Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – Royal Faith Nights (Beano-043)

Royal Faith Nights (Beano-043)

Eric Clapton’s rifling through his past collaborations and bands brought a well publicized Cream reunion in 2005, shows with Jeff Beck in Japan and London, and a half-Blind Faith reunion with Steve Winwood in 2008 and 2009. The final five of the eleven Clapton concerts at the Royal Albert Hall were another go round with Winwood, again resurrecting the great Blind Faith classics from 1969.

While some reviewers suggest that the “wow” factor was gone, they were given several concerts of sublime playing and expert musicianship.  Royal Faith Nights is a six disc title containing audience recordings for three of the five Winwood shows. 

The taper for these three concerts is the same one who taped recent Clapton & Beck, Roger Waters and Paul McCartney shows in London (and available on Two Gunslingers In The O2 (Beano-034), Defining Moment (Sigma 68), and Live At The Apollo London (no label) respectively).  And just like the other releases, all three of the Clapton / Winwood concerts in this collection are amazing quality stereo audience recordings.  

Royal Albert Hall, London, UK – May 26th, 2011

Disc 1 (53:03):  Opening, Had To Cry Today, Low Down, After Midnight, Presence Of The Lord, Glad, Well Alright, Hoochie Coochie Man, While You See A Chance, Key To The Highway, Midland Maniac

Disc 2 (63:47):  Crossroads, Georgia On My Mind, That’s No Way To Get Along, Can’t Find My Way Home, Gimme Some Lovin’, Voodoo Chile, Cocaine, Dear Mr. Fantasy

May 26th was the first night with Winwood.  The setlist changes (obviously) from the first five nights of the set of shows at the Royal Albert Hall to include Blind Faith and Steve Winwood songs. Fan reactions on the internet include calling this evening “a solid and most enjoyable show” and noting how “pairing up with Steve yet again seems to have reinvigorated him.”

The tape opens with a low key “hello” from Clapton as the walk onto the stage and start with the Blind Faith song “Had To Cry Today” followed by the new original “Low Down,” just as they started the show recorded for Live From Madison Square Garden.

After “After Midnight” they resurrect the Traffic instrumental “Glad” from John Bareleycorn Must Die.  They played the tune in 2009 and at the Crossroads festival in 2010.  Clapton substitutes his guitar for Chris Wood’s saxophone and Winwood and Clapton omit the song’s last section, segueing into “Well Alright” instead.  

Drummer Steve Gadd gives the Blind Faith classic “Well Alright” an interesting arrangement.  Instead of the plodding jungle beats Ginger Baker gave to the song, he bring a brisk disco beat.  Gadd does revert back to the Baker arrangement during the course of the song, but there is a startling contrast in styles making it much more interesting.

“Hoochie Coochie Man” is played in the standard blues arrangement and has a nice organ solo by Steve.  Two older Winwood solo cuts, “While You See A Chance” from 1980’s Arc Of The Diver and “Midland Maniac” from his debut 1977 solo album Steve Winwood are played around “Key To The Highway.”

The Ray Charles cover “Georgia On My Mind” is followed by the Rev. Robert Wilkins cover “That’s No Way To Get Along” from ClaptonCan’t Find My Way Home” was played on electric guitars as it was performed at Crossroads 2007 and the New York gigs from 2008, in contrast to the sit down acoustic version from 2010.

“Gimme Some Lovin'” follows.  It is the oldest original song in the set (discounting the two old blues covers), and conveys much needed youthfulness and enthusiasm in such a heavy program.  The surreal blues arrangement of “Voodoo Chile” with “Cocaine” ending the set and “Mr. Fantasy” the only encore.  The only real legitimate complaint about the setlist is ending with the tired “Cocaine” instead of “Gimme Some Lovin’.”  The Spencer Davis Group tune would have been a more logical closer.  

Royal Albert Hall, London, UK – May 27th, 2011

Disc 3 (55:12):  Opening, Had To Cry Today, Low Down, After Midnight, Presence Of The Lord, Glad, Well Alright, Hoochie Coochie Man, While You See A Chance, Key To The Highway, Midland Maniac

Disc 4 (78:02):  Crossroads, Georgia On My Mind, Driftin’, That’s No Way To Get Along, Layla, Can’t Find My Way Home, Gimme Some Lovin’, Voodoo Chile, Cocaine, Dear Mr. Fantasy

The Friday, May 27th show is sourced from another clear, sharp, excellent audience recording.  Where’s Eric also give this generally superlative reviews.  Comments include calling it “in a different league,” and “as good as the first if not better – a stupendous gig with stellar performances.

