Eric Clapton spent most of 2000 in the studio recording Riding With The King (with B.B. King) and his own solo effort, Reptile. His major concert appearance of the year was with Carlos Santana in Tokyo as a surprise guest.

2001 represented Clapton’s return to a massive world tour schedule that kept him on the road for most of the year. The tour, in support of Reptile, started off at London’s Royal Albert Hall in February then moved on to Europe. American dates filled up the spring and summer and in the fall, Eric returned to South America for the first time in 11 years. Immediately after the Mexico City concert, Eric Clapton flew to the U.S. to take part in the 9/11 mega-benefit Concert For New York City. Clapton ended the year with a tour of Japan. Overall, the shows were good on the tour, but spectacular evenings were few and far between. The tour was also characterized by changing personnel which would change the flavor of the performances themselves.

Eric Clapton took most of 2002 off. Concert appearances were limited to a few one-offs, including “The Party At The Palace” to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee, the Ferrari Maseratti Festival in August and a benefit for the Carl Wilson Foundation in October. In November, Eric served as musical director for “The Concert For George” – a tribute concert in memory of George Harrison. “The Party At The Palace” and “The Concert For George” were officially released.

Eric spent several months of 2003 working on a new solo album of original material (Back Home, released in 2005) as well as a tribute disc to the songs of Robert Johnson. As usual, Eric participated in a few benefit concerts including the Teenage Cancer Trust, UNICEF, Lincoln Center Jazz Foundation and Pavarotti & Friends / SOS Iraq. A Japan Tour rounded out the year. The tour was important as it heralded the high-energy shows of 2004 and a return Eric Clapton’s “Guitar God” status of decades past.

2004 started off with a series of guest appearances in England. On 30 March, his birthday, Eric Clapton embarked on a European Tour that ended with a jaw-dropping series of concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in early May. It was then on to Dallas, Texas in the U.S. for the three-day Crossroads Guitar Festival on 4, 5 and 6 June. The festival was highlighted by Eric’s sitting in with a number of his invited guests including B.B. King, J.J. Cale and Jeff Beck. Eric then toured the U.S. through mid-August. Night after night, Eric wowed audiences consistently pulling out all the stops on “I Shot The Sheriff” and “Got To Get Better In A Little While”. According to fans, the only “off” show was Washington D.C. You really can’t go wrong with collecting any show from the tour in terms of Clapton’s performance. As always, sound quality can vary greatly.

For Eric Clapton as a solo act, 2005 was another quiet year. Eric only made three solo concert appearances. Through early August, he was a guest star at two one-off charity events (Teenage Cancer Trust and Wintershall 2005 in aid of HASTE). Then, in early September, he appeared with John Mayer in a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina on US television. There are no bootleg releases of note covering these performances. The big event of the year for Eric’s fans was the Cream Reunion with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Four shows took place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on 2, 3, 5 and 6 May 2005. Almost immediately after, poor quality recordings started circulating and were almost immediately re-issued by a variety of “labels”. The collecting waters were further muddied by a proliferation of poor quality recordings in MP3 and SHN / FLAC formats. A two-disc DVD and a two-disc CD from these shows were officially released in October 2005. Three further Cream reunion shows took place in October at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Again, there was a flurry of poor quality audience recordings soon circulating amongst traders. Several obscure labels also issued these recordings on CD-R. Like the London shows, Mid Valley released the best availalbe recordings.

The best Eric Clapton bootleg recordings from the 2000s are:

Special Day – Santana featuring Eric Clapton (Sylph / 5)
Santana was riding high on the success of his blockbuster album Supernatural (which features Eric on one track). A very good Santana show, Eric steps out and joins Carlos for 8 songs. This evening marked the first time since Eric’s 1975 tour that they jammed on stage. Standouts are “The Calling”, “Apache”, “Soul Sacrifice” and “Jingo.”

Vagabond (MidValley / 5)
Over The Rainbow (Zig Zag / 5)

Eric’s triumphant return to London’s Royal Albert Hall. Both titles collect the 5 shows in very good audience recordings. The run debuted his new band: stalwarts East, Gadd and Fairweather Low plus David Sancious and Paulinho DaCosta. The Impressions sing backup and are featured in their own two-song mini-set. Interestingly, “I Shot The Sheriff” doesn’t come together for this lineup and is dropped from the set for the remainder of the tour. “Ain’t Gonna Stand For It” is a nightly standout. Features the debut performance of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. The final night of the run (10 February) is a real winner. The tour would get better as it went along, but these are still all around solid performances.

