Eric Clapton – Summerfestival (Mid Valley MVR 488/489)

Summerfest (Mid Valley MVR 488/489)
Milwaukee Summerfest, Milwaukee, WI – July 10, 1983

Disc1 (52:57). Tulsa Time – I Shot The Sheriff – Worried Life Blues – Lay Down Sally – Let It Rain – Double Trouble – Sweet Little Lisa – Blow Wind Blow – The Shape You’re In.
Disc2 (47:55). Wonderful Tonight – Blues Power – Don’t Say You Don’t Love Me – Have You Ever Loved A Woman – Ramblin’ On My Mind – Cocaine – Layla – Further On Up The Road.

This show has been in circulation for more than a decade under a couple of different names  – first it was “Milwaukee Time” on Silver Rarities (SIRA 187/188) and then “Cocaine And Alcoholic” on Imperial (IMCD 97002-2) but MidValley strikes another homerun yet again with “Summerfest”.  I own a copy of “Milwaukee Time” which I always considered to be a very good soundboard recording, but it now is nothing but a pale comparison to “Summerfest” as the latter has a much crisper, cleaner sound. According to the sticker on the front cover the tape is taken from Roger’s [Forrester] master which explains it all. “Milwaukee Time” was probably sourced from a higher generation tape.

The “Money And Cigarettes” album was issued in February 1983 and coinciding with its release EC started the first leg of his US Tour. April and May saw EC extensively touring Europe before returning to the US in late June for the second and final US leg which would wrap up in Denver on July 17th. “Summerfest” is just five shows away from the end of the tour.

According to Marc Roberty’s “The Man, the Music, the Memorabilia”, most of the US shows of this tour were digitally recorded on a media that could be considered the forerunner to DAT. I can only hope that stuff see the light of day at some point because unlike the first leg of the tour, the second one is skimpily documented.

The show begins with the catchy Tulsa Time then followed by the perpetual Sheriff whose solo, albeit solid, lacks some emotion on this occasion. EC shows his bluesier side with a nice rendition of “Big Maceo” Merriweather’s Worried Life Blues that sees solos from both Albert Lee and Chris Stainton on keyboards before EC plays his share of lead. The band go bluegrass with Lay Down Sally whose one and only solo is played by Albert Lee. There is some noise present on the tape when EC sings the verse “we still got the moon and stars above” on Lay Down Sally. “Milwaukee Time” suffers from the same problem so the assumption about it being sourced from a higher generation tape starts to take hold.

EC’s extended outro on Let It Rain is delightful and so are all 9 minutes of Double Trouble on which EC gives everything that he’s got and more! Albert Lee is given the spotlight for a rousing version of Sweet Little Liza that keeps my feet taping again and again. Next comes what has to be a very rare performance of Blow Wind Blow as I have no evidence it was played on any other show of the tour. Chris Stainton’s  great keyboards are heavily featured on the first half of this tune. The rocker The Shape You’re In closes Disc1 with an outro that EC and Albert Lee use to exchange licks on a great interplay.

The nowadays predictable Wonderful Tonight comes next with an arrangement that is close to the original making this a fine moment. After the song EC asks the audience if they’re having a good time…. That makes the crowd get louder and after a few seconds he replies: “Me too!”.

EC throws in some outstanding lead guitar work on the extended Blues Power which is another showcase for Chris’ abilities on the keyboards too. The blues centerpiece of the night is a brilliant 13-minute blues medley consisting of Country Boy / Have You Ever Loved A Woman / Ramblin’ On My Mind, all punctuated by several key changes that EC shouts out to make the band move through. Cocaine makes you intuit the show is coming to an end. No surprises here as EC plays the first solo and leaves the second one for Albert. The intro to Layla is beautiful and the solo is an immaculate one but surprisingly, this time EC won’t find a way to my heart with it.

Just before the encore, Duck Dunn, Chris Stainton, Albert Lee and EC himself are introduced to the audience… All of the band members but Jamie Oldaker! For some reason, the speaker just forgets about him.

The classic Further On Up The Road – one of EC’s live repertoire’s staples in the mid 70’s & 80’s – closes out the show.  Featuring solos from EC, Chris, Albert and EC again. The tape finishes with EC saying “Thank you! You’re a wonderful people! Wonderful!”.

Backed by a solid band, EC puts out a good gig and quality-wise no other release surpasses “Summerfest”, which has got to be the definitive edition of this show. No goodies included this time other than a small card with the same anime picture that was used for the sleeve to Happy Valentine on the front, and some information in Japanese language on the back.

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