With one performance under the belt they begin to expand the setlist a bit.  The first hour is the same as the previous evening, starting with a low key “good evening” before launching into “Had To Cry Today.”  Winwood begins the show on guitar and duels with Clapton during the song’s middle improvisation before it flows seamlessly into “Low Down.”

During “After Midnight,” according to reports, several in the audience tried a stage rush with no luck.  The disco tinged arrangement segues into the slower and more stately “Presence Of The Lord.” 

After “Georgia On My Mind,” they play an acoustic “sit down” set similar to Clapton’s solo shows earlier in the month (and which they didn’t the in the first Clapton / Winwood show).  Clapton speaks to the audience, telling them how this is the first collaborative show with Winwood in the Royal Albert Hall and how much he’s enjoying it.

Like his solo shows, the first song of the interlude is “Driftin’.”  From the latest album Clapton comes the Wilkins cover “That’s No Way To Get Along” played in a slightly different arrangement compared to the previous night. An impromptu “Layla” with Winwood taking the solo follows and “Can’t Find My Way Back Home” sounds much like it did in 1974 when Yvonne Elliman sang it with Clapton.

The set returns to normal with “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “Voodoo Chile” and “Cocaine” closing the show and “Dear Mr. Fantasy” serving as encore.

Royal Albert Hall, London, UK – June 1st, 2011

Disc 5 (54:12):  Opening, Had To Cry Today, Low Down, After Midnight, Presence Of The Lord, Glad, Well Alright, Hoochie Coochie Man, While You See A Chance, Key To The Highway, Pearly Queen

Disc 6 (79:58):  Crossroads, Georgia On My Mind, Driftin’, That’s No Way To Get Along, Layla, Can’t Find My Way Home, Gimme Some Lovin’, Voodoo Chile, Cocaine, Dear Mr. Fantasy

Beano pass over the May 29th and May 30th shows and go to the final night on June 1st.  Like the other two nights in this collection, they utilize a sharp, clear and detailed audience tape perfectly capturing the dynamics of the performance.

The fan reactions are quite accurate in calling the show “phenomenal” and “memorable,” a “flawless passionate gig” which is a “fitting end to a fantastic week of superb music.”  It is, by all accounts, another excellent show showing the talent of both performers.

No major alterations in the set for the first forty minutes.  They begin with “Had To Cry Today” followed by the JJ Cale cover “Low Down Dirty Shame” and the JJ Cale inspired “After Midnight.”  And “Glad” sounds haunting as usual before its segue into “Well Alright.”  Gadd lays off the disco beat in this performance, sticking to a rock arrangement instead.

The Winwood solo tune “Midland Maniac” was dropped after the May 27th show and was replaced by the Traffic song “Pearly Queen.”  It is certainly much more memorable for Winwood’s swirling keyboard solo in the middle. 

After “Georgia On My Mind,” as they’re getting ready for the sit down set, Clapton tells the audience it is “our last night here, maybe for a couple years.  The real treat for me is to play with Steve” before introducing “Driftin'” as a song by “my childhood friend.”  In the May 29th concert Clapton dropped “Driftin'” and replaced it with the Gary Moore cover “Still Got The Blues” which he also played earlier in the month.  But that change was only for one night and he reverted back to “Driftin’.”

The rest of the interlude is also the same as the others including a much more polished “Layla” and a sublime “Can’t Find My Way Back Home.”

“Voodoo Chile” is magnificent with Winwood duplicating and expanding upon his original organ melodies from the studio recording with Jimi Hendrix.

Royal Faith Nights is a very good, comprehensive release covering the Clapton / Winwood shows.  The sound quality for the thee shows is uniformly excellent as are the performances.  Having the Gary Moore cover “Still Got The Blues” would have been a nice bonus track since set variations were so rare.  However, this is still an excellent silver pressed edition of these shows worth having.  

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