Alternative titles include any of these single shows:
Keys To The New Century (A Karat Records / 4) from 3 February 2001
Travelling Road Of Drift (A Karat Records / 4) from 9 February 2001
Bluespower 2001 (lun / 4) from 10 February 2001
Note that the sound quality is not quite as good as the box sets.

Twisted Lips (MidValley / 5)
A historic evening as Eric and his band take center stage in the Kremlin in the former Palace of Congresses, seat of the communist government. There are a few flubs, but the band turns in outstanding versions of “Bell Bottom Blues”, “River Of Tears”, “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”, and “Stormy Monday”. This was the next to last show of the European tour.

Honorable Mention:
World Tour 2001 Live In Russia (Over The Rainbow / 5)
Eric’s first-ever performance in Russia. The Saint Petersburg crowd is respectful of the new material and the band turns in competent performances. The crowd responds enthusiastically to “Hoochie Coochie Man” and sings along and the band turns it up a notch in repsonse. A historic evening.

First Impression (EC Is Here / SB6)
Recorded on 21 May in Atlanta, Georgia it is reportedly one of the band’s favorite shows. The discs are from an ALD source. The Impressions guest on several numbers.

God Bless You (Mid Valley Records / SB5)
Another disc recorded from an ALD source. A good representative of the US Shows. The Impressions are not featured during this evening’s performance.

Argentine Chorus (EC Is Here / SB)

What I’m Talking (Sylph / 5)
An outstanding evening of music from start to finish. Eric had an “off night” the previous evening and as usual, came back with all guns blazing on the next. A nice audience recording from Castle Hall, Osaka on 22 November. If you’re only going to own one show from the 2001 Japan tour, this would be a very good choice. The Pilgrim set is powerful and Eric turns in excellent performances of “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “Five Long Years.”

Groovy Pink Shirt (MidValley / SB6)
This show was recorded and filmed for Japanese television on 4 December at Tokyo’s Budokan. Eric and band are on from start to finish. It features two outstanding versions of “Layla”: unplugged and plugged. The Reptile material has come into its own and stands up well against older hits and the epic songs from Pilgrim. A great version of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” closes the show.

Honorable Mention:
Double Layla (EC Is Here / SB6)

Forever And A Day (Rozy Project / 5)
Recorded at the Grande 21 in Sendai, Japan on Nathan East’s birthday – 8 December. The recording is surprisingly good for a huge sports arena. Eric played well from the start but turned in excellent performances of some old chestnuts, particularly, “Bell Bottom Blues”. “River Of Tears“ continued to “wow” the audience. “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” featured a wah-wah solo for the first time in recent memory.

Ferrari Maseratti Festival (MidValley / 4)
This one-off gig is reminiscent of the 80s jams with friends. Clapton puts together a band consisting of Andy Fairweather Low, Gary Brooker, Dave Bronze and Albert Lee – who hadn’t played with Clapton since the 70s! The band romps through rock and roll classics “Little Queenie”, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, “Maryann”, and “Sweet Little Rock N Roller.” Brooker performs a great version of the Procul Harum hit, “Whiter Shade Of Pale”. Clapton’s hits are absent replaced with blues and nothing but the blues. Set list included “Dust My Broom”, “Gin House”, “Third Degree”, “Reconsider Baby” “Five Long Years” and many more.

Mersey River Side Blues (EC is Here / 5)
Although much of the material on this 3 CD set has been officially released on CD and DVD, it is included here for the rehearsal material it contains. The rehearsal tracks are a unique insight into how Eric “gets it together” before a concert. The show was also historically important as it marked the first time Eric worked with John Mayall in many years.

Turn The Lights Out At SSA (Kamikaze / 5)
Recorded at Saitama Super Arena on 24 November 2003. Eric had an “off” night the evening before in Nagoya so in Saitama he really went all out. Very good sound, with a teeny bit of clapping near the taper that can be a bit distracting. “Holy Mother” was a true standout. Also features some songs not performed during the 2004 World Tour: “When You Got A Good Friend,” “Crossroads,” “Bell Bottom Blues,” “White Room” and more.

How Long Must This Go On (Kamikaze / 6)
Recorded on 30 November, Eric’s second night in residency at Tokyo’s Budokan. Steve Gadd was an absolute monster and Eric and the gang turn it up a notch in response. A slightly different set list from the above entry. It has a bonus track of Eric’s solo on “Kind Hearted Woman” from his wireless guitar feed. The master au naturel.

