Eric Clapton – Black Beauty (MV 263/264)

Black Beauty (Mid Valley 263/264)

Odyssey Arena, Belfast, Ireland – April 24, 2004

Disc1. Intro / Let it Rain – Hoochie Coochie Man – Walk Out in the Rain – Bell Bottom Blues – I Shot the Sheriff – Milkcow’s Calf Blues – When You Got a Good Friend – They’re Red Hot

Disc2. Kind Hearted Woman – Got to Get Better in a Little While – Have You Ever Loved a Woman – Badge – Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine / Outro

“Black Beauty” is an absolute gem in form of a 2CD set. It features almost the complete show in Belfast in perfect and beautifully mixed soundboard taken directly from Digital Satellite broadcast. Mid Valley also added a little bit of their magic to produce another fantastic document of EC’s 2004 Tour. The only downside has got to be that “Black Beauty” misses the encore (“Sunshine” and “Mojo”) which would be included later in the definitive edition of this concert “Black Beauty Complete”, also on the Mid Valley label. Whether Mid Valley did this intentionally looking to capitalize their asset twice or they just found the complete version afterwards is a mystery to me.

The title of this release is another mystery to me and would be grateful if someone could shed some light here. All I got to know is that “Black Beauty” was the nickname Jimi Hendrix gave to one of his most cherished guitars – a black, maple-necked Stratocaster. “Black Beauty” is thought to be unplayed since his death and hidden away from the public eye. As far as I know EC mainly used his Crashocaster III during this tour, so I can’t see the relationship there…

The recording starts with some introduction by the DJ just as EC starts singing the first verse to “Let It Rain”. EC does a good job on the solos and so does Chris Stainton on piano. “Hoochie Coochie Man” is a chance for Doyle Bramhall II and Billy Preston to show their musical abilities and is well received by the crowd.

EC plays Belfast two weeks later than Rotterdam (Happy Easter – MV253/4/5/6) and if you are an EC fan you know there can’t be much variation (if any!) in the setlist. Well, this time we get a change and the change is for the good as EC now includes “Walk Out In The Rain” in the setlist. EC plays a great rendition of it in Belfast. “Change The World” and “I Want A Little Girl” are dropped thus shortening the setlist in one song.

“Sheriff” is an absolute show-stealer. I just can’t get tired of listening to live versions of it and this time is no exception with a 2+ minute outro that will even blow EC’s enemies away.

EC’s almost only interaction with the audience takes place when he announces they are going to do a couple of Robert Johnson’s songs. “Milkcow”, “When You Got A Good Friend”, “They’re Red Hot” and “Kindhearted Woman” are played with much more passion than on the album as it usually happens with EC. “Got To Get Better” is outstanding and it only is worth the price of admission. EC and his band excels themselves on “Have You Ever Loved A Woman”, which sees numerous solos on guitar, piano and organ by EC and Bramhall, Stainton and Preston. At this point EC starts his classical section.”Badge”, “Wonderful Tonight”, “Layla” and “Cocaine” are all immaculately performed. Right after “Cocaine” the DJ gets back to introduce the band members and say goodbye to his listeners.

Your collection can’t miss “Black Beauty Complete”, and if it does – as it is my case – you must make sure you at least get hold of “Black Beauty”. It is mandatory.

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