God Notes Volume 2 (no label)
God Notes Volume 2 is a sequel of sorts to God Notes Volume 1. The second volume continues Eric Clapton’s tour to the final two nights, a two show engagement at the Gibson Amphitheater at Universal City Walk Universal City, California on March 8th and March 9th. Much like the Las Vegas and San Diego shows, these two are sourced from excellent stereo audience recordings picking up all the dynamics of the performances beautifully.
This is another superlative document from Clapton’s recent tour which seems to be mostly noted for a lack of a second guitarist and the predominance of the two keyboardists, Tim Carmon and Chris Stainton. Ben Wener, reviewing the first LA show for The Orange County Register, focuses upon the positive aspect when he writes: “Those sorts of match-ups [a second guitarist like Steve Winwood, Doyle Bramhall II or Derek Trucks] bring out a different, more finessed side of Slowhand, his crisp tone adding uncommon sophistication to any collaborative competition.
“But when he’s the sole six-string attraction, he tends to loosen his typically immaculate grip and at times turn unrefined. I don’t recall there being so much low-end twang and screeching gut-bucket roar to his playing when he was trading soaring licks with Trucks in 2007. His dynamics, effortlessly flipped in an instant, often got dizzying here. Epic pieces like ‘Old Love’ and his take on Robert Johnson’s ‘Little Queen of Spades,’ for starters, were smoldering powder-kegs rife with out-of-nowhere fireworks.
“Within every selection of this 17-song set, including the lull of ‘Layla’ and the undeniable warmth of the overplayed ‘Wonderful Tonight’ (its after-hours sweetness is more touching the older its author gets), Clapton reminded of his virtuosity, at the top of the heap of guitar gods his generation begat. This relatively intimate gig in particular — his first appearance at the former Universal Amphitheatre since 1985 [L.A. Nights (Beano-008)], if I’m not mistaken — felt like a rare master class with a legend who hardly ever plays anything smaller than an arena anymore.”
Another side effect which isn’t mentioned is the variety of tones found in the various arrangements. The show is much more interesting when it strays from the basic guitar instrumentation and ventures into piano, electric piano, and Hammond organ. Clapton himself works best when he’s part of an ensemble instead of being a solo performer, and his complimentary playing to the keyboards provides a startling contrast.
Gibson Amphitheater at Universal City Walk, Universal City, CA – March 8th, 2011
Disc 1 (66:07): Key To The Highway, Going Down Slow, Hoochie Coochie Man, Old Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Driftin’, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, River Runs Deep, When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful, Same Old Blues, Layla
Disc 2 (41:17): Tell The Truth, Little Queen Of Spades, Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Cocaine, Further On Up The Road
The March 8th show has very good to excellent sound quality. The only drawback is that the tapers are audible, speaking to one another throughout the show. They are not intrusive, but hearing their comments at times breaks the concentration of the music.
No introduction is present on the tape. Rather, it starts off right at the beginning of “Key To The Highway.” The first of many highlights occurs with the long improvisation in “Old Love.” Tim Carmon lays down an impressively strong sounding Hammond organ base over which Clapton rips out an Hendrix-inspired solo.
Keith Emerson inspired keyboard improvisations follow the guitar in an inspired ebb of frenzy before Clapton finished the song off after thirteen minutes. It misses the smooth jazz bass playing of Nathan East of the early nineties versions, but still is impressive. “I Shot The Sheriff” is graced with a fast, ska-like melody for an introduction. The familiar tune is a perfect crowd pleaser before the “sit down” section of the show.
After “Layla” Clapton changes the set by starting “Tell The Truth” instead of “Badge.” It is a quick five minute rendition with little improvisation in the middle and it segues directly into “Little Queen Of Spades.”
Afterwards they play “Badge” instead of “Before You Accuse Me.” A wistful “Cocaine” closes the set and “Further On Up The Road” returns as the encore instead of the funk arrangement of “Crossroads,” the encore for the previous two nights.
Gibson Amphitheater at Universal City Walk Universal City, CA – March 9th, 2011
Disc 3 (69:01): opening, Key To The Highway, Going Down Slow, Hoochie Coochie Man, Old Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Driftin’, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, River Runs Deep, When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful, Same Old Blues, Layla
Disc 4 (45:46): Badge, Wonderful Tonight, Before You Accuse Me, Little Queen Of Spades, Cocaine, Crossroads
The tape for the March 9th show is very good to excellent stereo. It captures the atmosphere of the show perfectly, including appropriate audience reactions to the action occurring onstage. For the final night of the tour Clapton returns to the same setlist, returning “Badge” and “Before You Accuse Me” and dropping “Tell The Truth.”
The taper captures a bit of the introduction and Clapton’s initial greeting to the audience before a firey version of “Key To The Highway.” The energy is quite high in this show, as if they all want to give Los Angeles a big send-off.
Some of the performances are quite remarkable this evening. During the thirteen minute “Old Love” a Carmon locks on an abrasive, heavy metal sounding riff which seems to grind the audience to shreds. It continues with the upbeat ska beginning of “I Shot The Sheriff.”
Calm is restored at the beginning of the sit down set with the delta blues “Driftin.'” The audience responds particularly to the jazzy “When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful” and the Cale cover “Same Old Blues.”
The latter half of the show is fun. They pour on the blues theatrics with “Before You Accuse Me” and the popular “Little Queen Of Spades.” The two keyboardists pull out the stops with many and various keyboard tones. The show ends with “Cocaine” and the Steve Gadd-disco arrangement of “Crossroads” closes the event and the tour.
Like the first volume, God Notes Volume 2 comes packaged in a standard quad jewel case with inserts adorned with various photographs from the tour. The sound quality of the end-of-tour performances in Los Angeles is good enough to make this appeal to the general collector and to be a souvenir for those in attendance.