Note: For the completists, a deluxe box set of the entire tour was released by EC is Here in a limited edition of 300. Entitled “Eric Clapton: Just For You – 18 Days” all shows are very good to excellent (5 to 6) audience recordings.

The Last Fling (Mid Valley / Audience 4)
On 4 January, Eric showed up at the final show at Guildford Civic Hall as it was to be torn down. During the 70s and 80s, it was the scene of Eric’s “hometown shows”. The Last Fling was just plain fun. Eric was onstage for most of the evening, but only plays a three songs from his own catalogue (Wonderful Tonight, Cocaine). He tears it up on classics like “Mustang Sally,” “Johnny B. Goode” and “Stagger Lee”. His vamping on Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You” is a bit surreal.

Black Beauty (Mid Valley / SB6)
This concert was aired live on BBC Radio 2 live from Belfast, Ireland on 24 April 2004. The band was on that evening. Great takes on “Let It Rain,” “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Got To Get Better” and more.

CBE at RAH (Hoochie Coochie / 5)
No Retiring at RAH (Mid Valley / 5)

These two sets collect all 6 Royal Albert Hall Concerts from May 2004 via very good audience recordings. Some nights were better than others, but all featured great playing. Only downside? There wasn’t much variation in the setlist.

Crossroads Guitar Festival: EC & Friends Were Here (ARMS / SB5)
A four CD compilation from the three-day event in Dallas. This set is worth it just for the few minutes of music from Eric and Jeff Beck which was omitted from the official release. It collects Eric’s performance plus all of his performances with his invited guests. Features the entire All Star Blues Jam with Eric, Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Cray, Robert Randolph, Hubert Sumlin and Buddy Guy and the Sunday set by B.B. King, Eric, Buddy Guy, and John Mayer. More.

Vanishing Point (Mid Valley / 6)
Mid Valley collects all three Madison Square Garden shows in one 6 CD set. The sound quality is nothing short of amazing for audience recordings from this venue. New Yorkers were treated to three of the finest shows of the tour. Each night had its own moments, but “I Shot The Sheriff,” “Got To Get Better,” “Badge,” and “Cocaine” were nightly winners.

Delta Blues (Mid Valley / SB 5)
Taken from an ALD source, this was one of the final shows of the U.S. Tour. Recorded at the HP Pavillion in San Jose, California on 31 July, Eric and the band have really hit their stride. Robert Randolph on the encores.

Cream Maximum (Mid Valley / Audience 5)
All four London shows are presented via the highest-quality recordings and in their entirety. Eric, Jack and Ginger’s chemistry was pure magic. Do not expect Cream 1967 or Cream 1968 it’s definitely Cream 2005. For those who never saw Cream in their hey-day, this is Clapton as you have never heard him before. Listening to these shows prove that Eric, Jack and Ginger are still “The Cream”.

Cream Macrocosm (Mid Valley / Audience 5)
The audio of all three shows is complete and by far the best quality of all MSG recordings making the collecting rounds. In addition to the 6 CDS, the set has 3 DVDs of the concerts. The DVDs can be best characterized as “pretty good”. Be aware that the DVD from the second night is incomplete (10 songs). As with all MVR releases, the packaging is excellent. Macrocosm is packaged in a slip sleeve. The insert has loads of pictures from the shows and outside Madison Square Garden.

Where’s Eric! does not encourage or condone the manufacture of bootleg recordings. They are illegal and artists do not receive royalties from their sale. However, Where’s ERIC! realizes that there are fans who collect these recordings. In that spirit, information about them is provided for fans’ research and guidance purposes. Where’s ERIC! does not sell, trade or provide free copies of bootleg recordings nor can we tell you how to obtain them.

In the early part of the current decade, the MP3 and other digital methods (SHN, FLAC, APE) opened the door to online file-sharing. Fans who embraced these technologies could store several shows on one DVD or hundreds on an external hard drive. By 2006, these formats all but sounded the death knell for “commerical” bootleg releases worldwide, with shops even in Japan closing their doors. This created a major dilemma for lists of recordings that should make up a fan’s “core collection.” Today, it is extraordinarily difficult to keep track of all this disparate material. Individuals now “remaster” popular bootleg titles from years past and share them online. “Upgrades” of older materially continually appear. Finally, many recent concerts are never “issued” on a bootleg sold in a shop, but are only traded or shared online by fans. This last has made it virtually impossible to keep the above accurate beyond 2005.

Where’s Eric!
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