Eric Clapton – 2 Nights In Sheffield (Beano-049)

2 Nights In Sheffield (Beano-049)

After beginning with a concert in Brighton and three in Birmingham, Eric Clapton’s “Unplugged” tour continued with two shows in the northern city Sheffield.  The basic setlist remains the same, but there are more adjustments in the sequence with many songs including “White Room” and “She’s Waiting” finding different places.  

2 Nights In Sheffield covers the February 7th and February 8th concerts.  Both tapes have been in circulation, but have never been pressed onto a silver title.  The masters for each of these shows have recently been cleaned up and released by the taper himself.

Both recordings are very good to borderline excellent (slight distance from the stage is the only detriment).  The February 7th show is slightly more clear compared to the February 8th show, but both pick up the atmosphere of the concerts beautifully. 

The tapes have been remastered to run at the correct pitch and to have the balance adjusted to produce very clean and enjoyable listening experiences.  

It’s almost been twenty years since these concerts, and it is nice to see them being rescued from obscurity.  A majority of the titles from this period released in the past have focused upon the Brighton or the Royal Albert Hall shows.  Northern England also had its fair share of excellent concerts.

Sheffield Arena, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England – February 7th, 1992

Disc 1 (77:17):  Opening, She’s Waiting, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Running On Faith, My Father’s Eyes, Before You Accuse Me, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Tearing Us Apart, Old Love

Disc 2 (58:54):  Badge, Wonderful Tonight, White Room, Layla, Band Introduction, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love

February 7th is an excellent stereo audience recording.  Recorded in the front row, it captures the atmosphere of the performance perfectly and is one of the best sounding documents from this era.  The setlist is the same as the February 2nd Birmingham show except “Before You Accuse Me” is played after the acoustic set instead of before. 

Opinions about the quality of the performance vary.  The taper, who attended over eighty Clapton concerts in his lifetime, writes this is “an average show … what I would describe as Eric on autopilot in terms of playing.”  Others object, saying this is indeed a memorable and stellar concert.

Just like with many opinions, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  There is a coldness that’s hard to explain.  Every song is very tight and enjoyable, but Clapton does not elaborate much in the solos.  Rather, he takes the expected route in each song.

The opening songs “She’s Waiting” and “Anything For Your Love” are very strong, as is “Before You Accuse Me.”  Before the acoustic section Clapton tells the audience they are going to play “a couple songs on these gut string guitars.”  Like in Birmingham, these numbers are very well received and serve as the highlight of the performance.

“Tearing Us Apart” is usually one of the screamers of the set but it sounds a bit limp on this night.  The finale of the set fares much better with very nice versions of “White Room” and “Layla.”  And in the encore set, Ray Cooper offers his fun percussion solo with audience participation.

Sheffield Arena, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England – February 8th, 1992

Disc 3 (69:18):  Opening, White Room, Pretending, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, My Father’s Eyes, Running On Faith, She’s Waiting, Circus Left Town, Tears In Heaven, Signe, Before You Accuse Me

Disc 4 (75:53):  Tearing Us Apart, Old Love, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Band Introduction, Crossroads, Sunshine Of Your Love

No matter one’s opinion on the first show in Sheffield, the second night is obviously superior in every conceivable way.  None of the stiffness or dryness of the first night lingers.  Clapton is obviously loose enough to push the boundaries of aggression and gives one of the gutsiest performances of the year.

The recording is a bit more distant compared to the previous night.  It’s not as clear, but just as enjoyable.  There are also two changes to the setlist compared to the previous night.  The dark, majestic and menacing “White Room” is moved to the opening (again) where it will stay for the rest of the year, followed by “Pretending,” which was dropped from the set the previous two nights.

Clapton introduces the new song “My Father’s Eyes” which has a pretty little coda tacked onto the ending.  Chuck Leavell plays a short honky tonk piano as an introduction to “Running On Faith.”

Before the acoustic section Clapton says it’s a time when they can sit down (“thank GOD!” he jokes).  Like all the shows, much of the emotional weight is found in these songs.  Leavell again adds interesting little bits to the songs, such as the little baroque trill at the end of “Signe.” 

“Before You Accuse Me” begins the second half of the show and is the most blues-oriented song of the night.  “Tearing Us Apart” ranks among the most energetic songs of the night and it stands in direct contrast to the slow (and long) “Old Love.”  They develop the jam session in the song’s middle nicely. 

“Layla” with more Leavell baroque figures ends the set, followed by the excellent encore set of “Crossroads” segueing into “Sunshine Of Your Love” complete with drum solos. 

The concert is good enough to have merited an independent release.  The Geetarz website writes about this show “the ultimate test of any performance is ‘do you want to hit the ‘rewind’ button and listen to it again’ and in this case, the answer is YES!!!'”  And I can only agree.

2 Nights In Sheffield is another excellent Beano production, pressing onto silver previously unavailable concerts.  The artwork is similar to the 2 Nights In Birmingham release except the minor variation of the little photo on the cover and the use of blue, instead of red, color for the title.  Some copies also come with a miniature tour program.

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