Southern Comfort (Mid Valley MVR 498-499)
Beacon Theatre, New York – March 19&20, 2009
Disc1. Intro – Key To The Highway – Dreams – Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad – Little Wing – Anyday – Layla – Ending.
Disc2. Intro – Key To The Highway – Stormy Monday – Dreams – Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad – Little Wing – In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed – Layla – Ending.
2009 is the year the Allman Brothers Band commemorate both the 40th Anniversary of their founding as well as the 20th Anniversary of their performances at the Beacon Theatre in New York. This year’s run was dedicated to the memory of Duane Allman and different special guests shared the stage with the ABB during their 15-show stint which would last from March 9 through March 28. As it couldn’t have been any other way, EC was among these guests and joined the ABB on two nights of historic importance since they mark the first time they would appear on the same stage.
With the shows divided into two different sets, EC played just the second ones on each night – most of it on the first night, and in its entirety on the second one – and that is all that is captured – in soundboard quality – on “Southern Comfort”.
The tape of the first show begins with Gregg Allman saying “We’d like to bring up a real great player, a real wonderful person. You all probably know him. He needs no introduction… Mr. Eric Clapton!” before EC kick things off with a rocking version of Key To The Highway, sharing vocals with Gregg himself.
Next comes the first surprise of the night: EC attempts the quite psychodelic Dreams – a song from the ABB’s repertoire he is not used to – and takes the first solo achieving remarkable success. Then the band breaks into an impressive Why Does Love with a great outro with all three guitar players trading beautiful licks.
Little Wing follows and how epic it is! All three guitar players seem to push each other which results in one of the best renditions of this song that EC has performed… ever! EC plays the intro and lead vocals. The middle part is saved for a superb Warren Haynes and a great Derek Trucks before EC closes the song with a hot of his trademark solos.
Derek Trucks’ wife Susan Tedeschi joins the band to share vocal duties with EC on Anyday, which closes the show. No lead guitar from EC on this one but still a favourite of mine since we get scorching leads from Warren Haynes first and then from Derek Trucks. Layla is the predictable encore and even with a shorter-than-you-would-expect solo from EC, brings the house down.
The tape of the second night begins in a very similar way to the first one. Tonight Gregg’s words are: “We’d like to introduce someone that needs no introduction…Please welcome Eric Clapton!”.
Key To The Highway lits up the show as EC throws in a smoking solo on the outro. Coming up next is the unexpected blues staple Stormy Monday, long at 12+ minutes, with Gregg singing his heart out. Derek is the first one to accomplish his solo on slide, then followed by Warren. Gregg gives the guitars a rest with his keyboards before EC rips off a stunning lead.
Tonight EC faces Dreams for the second time and there’s no doubt he feels much more comfortable than he did the previous night as he attacks the guitar more. The second and last solo is for Warren and he is just superb on slide. A rousing rendition of Why Does Love witnesses another fabulous interplay among all three guitarists on the outro. Like it was the night before, Little Wing is outstanding again. EC may flub a line on the outro but it just does not detract from my overall enjoyment.
It is In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed, the other surprise of the night, the one that really torches the show: amazing to hear Trucks, Haynes soloing over it but it is EC who steals the song with an stellar and incendiary solo that explains why he is still considered a deity. Layla is again the encore but the solo that EC plays is again short at just 45 seconds and it is not enough for me… Like the previous night, Derek is prominently featured on the coda which closes the show definitely.
“Southern Comfort” is a 2CD set that comes with 2 bonus DVDs that might have been taken from what was broadcast live on moogis, the subscription based online service – both live and on demand – which was founded by Butch Trucks. The DVD stuff – identical to the CDs as for the audio is concerned – suffer from lossy compression which deteriorates image quality but it still is very watchable. A very recommended release of historic importance that you should never be missing.