Niagara Falls 1975 (Beano-057)
Convention Center, Niagara Falls, NY – June 23rd, 1975
Disc 1 (73:00): Opening, Layla, Bell Bottom Blues, Key To The Highway, Motherless Children, Driftin’ Blues, I Shot The Sheriff, Can’t Find My Way Home, Band Introduction, Mainline Florida
Disc 2 (50:24): Teach Me To Be Your Woman, Tell The Truth, Badge, Eyesight To The Blind
Eric Clapton’s tour in 1975 for There’s One In Every Crowd is a stark contrast to the proceeding year. Instead of the stiff performances boarding on drunken chaos, he was in much greater command of his skills and hit a creative peak in performance. This tour contains some of his wildest jams on tape.
The US tour started on June 14th in Tampa (documented nicely on Prejudice (Grand Lodge GL-001/002)). After a week of concerts Clapton went to New York City to record “Carnival To Rio” with The Rolling Stones and appearing in their evening concert at Madison Square Garden on June 22nd jamming on “Sympathy For The Devil.”
The following day Clapton appeared nine hours away in western New York, playing at the Convention Center in Niagara Falls, outside of Buffalo. The audience recording is good to very good, capturing the atmosphere of the performance very well. An LP titled Jamming With Eric Clapton & Santana (CBRSO) was issued with “Layla,” “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Can’t Find My Way Home” and the “Eyesight To The Blind” jam. Niagara Falls 1975 is the first CD release of the show and the first to offer the entire performance.
There is a small cut after “Key To The Highway” omitting the opening notes of “Motherless Children.” During “Drifin’ Blues” there is another source used from 7:30 to 8:02, and a cut in “I Shot The Sheriff” from 5:48 to 6:49 is filled utilizing “another master of the day,” according to Beano. It’s not clear if it means another tape from this show or if a tape from another night is used. Regardless, it is a very nice mastering job.
The concert itself is excellent. An eyewitness posted a short review on Dime, stating that “I, too, was at this show. Some background: VERY hot day — around 100F back when few people had car air conditioning (or at least few 19 year olds). And it had been very hot for 10 days. Niagara Falls Convention Center in Niagara Falls, NY (now an Indian casino) was air conditioned! So everybody was happy just to be there, sitting cross-legged on the floor (pre-show). Santana came out and did what the opener should do and more.
“Then Eric and band took it up and laid on a helluva show. And was greatly appreciated — you can witness both on this excellent recording. Then Eric brought out Carlos and his conga drummer to join for the encore. Visualize this: Eric with his eyes closed making non-stop, screaming slowhand magic while Carlos watched him and built the song’s sonic structures for Eric to run through with his lines. And all the rest of the musicians had their eyes on Carlos, using his structure to guide them. It was something I recall vividly, as though it was yesterday… Killer show.”
The tape begins with Clapton asking the audience if they enjoyed Santana’s set before playing the most common opening songs for this tour, the elongated “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues.”
“Key To The Highway” is played almost as an instrumental, sounding as if Clapton and the band just want to groove on the melody and not bother with the actual narrative of the tune. Afterwards they gently segue into “Driftin’ Blues,” a surprise addition to the set. “Don’t ask me how that came about” Clapton quips afterwards. “Drunk and ready for trouble” someone by the taper says.
“I Shot The Sheriff” starts off with strange funk sounding jamming on the descending riff of “Badge,” and Clapton continues in the same vein in the song’s improvisational middle before hitting upon some gentle hard rock riffs at the end. Afterwards Clapton introduces “a short brief moment of sanity as Yvonne sings you a song.” Elliman follows with Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”
“We got more hats thrown on stage and more molotov cocktails than any other American tour I’ve ever been on? What’s with all the explosions?” Clapton asks afterwards. It’s strange because it sounded calm up until the band introduction when several firecrackers are let off.
“Did you see the Stones when they were here?” (The Rolling Stones played in Buffalo the week before, on June 15th at the Memorial Auditorium. Thirteen tracks from the soundboard are in circulation). “I’d like to introduce the band … Yvonne Elliman, sitting on the couch. George Terry is fiddling with his knobs. Monkey Oldaker is twitching as usual. Carl ‘D’, what can you say? Dickie Sims on good looks. Marcy on high vocals and frustration. I’m Roy Rogers!”
The second part of the show is spectacular, bordering on magical. During the long “Tell The Truth” they give “Mainline Florida” an instrumental reprise. Carlos Santana comes onstage for the encore and they play an eighteen minute jam beginning with the unreletning riff of “Eyesight To The Blind.” In one of the best versions on tape, they segue into “Soul Sacrifice”, “Indications” and even “Blues Power” before the end of the amazing performance.
Eric Clapton in 1975 was a unique musical experience and all shows from this tour, no matter how poor, are worth having. Niagara Falls 1975 is very listenable and enjoyable and is one of the better shows from the tour to be pressed onto silver boot.