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RICHARD CLAPTON – Melbourne Recital Centre. October 12, 2018
By Greg Phillips

The title of the show, The Best of Richard Clapton was always going to be an anomaly. Whether he crams a truckload of radio hits into his set or offers any number of his wonderful lesser known compositions, you’re always going to get Richard Clapton at his best. Clapton eased into the evening accompanied only by guitarist Danny Spencer on Walk On Water, a song about surfing from his 1982 album Great Escape. Blue Bay Blues followed with the wonderful acoustics of the Melbourne Recital Centre allowing us to contemplate the simplicity and beauty of the song.

The full band entered the stage for a gorgeous version of Winter in Amsterdam from the Goodbye Tiger album. A lot of heritage type artists these days have been known to cut short a lot of their songs in order to fit more tracks into a set. Thankfully Richard is not one of those musicians and is happy to stretch out and extend tunes, showcasing his band and taking us on a journey rather than ticking all the expected boxes. Vapour Trails followed from the much underrated Harlequin Nights album, leading to one of his more familiar numbers Get Back To The Shelter from 1980’s Dark Spaces record.

Carry Me Home, co-written with his daughter Saskia (who was in the audience) kicked off a series of tracks from his current album The House of Orange. Something About You rocked it up a notch and Liberty Bell, dedicated to US senator Bernie Sanders followed. Without skipping a beat Ace of Hearts led the show into hit territory. Glory Road was up next and highlighted the backing vocals of Suzie Adams. The female harmony parts of Clapton’s songs have always been an engaging element of his music.

With Capricorn Dancer, Richard took the opportunity to single out bass player Michael Hegarty who has been by his side for 42 years. Deep Water was next, powered along by Johnny Salerno’s rhythm sticks. A revisit to the Harlequin Nights album dusted off Dancing With The Vampires, dedicated to Charlie Sheen, who is due in Australia soon. Clapton told us he was keen for the man himself to hear it!

The pros of an acoustically prefect venue like the Recital Centre is that you get the highest quality of sound. The cons are that it’s usually at the expense of volume and sometimes audience participation. Clapton and band dug in hard with Lucky Country and I Am An Island to finally crack the crowd’s code and release the shackles, bringing them to their feet to demand an encore. Although he’d much prefer to play something else, Clapton feared he be lynched if he didn’t rip into Girls On The Avenue. Wrapping up a sentimental trip through his career, Goodbye Tiger was an apt farewell.

Mention Richard Clapton’s name to anyone and they’ll come back instantly with the names of two or three hits songs, it’s not hard. However it’s not until you hear most of them end to end, accompanied by less famous but equally exceptional songs that you fully appreciate the talent of his world class entertainer, plus he still sounds as marvelous and vital as he did decades ago. Bless you Richard Clapton.

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