Complete Clarkston 1983 (Beano-053)
After the February 1983 release of Money And Cigarettes, Eric Clapton spent the better part of the next five months on the road, touring the US and Europe. It was the most intense period of live activity in four years (since 1979). The tour of Europe ended on May 23rd in Surrey, an amazing show that featured guest appearances from Phil Collins, Jimmy Page, and Chas & Dave.
When he returned for the second half, the first show was on June 25th in Toronto followed by three concerts at the Pine Knob Music Theatre in Clarkston, Michigan, outside of Detroit. This is a venue he favors for the great acoustics and intimate atmosphere. He played two shows in Pine Knob on the short, two week long tour in 1982 and his three night residency in the summer of 1983 is the longest of any (the Paramount Theater in Seattle, Red Rocks in Denver and Jones Beach on Long Island were given two shows each).
Complete Clarkston 1983 presents the three shows on six discs. Coming from JEMS master tapes, these have been speed corrected and remastered and are pressed onto silver disc for the first time.
Clapton assembled one of his better touring bands for this tour. He retained guitarist Albert Lee who provides an interesting Nashville flavor as counterpoint to Clapton’s blues, and Chris Stainton on keyboards and piano. Jamie Oldaker replaced Roger Hawkins (who in turn replaced Henry Spinetti) on drums and Donald “Duck” Dunne replaced Dave Markee on bass, Jamie Oldaker on drums. And gone were Gary Brooker and of course the female backing singers, whom Clapton didn’t employ since the Backless tour in 1978.
Pine Knob Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI – June 27th, 1983
Disc 1 (55:50): Opening, Tulsa Time, I Shot The Sheriff, Worried Life Blues, Lay Down Sally, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Sweet Little Lisa, Key To The Highway, After Midnight
Disc 2 (58:26): The Shape You’re In, Wonderful Tonight, Blues Power, Standing Around Crying, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Cocaine, Layla, Band Introduction, Further On Up The Road
The recording for June 27th is a very good audience tape. It’s a slight distance from the stage and picks up the echo from the cover above the stage. The effect is a very nice live sound. There is a cut at 2:43 in “Key To The Highway” due to a tape flip, and a cut three minute in “Cocaine.” After the cut in the latter, there are strange noises in the right channel, sounding like music bleeding through from the other side of the tape, through “Layla.”
The show begins with a standard “Tulsa Time.” But in the middle of “I Shot The Sheriff,” when Clapton rips out a fiery solo, it’s apparent this is going to be a special night.
Inspiration continues through “Worried Life Blues” and a nice version of “Lay Down Sally.” Before they start “Let It Rain” Clapton tells the audience that “I think you’ll like this one.”
“Double Trouble” is the first long, intense blues epic dirge of the night. Both Clapton and Lee take turns pouring out their souls in their music. Lee follows with his lone number of the night “Sweet Little Lisa.” It isn’t until later in the show until they play something from the new album, “Shape You’re In.” It segues seamlessly into “Wonderful Tonight.”
During the long “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” they get into a bit of “Ramblin’ On My Mind.” In “Cocaine” Stainton plays several interesting keyboards during the song improvisation. It’s not clear if that was planned or if Clapton has trouble with his equipment. After the song there is a short break.
After a bit they start to play “Layla” but are interrupted again. “We’ll be back in a minute,” Clapton says. The taper turned the recorder off without comment, so it’s hard to understand exactly what is going on. But after the cut there is a tremendous roar as they get into “Layla.” Clapton favors a strange, muted tone on his guitar taking the bite out of the song. Perhaps he’s trying to find a new way to present the song, but it sounds strange.
“Further On Up The Road” is the show’s only encore. This is, despite the minor flaws, a nice tape to hear because Clapton is playing very well and is showing creativity on stage.
Pine Knob Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI – June 28th, 1983
Disc 3 (55:00): Opening, Tulsa Time, I Shot The Sheriff, Worried Life Blues, Lay Down Sally, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Sweet Little Lisa, Key To The Highway, After Midnight
Disc 4 (56:01): The Shape You’re In, Wonderful Tonight, Blues Power, Standing Around Crying, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Cocaine, Layla, Band Introduction, Further On Up The Road
The second night at Pine Knob is captured in a good audience recording. It’s thinner than the first night, lacking in some detail and carries a “flat” quality, but it is perfectly listenable. Like the previous evening’s tape, there is a strange noise in the right channel during “Layla” to the end of the tape. It’s faint and doesn’t detract from the music, but it is noticeable.
Compared to the first night, this evening’s performance doesn’t have the same fire and urgency. There are many highlights nonetheless. Clapton and Lee have great fun in the slower blues dirges. “Worried Life Blues” and especially “Double Trouble” have delicate, contemplative guitar solos, weaving blues and country/ western sounds.
The middle of the show is great fun. “After Midnight” is an adrenaline rush, and Clapton seems to sneer with bemusement while singing “The Shape You’re In.” The following song “Wonderful Tonight” is met with a chorus of whistles from the crowd.
“Layla” is played with a biting, rough edge in the tone. It sounds dirty, nasty, brutal, and is the best version of the three in this set. When they come back for the encore, after the band introduction, they play “Further On Up The Road as the only tune to end the night. Overall, it is a good performance, but not nearly as effective as the first night.
Pine Knob Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI – June 29th, 1983
Disc 5 (45:21): Opening, Tulsa Time, I Shot The Sheriff, Worried Life Blues, Lay Down Sally, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Sweet Little Lisa
Disc 6 (53:30): Key To The Highway, Wonderful Tonight, Blues Power, Standing Around Crying, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Cocaine, Layla, Band Introduction, Further On Up The Road
The tape for the third Pine Knob show is the best of the three. It’s very close to the stage and captures the concert in wonderful stereo.
It is a troubled concert, however beginning with a strange delay in the music. As the band are getting ready to play “Tulsa Time,” the drums don’t come in on cue. Clapton stops the music and tells the audience that “you’ll have to come back later. Our drummer just banged his head and was knocked out cold.”
After a cut in the tape Oldaker returns and the band can start the song. It’s not known how long the delay was, but they had to drop two songs, “After Midnight” and “The Shape You’re In” so they can finish by curfew. It is the shortest of the three shows by about ten minutes and slightly rushed as well.
But there are some highlights. Stainton plays in interesting keyboard solo in the middle of a devastating “Worried Life Blues,” and Albert Lee impresses the audience with his country picking in “Lay Down Sally.”
Before “Blues Power” they play the “Badge” riff in a melodic haze. The closing number “Layla” again has the annoying pinging tone in guitar like the first night. After the band introduction the only encore played in “Further On Up The Road.” At the very end Clapton jokes about Oldaker’s accident.
Beano have issued several intriguing six disc Clapton sets in the past. Complete Clarkston 1983 is another, documenting three very good concerts at the beginning of the Money And Cigarettes tour. Packaged in a six disc jewel case with many photos from the era, it is worth having for collectors with a yearn for early eighties Clapton.