Venue: Royal Albert Hall
City: South Kensington, London
Country: United Kingdom
Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Jack Bruce – bass / vocals
Ginger Baker – drums / vocals
01. I’m So Glad
03. Outside Woman Blues
04. Pressed Rat and Wart Hog
05. Sleepy Time, Time
09. Sweet Wine
10. Rollin’ & Tumblin’
11. Stormy Monday
12. Deserted Cities of the Heart
13. Born Under a Bad Sign
14. We’re Going Wrong
16. Sitting on Top of the World
17. White Room
19. Sunshine of Your Love (encore)
Review by John P. Farris
London, May 6, 2005, 12:30 A.M: The third Cream reunion concert ended just over two hours ago and we’re back in our hotel room. Too excited to sleep, a couple of beers and the Cream farewell concert on DVD are required to relax after the show. Seeing a great British band in the Royal Albert Hall has been one of my dream “things to do before I die” for years and tonight was the night. My friend Rich Young told me about a rumored Cream reunion back in December and I really didn’t think it was going to happen. When my kid told me tickets were going on sale on January 31 online, I thought, man, this could be my chance. After a wee-hours spell trying to get tickets (beginning at 9 AM Greenwich Time and 1 AM California time), this San Francisco boy got lucky and nailed two tickets in the “cheap” seats.
Traveling over I was worried about Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker. Could these guys still hack it after 35 years of relative obscurity and ill health? Bruce just had a liver transplant and Baker, now 65, was reported to have osteoarthritis so bad that he has trouble sitting for an extended period. How was he supposed to play drums and even be a shell of his former self (previously regarded by many as the greatest rock drummer of all time)? And how was Bruce, a monster on bass in the late 60’s and responsible for most of the vocals on Cream albums, going to sing with the power and treble he was known for (forget the harp solos)? After listening to all of the great albums repeatedly for the past two months, I was hoping that those two guys could be 30% of their former selves.
There were no worries about Eric Clapton as he still is a practicing legend and we had seen him twice in the last two years (the “farewell tour” in San Jose and the “what do you know, I’m back again tour” in New York at Madison Square Garden). The only thoughts here were that this couldn’t be a Lay Down Sally, Tears in Heaven, Over the Rainbow show. I started to feel optimistic when I saw a picture of the three of them rehearsing for these gigs.
We hung around the Royal Albert Hall on Monday and met people from New Orleans, Rhode Island, Chicago, Berkeley, St. Louis and of course Britain. London-town was abuzz with the impending concert. The hype was building with the melee to purchase merchandise as soon as it went on sale and the “touts” or scalpers out selling tickets for upwards of $400 each (not including the final show on Friday). Word filtered in on Tuesday from the Times of London and the Daily Mail that the first show was a winner and, while not perfect and not a replica of the high-flying group of the 60’s, a solid two-hour performance, with Clapton driving, was delivered. This was reiterated on Tuesday by fans staying in our hotel and the set lists received via internet appeared to be similar between the first two shows.
We spent another day (they took Wednesday off) nervously awaiting our turn in the Hall. My wife Loretta and I hoped to quote Monty Python that they “weren’t just a bit shagged out after a long squawk”. We got to Albert Hall early and walked every floor of the storied place and saw pictures of the great performances – Beatles, Stones, The Who, Sinatra, Sting, Elton John, Tina Turner and the list goes on. As the mostly aging crowd settled in, two New Yorkers sat next to us and proceeded to describe the sound system in detail and where great bootleg discs could be acquired. At least they had binoculars and let us look through them after a while.
The boys came out on time at 8 PM and opened with “I’m So Glad”. The vocals weren’t in-sync but Clapton came out grinding and quickly showed he meant business. Even more impressive was the strength of Bruce’s vocals and Baker’s tight drumming. Ginger Baker was the oldest looking thirty-year old I had ever seen at the time Cream broke up. Tonight with close cropped sandy grey hair he didn’t look too much different. Skinny as always and now with glasses, he looked like he might be able to go the distance. Bruce on the other hand was unusually gaunt and his clothes looked like he had been living on the street. Clapton’s hair was longer than what he had been sporting during the last two tours. With dark blue shirt untucked and stubble beard he easily looked healthier than the others but he was probably trying to look a little grubby for better perspective.
The group spent little time between songs and ripped into Spoonful with Bruce’s strong vocals and booming bass complemented by drum runs from Baker and Clapton bending blues notes to bring back “Wheels of Fire” memories. The crowd became ecstatic and, though reserved by American standards, came to their feet at the beginning and end of the first two numbers.
No time was wasted as Cream provided the old songs the crowd came to here. Tight but time-limited versions of NSU, Sweet Wine, Sleepy Time Time and Deserted Cities of the Heart brought back memories of being in the barracks overseas in ‘68-‘69 for me. The back of the stage featured a computer driven fluorescent multi-colored psychedelic light show on a twelve-foot high “cinemascope” screen that curved and ran the length of the stage. They even managed an amoeba effect that channeled the Fillmore. Baker sang a surprising “Pressed Rat and Warthog” that the crowd loved. Bruce brought out the harp as he leaned on a stool for a rousing “Rolling and Tumbling”. Things got serious when Clapton played Stormy Monday with waves of blue patterns behind him. If you weren’t initiated to the blues before this, Clapton showed why aficionados love the basic music of the American South (and the Southside of Chicago). He took over and delivered a blistering extended solo that had some in the stands leap out of their seats and holler “Lord”. I’ve seen Clapton maybe a dozen times – he never brought it any harder. This was a guitar lesson.
