2 Nights In Birmingham (Beano-048)
Eric Clapton’s live work in 1991 were focused upon the 24 Nights project at the Royal Albert Hall in February and March, and touring with George Harrison in Japan in December. In between was a time of intense mourning for his son. He was able to channel his grief into his art and the summer months were surprisingly fecund with new material for the next year.
He waited about a month after returning from Japan to begin working again. On January 16th he filmed the legendary MTV “Unplugged” session at Bray Studios in England. This singular television event, with its accompanying CD and video, would bring him an entire new legion of fans. Two weeks later he began a UK tour with an appearance in Brighton on February 1st.
The next three nights were at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham. All three nights were taped from the audience. Beano presents the first two Birmingham shows in 2 Nights In Birmingham. They do not use new tapes, but rather surfaced master cassettes for the shows in common circulation. Each has been remastered by the label to attempt to improve the sound and stability over what is in current circulation.
National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, England – February 3rd, 1992
Disc 1 (78:21): Opening, Anything For Your Love, Pretending, I Shot The Sheriff, Running On Faith, My Father’s Eyes, She’s Waiting, Circus Has Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Before You Accuse Me, Old Love
Disc 2 (57:24): Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Band Introduction, Tearing Us Apart, Layla, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love
The February 3rd tape has good to very good sound. The taper was a fair distance from the stage, however, and a deep echo is present on the recording. It has a nice, percussive effect on the music although the vocals and stage directions tend to get a bit distorted. Beano remastered the tape to play at a higher pitch and have cleaned up the treble. It is good work and the tape is perfectly enjoyable.
The setlist for the first Birmingham show is very similar to the opening night in Brighton on February 1st. The only difference is the addition of “Badge” after “Old Love.” Both start off with an aggressive version of “Anything For You Love,” one of the songs from Journeyman not played on that tour.
Two more Journeyman songs, “Pretending” and “Running On Faith,” follow with a mellow version of “I Shot The Sheriff.” Clapton continues with the second ever live performance of “My Father’s Eyes.” It is similar to the version recorded for Pilgrim six years later, but starts off with a bit of instrumental doodling and has a unique bridge which isn’t in the final recording.
After “She’s Waiting” he jokes that “we’re gonna sit down for the rest of the show.” A three song “Unplugged” set follows, starting with the unreleased “Circus Has Left Town.” Another track to be recorded for Pilgrim, it was also played during the television session but dropped from the final edit. “Tears In Heaven” would become a huge hit, but was still unfamiliar to the audience at this point and is met with polite applause. The interlude ends with the instrumental “Signe.”
“Before You Accuse Me” and “Old Love” follow the acoustic section with the latter being particularly potent. “Badge” is added to the set list and would remain for the rest of the tour. Like past arrangements, it segues into a new-age sounding version of “Wonderful Tonight.”
After the band introduction, the set ends with an aggressive “Tearing Us Apart” and “Layla” complete with Ray Cooper flourishes in the coda. Two Cream era numbers, “Crossroads” and “Sunshine Of Your Love” serve as encores. The latter feature a Clapton solo guitar clinic and a long Cooper drum solo.
National Indoor Arena, Birmingham, England – February 4th, 1992
Disc 3 (72:53): Opening, She’s Waiting, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Running On Faith, My Father’s Eyes, Tearing Us Apart, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Pretending, Before You Accuse Me
Disc 4 (71:26): Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, White Room, Layla, Band Introduction, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love
The recording for the second night in Birmingham is similar to the first. It is very clear but slightly distant. It has a very nice live sound, capturing the atmosphere perfectly. Beano remastered the tape to decrease the lower frequencies so that the treble is emphasized more.
The setlist is similar to the previous night except “White Room” is added to the set. After a short opening the band rip into “She’s Waiting,” almost expectantly. Even Clapton sounds a bit surprised, as if it were a last minute decision to open with this number. They continue with the other nights opener, the slower “Anything For Your Love.”
Clapton treats “I Shot The Sheriff” with an amusing, delicate solo in the middle which has an almost ska-like quality in the rhythm. After “Running On Faith” they play a much nicer version of “My Father’s Eyes,” compared to the previous night.
After a gentle “Wonderful Tonight,” they play “White Room” for the first time this year. It would be moved around several times in the upcoming weeks as Clapton tries to find an approporate place for it in the selist. The show ends with a great “Laya.”
While introducting the band Clapton calls them “a lovely bunch of fellows except for Ray Cooper on percussion!” Chuck Leveall plays a scorching piano on “Crossroads,” and the night ends with the long “Shine Of Your Love.”
Beano package 2 Nights In Birmingham in a quad jewel case with designs inspired by the photos of the era. Also included, in the first copies, is a miniature reproduction of the tour program. There has been a lot of attention being paid to the Unplugged era with multiple releases over the past month. This is a very nice presentation of underrated shows.