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Case Number 10032: Small Claims Court

Buy Eric Clapton: Live At Montreux 1986 at Amazon

Eric Clapton: Live At Montreux 1986

Eagle Rock Entertainment // 1986 // 114 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // September 19th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Ryan Keefer saw a badge on eBay the other day, oddly enough...

The Charge

I'm here to pose a "chicken and the egg" type question to stir debate for those music aficionados; if Eric Clapton is God, does that mean that Jeff Beck is Jesus Christ?

The Case

Come on, admit it. Those of you who love rock and roll music have had those discussions about the greatest rock band ever, with living or dead members. And if you've had those discussions, Eric Clapton fills in the lead guitarist position in a lot of people's lists. Clapton has not only maintained a position as one of the world's best guitar virtuosos, but he's also helped scores of fans identify and tune into some of Clapton's own idols growing up. Like many musicians of the '60s "British Invasion," Clapton was a huge fan of American blues musicians, almost to the point of advertising them. Personally, I wouldn't have heard of people like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Leadbelly were it not for Clapton's vocal endorsement of them.

As for the man himself, Clapton has undergone several stages in his career and life. He was the guitarist in the famous London band the Yardbirds before his 21st birthday. However, the pop sensibilities the Yardbirds exhibited clashed with Clapton's musical taste, so he left the band (oddly enough, the guy Clapton recommended to replace him was Jimmy Page, who went on to form a sleepy English group called Led Zeppelin. With the Yardbirds (and a subsequent tenure in John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers) behind him, Clapton formed Cream with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, where legendary songs like "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room," "Crossroads" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses" became almost instant hits. It was not to last however, and the band broke up after just three years (and many millions sold in albums). Clapton spent time doing work in such bands as Derek & the Dominos (where the infamous "Layla" first appeared on vinyl) and Blind Faith, next to the equally impressive Steve Winwood, where songs like "Can't Find My Way Home" and "Presence of the Lord" were recorded.

Clapton seemed to only find temporary happiness in these collaborations, and by the early '70s, had descended into profound drug and alcohol abuse while managing a fledgling solo career. He was able to emerge from the potential ruins of it in the late '70s and early '80s (all the while producing respectable albums), and with drummer (and Genesis front man) Phil Collins, released a couple of albums in the mid '80s, and Collins even appears in this concert. With Collins' work, Clapton released some familiar songs in the '80s, including "She's Waiting."

By 1986, Clapton was just about to break big, as his "It's in the Way That You Use It" in The Color of Money soundtrack was making its way to the American public's ears, and his "After Midnight" song was playing several hundred times daily on beer commercials. However, Clapton stayed true to his roots, and instead of immediately selling out and charging exuberant fees for tickets in arenas, Clapton was still playing festivals such as this. Clapton's playlist for the Montreux concert (the 20th in the history of the festival) was:

• "Crossroads"
• "White Room"
• "I Shot the Sheriff"
• "I Wanna Make Love to You"
• "Miss You"
• "Same Old Blues"
• "Tearing Us Apart"
• "Holy Mother"
• "Behind the Mask"
• "Badge"
• "Let it Rain"
• "In the Air Tonight"
• "Cocaine"
• "Layla"
• "Sunshine of Your Love"
• "Further On Up the Road"

Now, as much of a fan of Eric Clapton's as I may sound or appear, many of his live performances simply leave a lot to be desired for me. The reason why is that playing his own material, he seems to be sleepwalking on more performances than not, and it's only when he's playing stuff that he really loves or, at the very least, music that he likes a lot, that he's happiest. During the performance (which runs just a shade under two hours), the songs sound solid, maybe a little bit overproduced, but there's no song that ultimately stands out from the set. The only one that really comes close is "Holy Mother," and I don't think that may be something to brag about. Do the solos sound good? Sure, but I wasn't completely blown away by anything he did on this go round.

I'll even go one better with something a little more grandiose, but I came away being a lot more impressed with Collins' drum playing than by Clapton's guitar (though Clapton is still one of the greats). Granted, this is coming from someone who rode in the passenger's seat of his father's 280ZX while "Sussudio" would be played ad nauseum. It was crisp, solid, and he was a more active participant when his super '80s song "In the Air Tonight" was performed.

While I appreciate the Montreux festival's work to put these performances on DVD, I would hope that some performances are a little more electric than others. This is the second such disc that I've gotten a chance to view, and so far, much as I hate to say it, I feel like I'm hitting 0 for 2. While fans of Clapton might enjoy this and may want to pick it up, the mid '80s wasn't necessary the creative apex of Clapton's artistry, so I'd search for things shortly after this, or even put the MTV Unplugged disc in the CD player if I want some good live music from Eric Clapton, because I didn't see that much of it here.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 76

Perp Profile

Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• PCM 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Release Year: 1986
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Concerts and Musicals
• Performance

Distinguishing Marks

• None

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