L.A. Nights (Beano-008)
It would be an exaggeration to suggest that Eric Clapton’s appearance at Live Aid on July 13th, 1985 was a “comeback.” Someone in need of a comeback necessarily needs to have gone away or to be inactive for a period of time. Clapton never did disappear since he never really stopped touring since 1974. Nevertheless Live Aid did much to increase his exposure.
Clapton’s 1985 release Behind The Sun has been criticized for sounding “too 80’s” with the typical drum sound of that era and pop-friendly catchy numbers that seemed out of character for one who made his mark being a faithful expositor of the blues. Fingers point towards producer Phil Collins as the culprit, although other producers were brought in to work the tapes as well.
His concerts were a good blend of the older material with newer songs in the middle of the sets. Live Aid showed that, whatever criticisms or concerns there were about the new songs, on stage Clapton will still delivering fiery sets.
Right after his appearance in Live Aid, Clapton played a show at Red Rocks, Colorado which was followed by three shows at the Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles. On L.A. Nights, Beano use three brand new, superb stereo audience recordings which have never circulated before.
Tapes circulated for the second and third show before, but were not nearly the quality of these tapes and had never been booted. The similarity in sound quality suggests they are the work of a single taper on all three nights. Given how good these tapes sound and the quality of the performances, this is an essential documents by Beano from Clapton’s Behind The Sun tour.
Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles, CA – July 17th, 1985
Disc 1 (55:13): Tulsa Time, Motherless Children, I Shot The Sheriff, Same Old Blues, Tangled In Love, White Room, Steppin’ Out, Wonderful Tonight, She’s Waiting
Disc 2 (52:55): She Loves You, Badge, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Cocaine, Layla, Forever Man, Further Up The Road
There is no variation in the set list and little in the guitar solos. Although Clapton may alter arrangements for particular songs from tour to tour, there is little improvisation on a nightly basis. The set is meant to emphasize the new material, the solo spots for the backing band, and of course Clapton’s solos.
The first night in LA begins with “Tulsa Time,” a song that also began the set during the Another Tickettour in 1981 followed by the slide guitar mayhem of “Motherless Children.” This is followed by “I Shot The Sheriff” which is introduced as “an old reggae number”.
“Tangled In Love” begins with the keyboards and is a nice dance number, the only real variation by Clapton from his blues roots. “White Room” is a nod to Cream and sounds great (“How can I follow that?” remarks vocalist Shaun Murphy on the 18th).
Clapton introduces her as “the wonderful Shaun Murphy” before her tour-de-force “Steppin’ Out”. (On the 17th someone asking “who??” is clearly audible). The other female vocalist, long time collaborator Marcy Levy, is given the spotlight for her ballad cover of The Beatles’ “She Loves You” (dedicated to all her friends).
“Badge” segues right into “Let It Rain”, and “Double Trouble” is a long, eleven-minute blues dirge. The expected “Cocaine” and “Layla” close the show. The band introductions are made before “Further On Up The Road” (with Clapton referred to as “Mr. Wonderful Tonight himself, the Rolls Royce of the guitar”). It’s a great way to end the show with Murphy even taking a verse adding to the fun.
Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles, CA – July 18th, 1985
Disc 3 (54:33): Tulsa Time, Motherless Children, I Shot The Sheriff, Same Old Blues, Tangled In Love, White Room, Steppin’ Out, Wonderful Tonight, She’s Waiting
Disc 4 (53:52): She Loves You, Badge, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Cocaine, Layla, Forever Man, Further Up The Road
The second LA show is also an excellent stereo audience recording. It is slightly more distant than the first night and the vocals sound a bit more buried in the mix. It is also a bit more loud and flat compared to the others, but otherwise it’s a highly enjoyable document of another great show. A poor sounding tape exists but has never been pressed before, so this is the first time this show has been made available on silver discs.
Stainton’s piano introduction to “Tulsa Time” sounds a bit longer than the first night and more ornamented, giving the opening of the show a silent movie style introduction.
As hot as the opening numbers are, it is “Same Old Blues” which raises the bar. Clapton seems to quote Jimi Hendrix’ “Machine Gun” at will, spitting out the notes in anger and hostility. “Tangled In Love” is a pop anecdote, played to lighten the mood a bit.
“White Room” is introduced as “one from the summer of 1967.” Shaun Murphy introduces “for all the girls in the audience tonight who have had a wonderful terrible love affair… you know the guys I’m talkin’ about….”
Two of Clapton’s Patti Boyd inspired tunes, “Wonderful Tonight” and “She’s Waiting” follow before Marcy Levy’s “She Loves You.”
“Badge” starts off with the guitar solo as per the arrangement used on this tour and segues into “Let It Rain.” Clapton tries out a new melody in this classic which isn’t particularly effective or interesting (just annoying). Stainton’s organ has a significant part in the improvisation.
“Double Trouble” reaches a height of intensity during the jam session in the middle and Clapton has fun with the prelude to “Cocaine.” The show ends with a nice version of “Layla” and the “Forever Man” and “Further On Up The Road” encores.
Universal Amphitheater, Los Angeles, CA – July 19th, 1985
Disc 5 (55:07): Tulsa Time, Motherless Children, I Shot The Sheriff, Same Old Blues, Tangled In Love, White Room, Steppin’ Out, Wonderful Tonight, She’s Waiting
Disc 6 (56:36): She Loves You, Badge, Let It Rain, Double Trouble, Cocaine, Layla, Forever Man, Further Up The Road
The final Los Angeles show exists on a poor sounding tape that has never been booted. Beano use a new tape that is arguable the most enjoyable of the three. It is slightly more distant from the stage and has more audience noise, but that gives more life and atmosphere to the recording.
He never wavers in the setlist and the performance for this show is on par with the others, offering an eclectic mix of country, funk and blues in the opening three songs. “Same Old Blues,” which according to legend was born out of an argument in the studio while recording Behind The Sun, captures the bite while Clapton seems to play every note on the fretboard.
“White Room” now brings us back to the autumn of 1967, and Shaun Murphy dedicates “Steppin’ Out” to her soon-to-be hometown of Los Angeles. After “She’s Waiting” Clapton “takes a breather” Levy to sing “She Loves You.”
The show proceeds to the set closer, a gorgeous version of “Layla” with the short synthesizer introduction. Before the first encore Clapton dedicates it to Len, “where ever you are.” Sergio Pastora Rodriguez, who played percussion on 1976’s No Reason To Cry, joins the group. “Forever Man” has an extra percussion interlude not found in any other version. Clapton introduces Rodriguez and the rest of the band before playing “Further On Up The Road.”
Beano carved out their reputation as one of the premier Eric Clapton labels with releases such as L.A.Nights. The packaging is basic, utilizing a six disc fatboy jewel case with several common photos from the tour. However, these are all scintillating performances in excellent sound quality and one of the essential titles to own from the 1985 Behind The Sun tour.