Eric Clapton – Stardust 2 (Mid Valley MVR 575/576)

Stardust 2 (Mid Valley MVR 575/576)
Saitama Super Arena, Saitama, Japan – December 2, 2006

Disc 1. Tell The Truth – Key To The Highway – Got To Get Better In A Little While – Old Love – Motherless Children – Ramblin’ On My Mind – Outside Woman Blues – Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out – Running On Faith
Disc 2. After Midnight – Little Queen Of Spades – Anyday – Wonderful Tonight – Layla – Cocaine – Crossroads

It’s sequel time! Two years after the release of the magnificient “Stardust” set, Mid Valley brings to life another stunning soundboard tape from EC’s Japan Tour of 2006 in a great digital stereo quality. Like Stardust“, the jewel case is housed in the same cardboard jacket that resembles a Fender Twin Amp  that is identical to the slipcase of the signed, limited edition of EC’s Autobiography book. The only difference is in the colour, which is now blue. (Eelgrass released “Stardust” soon after MVR and at a more affordable price…  might they be re-releasing “Stardust 2” now?)

The last tour that had featured EC along with two other guitar players regularly on stage was “Pilgrim” back in 1998.  The guitar players  at that time were Andy Fairweather-Low and Alan Darby. On the Tour of 2006 we get Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks, an option that I might prefer, but I still think three guitars players are just too many when one of them is EC….

The show begins with three Dominos numbers: Tell The Truth sees EC and Doyle sharing vocal duties and Derek Trucks is heavily featured on slide guitar. Key To The Highway has a true Dominos sound with Doyle again sharing vocals with EC. The leads are taken by EC, Derek, Doyle and EC again. It’s no secret Got To Get Better is one of my all-time favourite EC songs but I have to prefer the performances on the 2004 Tour, when EC played the first solo, and then the outro too. On this tour EC limits himself to play just the first solo as the outro is left for Derek Trucks. EC says “Konbawa! Thank You!” before Old Love, whose first half is great, with an excellent from EC. I can stand the second half, with Tim Carmon as the Master Of Ceremonies, but I will always see that as a lost opportunity for us to get another solo from our man. Old Love segues into Motherless Children, featuring a percussion intro that for a few seconds reminds me of the days when Ray Cooper was in the EC band.

EC seems to be more talkative than usual tonight as he says “Domo! Thank you! Good Evening! Hope you’re having a good time…” before starting the acoustic set.  A small diginoise can be briefly heard at the beginning of Ramblin’ On My Mind, which sees EC unaccompanied. Outside Woman Blues is a favourite but falls short clocking at just 3 minutes. EC changes the lyrics of the last verse a bit on Nobody Knows You. Derek  plays the first lead on Running On Faith but my vote has to go to the second solo, played by Doyle.

The elctric set resumes with a nice rendition of After Midnight, where EC flubs a line at the end of his first solo. Additional leads are played by Doyle, Derek and EC again. It’s no surprise that Little Queen Of Spades is the longest song of the night, as very extended solos are delivered by Chris Stainton, Doyle and Derek. EC keeps the intro and outro for himself.

The song after Little Queen Of Spades would change very often on this Tour. Songs played ranged from the Dominos’  rockers Anyday or Tell The Truth, to the bluesier sounds of Further On Up The Road or even the more poppy Pretending!! My personal choice would always be Anyday, so luck is on my side because that’s the selection for tonight! For one time, I won’t miss a solo from EC – all leads are saved for Derek – because I love the vocals as much!!

The quiet Wonderful Tonight shows the end of the road. EC’s solo on Layla won’t last for a full minute but I’ve alwyas preferred quality over quantity, so I will have to be glad with what I get. As usual, the coda has always been beautiful and this is no exception: my 4-month-old son fell asleep while I was humming it to him.

EC plays a good first solo on Cocaine, then followed by a great Doyle and Tim Carmon, who gets his share of the spotlight too. The second half of the song is saved for Derek and Chris Stainton. Crossroads, the only encore of the night, is taken from “Stardust, making this an incomplete recording. In my opinion, it would have been a much better option to fill this gap with an audience source, which sure is available in excellent quality.

“Stardust 2” is slightly inferior to its eldest brother in terms of audio quality, but better than everything else that has surfaced over the years – including the great “The Road To Saitama” release from ARMS. The artwork is as enjoyable as usual making it a nice addition to your collection.

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