Eric Clapton – Night Of Guitar Magic (Slunky 22A/B)

Night Of Guitar Music (Slunky 22A/B)

National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, England  – January 23rd, 1988

Disc 1 (76:16):  Crossroads, White Room, I Shot The Sheriff, Wonderful Tonight, Run, Same Old Blues, Tearing Us Apart, Holy Mother

Disc 2 (76:33):  Badge, Let It Rain, Cocaine, A Remark You Made, Layla, Behind The Mask, Sunshine Of Your Love, Money For Nothing, Further On Up the Road

1988 marked Eric Clapton’s 25th anniversary in the music business.  Although he didn’t release an album with new music, the retrospective Crossroads 4CD box set was released to many great reviews.  Without any new product the setlist carried over from the August tour was very similar.  Mark Knopfler, who joined Clapton for the Royal Albert Hall shows in 1987, stayed with him throughout the whole year of touring.

Like the previous year he began the year by playing two shows before an extended run at the Royal Albert Hall in London.  In 1987 he played at the Apollo in Manchester, and in 1988 he played in Birmingham on January 22nd and January 23rd.  

Night Of Guitar Magic covers the second Birmingham show.  The sound quality of the audience tape is good to very good.  It is slightly distant and emphasizes the top end, making it sound a bit tinny and flat.  During very loud parts there is slight distortion.  There are two very short dropouts during “I Shot The Sheriff” and cuts 11:31 in “Same Old Blues” and one after “Let It Rain.”

It is an excellent overall performance.  Clapton always seems to elevate his performance when he teams up with another talented musician.  Knopfler is an excellent partner since his own country influenced style meshes very well with Clapton’s.

The set stars off with a bit of nostalgia with two Cream songs, “Crossroads” and “White Room” followed by his biggest hit from the seventies “I Shot The Sheriff.”

The first “new” song is “Run” from August.  Many criticize Clapton’s mid-eighties output for being too pop-oriented and too much affected by Phil Collins’ production, there is a nasty edge to this song in live performance which belies such an opinion.  It’s fast, aggressive, and a good vehicle for the “dirty” guitar tone Clapton favored in the late eighties.  

“Same Old Blues” has almost all variations one can think of during its twenty plus minutes.  Clapton solos, Knopfler solos, Clapton and Knopfler play call-and-response, Nathan East has his moment on bass and even Alan Clark has a short solo on synthesizer.

“Tearing Us Apart” is another aggressive number, followed by “Holy Mother.”  It is a beautiful song with excellent sentiments, but the synthesizer arrangement makes it sound very dated to the mid-eighties. 

“Badge” segues into “Let It Rain,” providing one of the more exciting moments of the set.  Knopfler plays a wonderful solo in the latter, recalling his first major hit with Dire Straits “Sultans Of Swing.”  Before “Layla” they play “A Remark You Made,” the Jaco Pastorius song which Clapton added to the set the previous November after Pastorius’ untimely death.  The five minute long  instrumental features Clapton playing the melody.

The night ends with the Dire Strait’s latest hit “Money For Nothing” and a very long jam on “Further On Up The Road.”

Night Of Guitar Magic is a good release by Slunky and serves as a good compliment to the monster box set 9 Wonderful Nights At Albert’s Place (Beano-005).  The photographs come from the correct era.  The manufacturers misidentify “A Remark You Made” as “Edge Of Darkness” (a piece he wouldn’t play live until 1990 with orchestra) and “Behind The Sun” as “Who Do You Love” (one of the song’s lyrics).    

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