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Eric Clapton - Live at Montreux 1986

Eagle Vision // Unrated // September 19, 2006
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Louis Howard | posted October 14, 2006 | E-mail the Author
Before he was out of his teens, the phrase "Clapton is God" was already making its way around the rock and roll ranks. Three times inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. A 16-time Grammy award winner. The case would be made by many that Eric Clapton is the greatest rock guitarist of all time; even those who disagree will be hard pressed keeping him out of the top five. When Clapton ventured out into a solo career of his own in the 70's he was already heading for legendary status, having served as a member of the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream and Blind Faith. Not one to hawk the spotlight in those days, he quietly launched a solo career in mid-1970, scoring a hit with "After Midnight", then doing some work with Delaney and Bonnie and forming Derek and The Dominos. Due in part to heroin addiction Clapton spent 1971 and 1972 mostly away from music, not having another solo album until 461 Ocean Boulevard and a monster hit single, his cover of the Bob Marley song "I Shot The Sheriff". From here his career was spotty, not really taking over the limelight again until "Slowhand" was released in 1977 to enormous acclaim, scoring hits with "Cocaine", "Lay Down Sally" and the ballad "Wonderful Tonight". From there it was "Backless" featuring the song "Promises", a double live "Just One Night" live album, and "Another Ticket" which boasted the single "I Can't Stand It".

In the 80's Clapton's career seemed to wane somewhat, with the releases "Money and Cigarettes" and "Behind The Sun" showing some a degree of creative fatigue. "August" was to be Clapton's foray into a bit harder sound, which is the showcase release of the time this Montreux concert was filmed. Not long after this Eric's career would happily come into a resurgence with the advent of CD and one of that medium's early 4 disc retrospectives, the now legendary "Crossroads" compilation, the great high selling "Journeyman" album, the Unplugged release and something of a renaissance period for the guitar God.

Shoot, I'm one of those fellas that begrudgingly came around to revering Clapton, having heard "Cocaine" and "Wonderful Tonight" a thousand times too many in my youth- an era everyone was required to buy "Slowhand" to qualify as a rock and roller. When one looks at his catalog as a whole it is laden with great songs and incredible guitar work, however- and the man keeps coming out with great albums. So for the last 15 years I've been an admitted Clapton fan rather than a begrudging one. One of the albums that brought me on the bandwagon is also one that would later be released the same year this 1986 Montreux show was performed, "August", which continued a trend toward a leaner, harder sound than much of his 70's material. Much of that album's material is performed here, with the same core band he used for that recording; drummer and producer Phil Collins of Genesis fame, Nathan East on bass and Greg Phillinganes on keyboards.

Here is a track list of the show-

1. Crossroads
2. White Room
3. I Shot the Sheriff
4. I Wanna Make Love to You
5. Miss You
6. Same Old Blues
7. Tearing Us Apart
8. Holy Mother
9. Behind the Mask
10 . Badge
11 . Let it Rain
12 . In the Air Tonight
13 . Cocaine
14 . Layla
15 . Sunshine of Your Love
16 . Further on Up the Road

Given the time period during which this concert took place one would be very hard pressed to come up with a better set list than this one; its likely Clapton and company saw this as an opportunity to try the forthcoming album material in a live venue. They were sure to have been rehearsing the previous Clapton songs performed here as well, with an eye towards a full blown fall tour certain to come after the release of "August". Indeed, the older Clapton material on the set list practically reads like a greatest hits compilation up to 1986. This is the kind of band one would want behind them as well, and something Clapton still wisely chooses to do when touring today. At the time this concert was filmed Nathan East and Greg Phillinganes were seasoned recording session veterans, their resumes reading like a who's who in rock and soul; a few years after this show East would become one of the members of jazz supergroup Fourplay. Phil Collins' ( who also produced the "August" album ) success is pretty much the stuff of legends, taking the spotlight as drummer and lead singer/songwriter with Genesis after the departure of Peter Gabriel, then branching out on his own and having a stellar (if these days a bit too "adult contemporary") solo career as well.

