Roaming This Old Highway
The Royal Albert Hall, London, England – May 25th, 2009
Disc 1 (66:34): Going Down Slow, Key To The Highway, Old Love, Anything For Your Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Driftin’, Layla, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Anytime For You, Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Disc 2 (52:03): Badge, Little Queen Of Spades, Before You Accuse Me, Wonderful Tonight, Cocaine, Crossroads
Roaming This Old Highway has the seventh and eighth out of the eleven Royal Albert Hall shows last month. The recording for this show is perhaps the best of all that have surfaced from the Royal Albert Hall shows. It is very clear and powerful with great stereo effects of the instruments. This is also one of the shortest of the gigs too, clocking in at just under two hours opening with “Going Down Slow” and the ubiquitous “Key To The Highway.” But “Old Love” really stands out in this show. It is the first of several long improvisational set pieces for Clapton and his band and in this Tim Carmen really takes control at about the eight minute mark, playing an enjoyable jazzy solo on the keyboards.
The opening electric set ends with a nine-minute, fast tempo “I Shot The Sheriff” which is heavily dependent upon its reggae roots. “Driftin'” begins the acoustic section of the show and effectively replaces “Not Dark Yet” which was played in the preceding concerts. Also played is the acoustic Unplugged arrangement of “Layla” in addition to “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” “Anytime For You” and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow,” all regular inclusions.
“Badge” is very compact compared to other versions and sounds more like a nod to his Cream roots than anything else. The next two songs, “Little Queen Of Spades” and “Before You Accuse Me” are both extremely long and filled with piano and keyboard as well as guitar improvisations. “Wonderful Tonight” has a strange, contemplative introduction not played in other arrangements. “Cocaine” is fifteen minutes long and Clapton plays Jimi Hendrix style feedback laden fuzz in his solos before Carmen plays his keyboard solo.
The Royal Albert Hall, London, England – May 26th, 2009
Disc 3 (67:11): Going Down Slow, Key To The Highway, Got To Get Better In A Little While, Old Love, I Shot The Sheriff, Driftin’, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, Lay Down Sally, Anytime For You, Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Disc 4 (54:45): Badge, Little Queen Of Spades, Before You Accuse Me, Wonderful Tonight, Layla, Cocaine, Crossroads
The eighth RAH show is likewise in a great sounding stereo DAT recording taped from what sounds like the front row. It is as good as the seventh RAH on the first two discs. Starting with the pop arrangement of “Going Down Slow” followed by “Key To The Highway.” But the first surprise of the night comes with the first “Got To Get Better In A Little While” during this run. Like much of his classics, it has a different feel from the seventies versions. In 2009 there is much more emphasis upon the rhythm as it’s given an almost funk arrangement. Willie Weeks has his first solo of the evening and Clapton delivers a stellar solo while stomping his feet.
“Old Love” is also fascinating for Tim Carmen on keyboards stimulating Clapton to play faster until the song returns to its lugubrious rhythm. The acoustic set begins as it does the previous evening with “Driftin'” followed by “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” “Lay Down Sally” sounds interesting in this new arrangement, retaining much of the joy and happiness of the piece.
Doyle Bramhall II joined the show for the last 3 songs. Eric starts with the famous riff of “Layla” and Doyle played the long outro on slide. “Cocaine” features two Eric solos, one each by Doyle and Andy Fairweather-Low, and keyboard solos by Tim Carmen and Chris Stainton and ending with a loud shout of “Cocaine” by the audience. The show ends with a loud version of “Crossroads.” Roaming This Old Highway is packaged in a fatboy jewel case with several photographs from the event on the artwork. This forms a set-piece with the other four disc sets from Clapton’s RAH run, Welcome Back Andy and Remarkable Milestone.
If there was an Oscar for Best Ever Recording at the RAH…. this release would take it home without doubt!!