The ARMS Concert: New York Grand Finale (Beano-28)
Including the London show in September, the ARMS tour played a total of only ten shows scattered in five cities. The final two shows were in New York on December 8th and December 9th in Madison Square Garden. Beano packages two new audience recordings in one six disc set, both of them with the complete performance for each night. For such a significant ensemble of talent there have been so very few unofficial releases of the unedited shows. Earlier this year Beano released Three Yardbirds In The Hall (Beano-023) with the London show. Mid Valley released the two Dallas shows on ARMS (Mid Valley Sampler) and no label DVD The Complete ARMS Concert with the December 2nd San Francisco show.
These New York shows are important since they are the last ever for ARMS. Both of these concerts were professionally filmed and recorded, but this is the first time the complete sets have been made available. These two concerts were taped by the same taper sitting in the same position close to the stage. The tape flips are the same (after “Don’t Talk To Me” in Joe Cocker’s set, between the Beck and Page sets and before the encore) and only the opening notes of “Watching The River Flow” are lost on both nights. But the sound quality for both shows are very similar. They are excellent recordings with a bias for the treble. The second night has a bit more depth in the recording compared to the first.
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – December 8th, 1983
Disc 1 (63:18): Introduction, Everybody Ought To Make A Change, Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight, Rita Mae, That’s Alright, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Ramblin’ On My Mind, Cocaine, Don’t Talk To Me, Watching The River Flow, Worried Life Blues, You Are So Beautiful, Seven Days, Feelin’ Alright
Disc 2 (73:17): Soundcheck, Star Cycle, The Pump, Definitely Maybe, Blue Wind, People Get Ready, Going Down Slow, Prelude, Who’s To Blame, City Sirens, Boogie Mama, Midnight Moonlight, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 3 (29:12): Layla, With A Little Help From My Friends, April Fool, Good Night Irene
Apparent from this recording is the electricity and anticipation that only a New York audience can create. Both concerts sold out and the Garden was completely packed. Clapton was on tour earlier in the year for Money And Cigarettes and played at Jones Beach in the summertime. But this was Jeff Beck’s first appearance in New York in more than three years and Jimmy Page’s first appearance since Led Zeppelin played six shows in Madison Square Garden in 1977 seven years before.
Bill Graham is heard in the beginning of the tape introducing the musicians on stage and singles out Eric Clapton as they are beginning the Sleepy John Estes cover “Everybody Ought To Make A Change.” The show picks up though when he plays his own material “Lay Down Sally” and “Wonderful Tonight.” “Rita Mae” from Another Ticket is outstanding. Ray Cooper on percussion has his chance to play his games on the drums. Watching him in the video is exhausting.
“That’s Alright,” “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” and “Ramblin’ On My Mind” are played as an undifferentiated medley, all segueing into one another lasting for a total of ten minutes with the only difference between the three being the words and key. Afterwards Clapton says, “surprise surprise, look what the cat dragged in. My friend Ronnie” as Ron Wood joins them onstage. His participation was unannounced and makes three Rolling Stones in the band. Wood joins in on “Cocaine” and contributes a sloppy solo in the middle.
Cocker adds “another dimension” as he comes on to begin his set with “Don’t Talk To Me” and a limp cover of Bob Dylan’s “Watching The River Flow.” After “Worried Life Blues” Cocker begins to introduce “Seven Day,” saying “this is another one of Bob’s tunes” before catching himself (“we got them mixed up actually.”) “You Are So Beautiful” slows the show down tremendously but is a touching version. They follow with the second Dylan cover of the show “Seven Days.” Wood takes the vocals since he covered it himself several years before on his solo album Gimme Some Neck and on the New Barbarians tour that year. “The magic touch of Ronnie Wood yeah?” Cocker shouts afterwards. His set ends with the Traffic cover “Feelin’ Alright.”
Jeff Becks’ set begins with a quick tuning and soundcheck before “Star Cycle.” Simon Phillips’ drums are very loud in the recording adding a tremendous amount of power to Beck’s inventive licks. “Simon Phillips is God” someone by the taper shouts after the song. “This next tune you might recognize it from the movie Risky Business. It goes like this…” is how Beck introduces “The Pump.” They play a scorching version with Jan Hammer going off on his own little tangents including little keyboard breaks. He “shakes a few cobwebs” out of “Definitely Maybe” since they last played it “a hundred years ago.”
Before “People Get Ready” Beck says, “I want to say how wonderful it is to be back in New York. It’s been a long time since I first stood on a stage here and I’ll never forget it when you have me that welcome. It’s a sad day, three years to the day today. We’re gonna try to think of John when we do this tune.” He’s the first one, halfway through the concert, to acknowledge Lennon’s passing.
Like with Beck’s set, Jimmy Page’s begins without any introduction. There is a loud ovation however when he begins with “Prelude.” He is backed by Beck’s band, Simon Phillips on drums and Fernand Saunders on bass. “That was a piece by Chopin haha” Page says after the opening tune before introducing Paul Rodgers to sing the songs from the Death Wish II soundtrack, “Who’s To Blame” and “City Sirens.”
