BOOTLEG SERIES #15: Eric Clapton – Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA // 9th August 1975

Eric’s return to to the stage in 1974 saw him free from a certain demon for the first time since his Dominos period but a new demon had taken it’s place in the form of alcohol. As a result, there are a number of bootlegs from shows in 1974 that show Eric at his very worst. Unable to sing in key, unable to play like he once did, it’s one of the saddest things to listen to as a Clapton fan. But there were a number of shows where things came together brilliantly and this show at Frost Amphitheatre at Stanford University on the 9th August 1975 is one of them.

The band open with Layla which Eric originally recorded with Derek and the Dominos five years earlier. Compared to versions from bootlegs in 1974, Eric is on form vocally and the band sound incredibly tight. I don’t think any version of Layla post-1970 can be compared to when Derek and the Dominos played the song live on tour due to the lack of Jim Gordon and Duane Allman, but Clapton and George Terry manage to do the song justice. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door is the second song which, personally, is an odd choice. It’s a good rendition but after six minutes of explosiveness in Layla it kills off any kind of momentum the band gathered since beginning the show. Tell The Truth manages to save things magnificently though and you immediately get the feeling that this should have followed straight after Layla. The opening guitar riff sets the tone well and Clapton sounds great on vocals, as does the rest of the band on their respective instruments. The guitar solo sections sound great and Carl Radle’s trusted and solid bass playing drives the song further and further towards blues/rock heaven.

  1. Layla
  2. Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door
  3. Tell The Truth
  4. Can’t Find My Way Home
  5. Key To The Highway
  6. Carnival
  7. Take Me Down To The River
  8. Badge
  9. Better Make It Through Today
  10. Blues Power
  11. Ramblin’ On My Mind
  12. Let It Rain
  13. Eyesight To The Blind (with Carlos Santana)

Things then turn acoustic with a laid back version of Blind Faith’s Can’t Find My Way Home. The song picks up brilliantly as it goes on with a well played harmonica solo in the mix. It’s followed closely by Key To The Highway which at this point is the third song to feature from Clapton’s Derek and the Dominos period. Whereas the version that featured on the Layla album contained explosive guitar playing from Clapton and Duane Allman, this version is more laid back. Clapton sounds good on vocals and when he takes a guitar solo mid-way through the song it resembles some of his former glory with the Dominos resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable performance. The song builds and builds over its near nine minute length after which the willing crowd roars its approval. The song Carnival follows which would feature on Clapton’s next studio album No Reason To Cry a year later in 1976. He introduces it as a “new one” before the band perform an extremely enjoyable rendition of the song, cemented by Jamie Oldaker’s superb drumming. The guitar playing on this track is nice too and you can sense the enjoyment coming from the band.

After Carnival comes Take Me Down To The River which takes the show in a different direction, but sadly the song is nothing more than a filler track. The band sound great but it pales in comparison to Badge, the song that follows. Clapton is in fine form here and the instrumental section is one of the highlights of the entire show with each member of the band firing on all cylinders. When you think things come to an end near the five minute mark, you’re hugely mistaken, because Clapton re-enters with that downward chord progression that makes Badge so enjoyable to listen to. Things then head in a more mellow direction with Better Make It Through Today from 1975’s There’s One In Every Crowd album. The song begins beautifully with Clapton singing from his soul before he turns things up a notch with a wah drenched solo mid-way through the song. The band and their ability to change the tone of this song is superb as they end it the way it begin, laid back and mellow before immediately feeding straight into Blues Power from Clapton’s debut 1970 solo album. This song was one of the most explosive when played by Derek and the Dominos, especially on their US tour of 1970, and the explosiveness returns in full force here, albeit in a slightly different form due to the larger band. Clapton shows why he is considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time magnificently well here with a fine solo beginning at around the three minute mark.

Clapton then goes back to basics with a rendition of the Robert Johnson number Ramblin’ On My Mind, a song he first recorded with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers nearly a decade previously. The song is completely different to the Mayall version but Clapton’s heart and soul remain the same, resulting in a fantastic performance. This version actually resembles The Sky Is Crying from There’s One In Every Crowd when it comes to song structure. Same beat, same guitar, very similar indeed. But still great. Let It Rain comes next with those familiar opening chords before the full band come in, with Clapton arguably giving his best vocal performance of the entire show. On some songs you can hear the difference in his voice compared to that of five years previously with Derek and the Dominos, but with this version of Let It Rain he sounds exactly the same in delivery. The whole song is a fine band effort and a fantastic way to bring the show to an end, but only until they re-appear with Santana in tow for a run through of Eyesight To The Blind from The Who’s film Tommy. It’s fantastic to hear these two guitar greats go at it and at one point you can hear Clapton lay down a few licks from the song All Your Love from the Bluesbreakers album. Very special.

Overall it’s a fantastic show and a great quality bootleg. Clapton shows during 1974 and 1975 were very hit or miss but this one at at Frost Amphitheatre at Stanford University is one of the best available with Clapton on fine form and at the top of his game musically and vocally. A joy to listen to.

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