer to a truly unique evening. As good as the first show is, the second evening is much tighter and interesting.
Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – February 22nd, 2009
Disc 1 (79:15) Jeff Beck Set: Announcement, Turn Off The Lights, JB appears, The Pump, You Never Know, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, Stratus, Angel Footsteps, Led Boots, Goodbye Pork Pie Hat – Brush With The Blues, Freeway Jam, A Day In The Life, Big Block, Where Were You, Peter Gunn Theme, SE / Announcement
Disc 2 (59:38) Eric Clapton Set: interval, turn off the lights, EC appears, Driftin’ Blues, Layla, Motherless Child, Running On Faith, Tell The Truth, Key To The Highway, I Shot The Sheriff, Wonderful Tonight, Cocaine, Crossroads, SE / Announcement
Disc 3 (79:19) Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck Set: Opening, You Need Love, Listen Here, Compared To What, Here But I’m Gone, Outside Woman Blues, Brown Bird, Wee Wee Baby, Want To Take You Higher, Announcement, Concert Information, Concert Information, Concert Information, Concert Information, Concert Information, Announcement, Leaving from Arena, CD Stand, Leaving through Gate A, CD Stand, KEYAKI-HIROBA, JR Saitama Shin-toshin St., Examination of tickets, The Keihin-Tohoku Line, Train time
The first Saitama show was great but the second one has already ascended into legendary status with one reviewer calling it the single greatest concert to be performed in Japan. Hyperbole aside, it is a much more polished, tighter, and interesting performance in yet another excellent recording capturing every detail from the stage. Like the first night, the taper turned the recording on five minutes before the show and kept it running until he boarded the train back home. The pre-Jeff Beck set music played over the Super Arena’s PA is Bob Dylan’s “Silvio” this time.
Jeff Beck’s set is similar to the previous evening’s except the two songs that were dropped, “Big Block” and “Where Were You” were added after “A Day In The Life.” The weight of the set rests in the final numbers beginning with Wilkenfeld taking control of the instrumental improvisation around the “Freeway Jam” melody. Clapton’s set begins with the same five opening song in the same arrangements as the first show. “Key To The Highway,” “I Shot The The Sheriff” and a quick tempo arrangement of “Wonderful Tonight” replace “Little Queen Of Spades” and “Before You Accuse Me.”
There is no change in the final third of the show when Beck joins Clapton’s band onstage for a collection of well played covers. It is fascinating to hear the seven minute long “Brown Bird” where Clapton takes off in a blues Nirvana but Beck following suit in imitation (or celebration?) of Clapton’s style of blues. The disc ends with the taper leaving the arena and going home on the train. Each of the two concerts is housed in a tri-fold gatefold sleeve which is enclosed in a thick glossy box with a magnetic seal. It sold out on the day of its release on April 11th. There are many great tapes floating around of these two concerts and these rank among the best available.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)