Rodgers looks for a missing Ian Stewart, who was supposed to play on “Boogie Mama,” but call on Chris Stainton instead. “Midnight Moonlight” is introduced as an “abstract” song Page and Rodgers has been working on and they proceed with a sloppy version of the piece. Rodgers forgets the cue after the solo and Page wanders off into “Black Mountain Side.” Page’s set ends with the instrumental version of “Stairway To Heaven.” They keyboards play the vocal melody and the other two stars, Clapton and Beck, come in during the solo.
The entire ensemble comes onstage for “Layla.” Both Beck and Page take solos during the second half coda section of the piece. Joe Cocker dedicated “With A Little Help From My Friends” to John Lennon. A guy in the audience by the taper shouts “John Lennon and John Bonham,” remembering Led Zeppelin’s drummer who died several months prior to Lennon. Ronnie Lane himself then comes out and asks, “what do you think of my friends?” He sings lead on the final two songs, “April Fool” and “Goodnight Irene” (with an excellent Jimmy Page solo) which closes a magical evening in the Garden.
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY – December 9th, 1983
Disc 4 (62:43): Introduction, Everybody Ought To Make A Change, Lay Down Sally, Wonderful Tonight, Rita Mae, Sad Sad Day, Have You Ever Loved A Woman, Ramblin’ On My Mind, Cocaine, Don’t Talk To Me, Watching The River Flow, Worried Life Blues, You Are So Beautiful, Seven Days, Feelin ‘Alright
Disc 5 (73:07): Soundcheck, Star Cycle, The Pump, Definitely Maybe, Blue Wind, People Get Ready, Going Down, Prelude, Who’s To Blame, City Sirens, Boogie Mama, Midnight Moonlight, Stairway To Heaven
Disc 6 (30:23): Layla, With A Little Help From My Friends, April Fool, Good Night Irene, outroduction
The closing night in New York and the final ARMS show has had a bit more exposure than the first night. Jimmy Page’s set, except for “Midnight Moonlight,” can be found on the 1LP release Class Of ’85 Volume 2: The Firm (RSR International RSR 219) sourced from an audience recording and some material from the video soundtrack was used for the bizarre Arms Concert USA (Hercules-002/3/4) on compact disc mixed songs from the December 3rd San Francisco video soundtrack.
Beano uses an excellent audience recording on Grand Finale taped by the some one who did the previous night. Compared to the previous evening, it is more stable, had more depth and a great live sound and has the same cuts.
Bill Graham introduces the ARMS band for the final time as Eric Clapton comes on stage, beginning with “Everybody Ought To Make A Change,” the song which started all of the shows. “Rita Mae” is outstanding again and this night Chris Stainton asserts the Hammond more in the mix before Ray Cooper’s percussion solo. Muddy Waters’ “Sad Sad Day” replaces “That’s Alright” as the medley starter this night. Just like the previous night, Ron Wood walks onstage and joins Clapton and the band after “Ramblin’ On My Mind” and remains with the band through Joe Cocker’s set. In “Cocaine” Clapton and Wood trade riffs in the middle solo.
Clapton introduces Joe Cocker as “a treat.” His set remains the same as the first New York show. Ron Wood again handles the vocals for “Seven Days.” Before his final song Cocker thanks Clapton for his inspiration for organizing the tour. “Feeling Alright” receives a very loud ovation by the New York audience.
It seems Jeff Beck’s set on each night comes very close to stealing the show. His material is unique compared to everything else played that is always sounds fresh and inventive. The first two songs, “Star Cycle” and “The Pump” sound especially so with Jan Hammer’s contributions. Also the audience give him such an ovation that before “Blue Wind” he calls them “the audience to end all audiences.” Andy Fairweather Low sings “People Get Ready” which, according to Beck, “fits the mood of the cause we got going.”
Jimmy Page’s set again gets off to a great start with “Prelude.” It is somber and moody but exhilarating to hear in this recording. Paul Rodgers comes onstage “because I can’t sing but he can.” The new song “Midnight Moonlight” is much tighter this night compared to the previous but it still never sounds cohesive in live performance. “Stairway To Heaven” is notable for someone playing a recorder during the verses, imitating the studio recording.
The show closes with all the musicians on stage for “Layla” and “With A Little Help From My Friends.” Ronnie Lane sings “April Fool” and “Goodnight Irene” again. In each song Lane calls out the name of each guitarist to take a solo (“Jimmy”… “Ronnie” … “Jeff”…) It’s a poignant moment as the tour comes to an end.
After the last song Lane takes the microphone. “Just a minute. I’ve been waiting for this for three weeks. You’re all fired. How’s that?” “We’re sacked” Clapton says at the back of the stage. “Ronnie what did you do to the band just now? What did you say to the band?” Bill Graham comes back onstage and introduces the band again. Jimmy Page gets the biggest ovation and Graham singles out Glyn Johns for particular thanks. New York Grand Finale is packaged in a six disc jewel case and the artwork utilizes many well known photos from the tour. This is another quality production by Beano worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)