Cow Palace 1974 (Beano-056)
Cow Palace, San Francisco, CA – July 21st, 1974 (evening show)
Disc 1 (59:59): Opening, Smile, Let It Grow, Can’t Find My Way Home, I Shot The Sheriff, Let It Rain, Willie And The Hand Jive, Get Ready, Badge, Matchbox
Disc 2 (46:01): Layla, Tell The Truth, Blues Power, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Steady Rollin’ Man, Crossroads, Little Queenie
After Eric Clapton played two night in Long Beach they traveled up the coast to San Francisco for two shows at the Cow Palace on July 21st (2pm and 9pm). Just like the Long Beach shows, the two San Fransisco shows were also professionally recorded by Polydor for the live album E.C. Was Here.
No material from these tapes were used for the official release, but one of the soundboards from this date has surfaced. The earliest pressing can be found on San Francisco 1974 (Outrider OR-9818/9) which ran a bit slow and was missing the encore “Little Queenie.” The Clapton label ARMS issued Rollin Man to the Crossroads (ARMS 34/35) in the late nineties with a fragment of the encore.
Cow Palace 1974 on Beano is a much welcomed upgrade. The label claim to use the master cassette (which is probably not accurate). But the sound is cleaner. There are faint traces of hiss in the quiet moments between songs, but nothing to detract from the music.
The other imperfections remain, however (thus drawing their claim to use the master in question). There is a little imperfection after “Let It Rain,” a cut at 3:02 in “Layla,” a quality drop after “Tell The Truth,” and still only a fragment of the encore “Little Queenie.”
They also definitively label this the 9pm show. An hour long fragment of the 2pm show surfaced (with the surprise guest John Mayall for a performance of “It’s Alright.”)
The performance is good for the tour. There are no major meltdowns or mistakes and Clapton tends to keep himself together despite asking the audience after “Tell The Truth” if they “mind if I have a drink?” A blog called Brit Rock By The Bay contains several interesting observations and photographs from the show. The five reviewers are mixed in their assessment.
Some of the comments include “The whole concert was a mix of great moments with some letdowns” to “I don’t remember Clapton playing lead on any songs. His band included George Terry on guitar, and to this day I’m convinced that George Terry played all the leads. Eric Clapton looked like he was either drunk, or stoned, or both, but in any case he was very laid back, and from what I remember he never took the lead, musically or emotionally.”
It is certainly a laid back performance with a few interesting details. The tape starts off with the introduction by “Legs” Larry Smith of The Bonzo Dog Band before the Charlie Chaplain cover “Smile.”
After “Let It Grow” and “Can’t Find My Way Home,” the first pure electric song is “I Shot The Sheriff.” Clapton and Terry get into interesting dueling in the following song “Let It Rain.” The thunderous leads end up in several references to The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood.”
After “Badge” they play a rare performance of “Matchbox.” Clapton famously played it during the Derek And The Dominoes period on the Johnny Cash show in 1970, and in 1974 it was played at the warm up gig in Copenhagen and in the opening night of the US tour in New Haven. They turn “Matchbox” into a Carl Perkins medley by including a verse of “Boppin’ the Blues.”
“Layla,” played in the middle of the set, receives a loud ovation from the audience. The Duane Allman parts are omitted in tribute of the deceased guitarist. “Tell The Truth” has strange Steve Howe style slide guitar melody in the middle improvisation (sounds close to “The Ancient” on Tales From Topographic Oceans). But “Blues Power” meanders with pointless doodling in the middle by the guitarists.
“Steady Rollin’ Man” has a nice segue into “Crossroads” which closes the show. The encore “Little Queenie” cuts out at just under two minutes as Clapton is singing “meanwhile… back in Belfast…”
Cow Palace 1974 is a nice production and a worthy upgrade over past releases of the tape. This might have been improved if Beano included the afternoon show which needs a silver release. However, the show is interesting enough to merit collecting for Clapton collectors.