Over the last few years I've picked up several Clapton concert DVD's one of which (One More Car, One More Rider) nearly gets constant rotation in my DVD changer. Seeing him play over a number of disc releases through a 20 year span has made me a believer in one thing for certain; when the man is on stage, he brings the goods, seemingly never having an off night or delivering a subpar performance. I was somewhat skeptical about this show, being as how it was in 1986 and he had yet to really reemerge as the Clapton we've been seeing since the "Journeyman" release. I was foolish to have given that a thought; this may well be the hardest rocking set set I've seen Clapton play. His voice is in particularly fine shape and he fairly attacks the faster material, growling the lyrics in a way I seldom see him do in modern times. Then again, much of the stuff played here I've rarely seen Eric do in concert, such as the old Bob Marley gem "I Shot the Sheriff" and a good deal of the "August" release tunes.

Make it a note to check out the extended "Same Old Blues" here; Clapton, East and Phillinganes all take splendid solos and the piece lasts about 13 minutes. Indeed, the show itself is much longer than much of the music video fare one sees on the shelves; the show clocks in at a full 114 minutes, so you're getting your money's worth. Having another highly acclaimed star of the period is interesting to see as well; Phil Collins sitting in on drums behind an established act is always fun to see, as he did in taking John Bonham's place behind the remaining members of Led Zeppelin at Live Aid. By no means showy, Phil stays busy, a whirling dervish on the drum kit, keeping perfect pace with whomever he plays for. Clapton takes what seems like an inordinate number of guitar solos here, and hey, thats just fine by me- he seems to be having fun, and is particularly inspired on this night.

It is a bit odd to see ol' Slowhand sporting that darker, 80's perfectly styled flyback hairdo and looking much younger than the sage professor appearance he sports these days. The band fairly rips through the material; "Cocaine" is interesting here in light of the fact that Eric quit playing the tune live for many years after his drug rehabilitation and has only recently incorporated it back into his setlist, his reason being that he sees it as an anti-drug song these days as opposed to one advocating their use. In any case, the crowd let out a roar when the first strains of the song were heard, and Clapton rocked the house with it in Montreux.

Founded in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has established itself as one of the most prestigious music events in the world. The extraordinary list of artists who have played there over the last 30 years is drawn from across the musical spectrum. With the consent of both the festival and the artists, Eagle Vision is making these concerts available for the first time on DVD. While a statement like this could be construed as hype by many, the list of concert DVDs the company has already released is indeed diverse and star-studded. This reviewer has already watched and/or written reviews of Montreux performances by the likes of Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Alice Cooper, The Jeff Healy Band, James Brown, Candy Dulfer, Suzanne Vega, Nina Simone, Ray Charles, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Marcus Miller, Bonnie Raitt, Ella Fitzgerald.....the list goes on and on. With three decades of great musicians and performances in the vaults I'm hopeful there will be many more gems like this to come.


Aspect ratio for this disc is listed on the box as "16 x 9 Format" so I assume this is 1.85:1 widescreen. Sadly, the picture quality could be better. It isn't awful, it just isn't what we're becoming accustomed to seeing these days. Blacks aren't at all deep, colors appear to be washed out and things look a bit cloudy on the whole. Sharpness is only adequate.


Eagle Vision has been doing some wonderful work in regards to the sonic aspect of their Live At Montreux series. The choices available here are Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS Surround Sound and PCM Stereo. The 5.1 and DTS tracks here are among the finest I've listened to from their offerings; spacious, clear with plenty of depth at the lower end, this is a rocker.


Sadly, there is nothing in the way of extras here. Some of the Eagle Rock/Montreux sets have accompanying CDs of the performances while others don't, probably due to rights issues with the artist, or with an eye towards separately releasing the bigger selling acts' concerts for CD sale. Unfortunately, the Clapton performance does not come with an audio CD of the show.

Final Thoughts-

Most any Clapton concert one finds available for purchase is worth owning for the simple fact that he always seems to bring his "A" game to the stage. His 1986 Montreux performance is no exception, and while I would have liked for the picture quality to be a bit more vibrant, the content more than makes up for this. With a MSRP price as low as this its a no-brainer. If you're a Clapton fan, or even just a rock and roller, this is one you need in your library. Highly recommended.
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Highly Recommended

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