Lots Of Smile (Tarantura TCDEC – 47, 48)
Osaka Castle Hall, Osaka, Japan – February 12&13, 2009
Disc1. Opening – Hoochie Coochie Man – Key To The Highway – I Shot The Sheriff – Isn’t It A Pity – Tell The Truth – Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? – Driftin’ Blues – Travellin’ Alone – That’s Alright – Motherless Child – Running On Faith.
Disc2. Motherless Children – Little Queen Of Spades – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine – Crossroads.
Disc3. Opening – Hoochie Coochie Man – Key To The Highway – Tell The Truth – I Shot The Sheriff – Here But I’m Gone – Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad? – Driftin’ Blues – Travellin’ Alone – That’s Alright – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out – Running On Faith.
Disc4. Motherless Children – Little Queen Of Spades – Before You Accuse Me – Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine – Crossroads – SE – Announcement.
“Lots Of Smile” is Tarantura’s document of the first two shows that EC played on his Japan Tour of 2009. EC had last toured Japan in late 2006 when he performed a series of 18 shows from Nov 11th until Dec 9th. 2009’s has been EC’s smallest Tour of Japan since 1995 with a mere 11 shows performed, two of them sharing the bill with Jeff Beck as a co-headliner.
The band remains unchanged from last Summer’s Tour – Abe Laboriel Jr. on drums, Doyle Bramhall II on guitar&vocals, Willie Weeks on bass, Chris Stainton on keyboards and Sharon White & Michelle John on backing vocals – but the setlist does bring surprises like Travellin’ Alone, That’s Alright and Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, all new to EC’s live repertoire.
The show on the first night opens with extended renditions of Hoochie Coochie Man and Key To The Highway, with solos from Doyle, Chris and, needless to say, EC himself. I Shot The Sheriff follows and sees EC screwing up one of the first verses. The song has a relaxed groove until it’s time for one of the best solos in the show. George Harrison’s always beautiful Isn’t It A Pity is a song that used to come and go from the setlist on the Summer Tour of 2008 and was given pretty much the same treatment on this tour. Tell The Truth lifts things a bit with some great playing by EC and Doyle. Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad features both a brilliant solo from our man and also a gentle three-minute outro full of wonderful whispers.
Then it’s acoustic time. Driftin’, featuring an extended intro, is played by EC on his own. It is a fact that EC rarely addresses the audience but I am very surprised that EC didn’t speak to the Japanese audience at all, except for konbanha! at the beginning of the show and domo’s and thank you’s. I think there were quite a few occassions when he could have elaborated something, if only a little (i.e. EC could have introduced the obscure blues number Travelin’ Alone , which he had never played live before and is absolutely outstanding. Apparently, Travelin’ Alone appeared on an album called Lil’ Son Jackson Rockin’ And Rollin’ Vol. 1 (1948-1950) on Document Records…. but still its composer was not credited at all(!!)). That’s Alright (aka Who’s Loving You Tonight) is the second surprise of the night. This is a blues number that EC used to play back in the mid 80’s and it’s good to see him revisiting it these days in acoustic mode. I keep enjoying Motherless Child but I would prefer EC to replace it by another obscure blues number like Travelin’ Alone to widen my musical knowledge. Chris Stainton’s piano work shine on Runnin’ On Faith as well as Doyle’s electric outro does.
Motherless Children is the great upbeat slide number from the 461 Ocean Boulevard album which will make you jump before things are cooled down with the blues centerpiece of the night: a stunning performance of Little Queen Of Spades. This song has been part of EC’s live repertoire since 2004 and with a rendition like this it is easy to understand why. The last surprise of the night is Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, which sees its way onto the setlist in place of Bo Diddley’s Before You Accuse Me.
Got to love the way EC sings the verse “she’ll help me to bed” on Wonderful Tonight and when I listen to the last notes that he plays at the end I can only think of how sweet songs like Tell Me That You Love Me or Don’t Know Why would sound like… Layla proves EC is human with some apparent mistakes on the intro….. Anyway,whether they are real mistakes or not, I just love that intro so much that I admit to have played it a few times!! Cocaine features a soaring solo from EC before Doyle and Chris take their share of the spotlight. Domo arigato is the only thing EC says before leaving the stage and returning for the encore. The show finishes off with a hard rocking version of Crossroads – the only song from the Cream days to be performed.
The second show opens pretty much the same way as the first one did: EC says konbanha! before launching into extended versions of Hoochie Coochie Man and Key To The Highway. EC steals Tell The Truth with a rocking solo. Tonight’s Sheriff is better than last night’s as EC throws in one of those solos that made him a guitar legend. Next in the setlist is a great cover of Curtis Mayfield’s Here But I’m Gone which sees its debut on the Japan Tour. EC had never played this song before the 2008 Summer Tour when he gave it an air for the first time and it seems he is not disatisfied in any way with it. With renditions like this one, we are not either – that’s for sure!! Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad is a joy to listen to, from beginning to end – from Eric’s solo to the guitar duelling between EC and Doyle on the outro.
Now it’s time for the acosutic part of the show. Driftin’, Travelin’ Alone and That’s Alright are played in the same running order as the previous night. The difference is there is no Motherless Child tonight but we get the jazzier Nobody Knows You instead, which gives both Doyle and Chris much more room to shine on their instruments. Doyle does a great job (again!!) on Runnin’ On Faith where EC sings his heart out, by the way.
The powerful Motherless Children and solid Little Queen Of Spades – even more extended than the previous night – preceed Before You Accuse Me, which features solos by Doyle and Chris on the first half of the song, with EC just saving for himself the final part of the song. Wonderful Tonight sees EC sing the verse “she’ll help me to bed” exactly the same as the previous night and I enjoy it again. Layla is immaculate tonight and so is Cocaine, with a great guitar work from Doyle using a wah–wah pedal for his solo. Talk wise as limited as usual, EC farewells the audience saying “Domo arigato! Thank you! Good Night!” before he returns to the stage for the encore. Disc4 captures the immediate moments after the show in which you will hear some announcements in Japanese over Long Road, the main theme from the OST Cal by Mark Knopfler!
“Lots Of Smile” is a 4CD box set featuring a picture of EC in the front – presumably from one of the shows in Osaka – along with his main gear during the tour: a Daphne Blue signature Stratocaster. No inserts of any kind but still a nice box set, which is numbered and limited to 200 copies only. Needless to say the quality of the tapes is as good as you would expect from an audience recording in Japan in 2009. Satisfaction is guaranteed.
If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)