Other highlights included “We’re Going Wrong” where the trio brought subtlety and hypnotic rhythm together to suck the crowd right in. Baker’s use of tympani mallets on the drums created a terrific effect and Bruce and Clapton meshed together with a bare-bones sound that reminded me of the fun of a garage band (with none of the slop). Everyone wanted to hear the 1969 version of Crossroads and hoped to wail like they were reliving the chemistry of the era, however, Clapton slowed it down and the band got into a funk-type groove that gave the song a different feel. Clapton dug down on this one and, rather than deliver the supersonic solo we’ve come to know and wear out in vinyl, he stayed within a tight frame that was entertaining but not a showpiece. White Room on the other hand was a lot like the original and the crowd responded when Clapton, at last, stomped on the wah-wah for the first and only time.
One moment gave us chills when they broke into Badge. The memories of The Concert for George in the same Hall struck me, as the lead line was originally done (without credit) by Eric’s late great friend on the Goodbye Cream album. Clapton made time stand still before breaking into that signature line and the place went wild. Bruce contributed a solid “Sitting on Top of the World” from the Howlin’ Wolf song book and he had fun with “Politician”, as it was Election Day here.
Dripping in sweat, the guys had one more “big one” left in them as Ginger Baker took off on a ten minute drum solo with his drummer’s-favorite-song “Toad”. Bruce and Clapton left the stage and the Ginger of old came back for a brief time. Clearly he wasn’t the mad drumming machine from the farewell concert in ‘68; however, he had enough energy, licks and enthusiasm to bring the crowd howling to their feet again. All night I kept watching Baker and wondering how long he could keep going and looking to see if he was in pain. I noticed that he would shake his right wrist out after some of the numbers but he never missed a beat and kept a military march-like beat on the snare through the evening and never let the high hat cymbals stop.
The other thing I was looking for was a sign of the well-publicized acrimony between Baker and Bruce. Baker was quoted as saying about Bruce that he “couldn’t stand to be in his presence” and reportedly hadn’t spoken a word to him in over 35 years. When asked about this prior to the show, Baker said “I don’t have to talk to him to play music”. The guys had to feel the affection of the crowd and I noticed that Jack Bruce did speak to him during a couple of moments on stage and at the end of the show the three of them walked off with arms around shoulders and smiling broadly.
The show closed with Sunshine of Your Love and Clapton let some feedback work for him to remind us that we still had ears. Fans were allowed to come up to the stage (just at the end) and, when it was over, the crowd knew that nothing had been left in reserve.
We stayed in the Hall spent and perspiring after a fabulous experience until they asked us politely to leave (good manners are quite refreshing), and we are currently wondering how we can find tickets for the last show.
Review by Kelly Murphy, Poplar Bluff, Missouri
Okay, I have a problem about telling every single minute, so I’ll spare you all my anticipation of the show for the hour I was in the bar…
“I’m So Glad” is such a fitting opener. I mean whether its people living on nostalgia or who are like me and were born 15 years too late to see Cream we were all for sure “so glad.” The applause was great, and I’m So Glad was very good. Immediately I noticed the band was a very cohesive unit and Jack was sounding better than I’ve ever known. I also hear this show was the best of the three nights (the two previous and the third), and I’m not surprised because it sure sounded like it to me even without hearing the previous shows.
Not only is Jack sounding great singing-wise, but also his bass playing is very solid, flowing freely, and just intense like his singing. “Spoonful” was outstanding to me. This was the best version of “Spoonful” I had ever heard up this point. It surpasses the boots and Wheels of Fire for me. I mean when Jack gets to the part, “They’re lying about it,” and just growls out the lyrics with amazing passion I don’t see how I couldn’t prefer that version. It sent chills down my spine, and I noticed I quickly looked around to see if anyone noticed how good that was. It’s definitely going to be one of those moments when I get the official cd and boots that will be rewound over and over so I can listen to that five seconds multiple times. Ginger is bringing the beat like only he can, and Eric was providing some very tasty guitar work, well, like only he can as well. I was only into the second song of the concert yet I knew this was going to be something beyond my expectations Gibson guitar or not.
“Outside Woman Blues” was magnificent. At this moment in my head I’m just thinking write, “Yiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiippeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!” and it will sum up my feelings. But I’m going to spare you my cyber translation of my indescribable excitement and actually try to coherently put it down. Which I kind of just snuck in there anyway, didn’t I? 😉 This was an aggressive version and it has aged well. As a matter of fact I also prefer it to the versions of the past. Every time Eric would sing “outside women, too,” he would, I guess, squeak his voice. I have no idea how to describe that effectively, but God I love it way too much. I mean it’s just those little moments such as that, or Jack on Spoonful, or that protracted note that just make a show. I could listen to that over and over for the next week, and I doubt I would get tired of it. This song could very well be the highlight for me. Then again, I’m not sure. Richard asked me afterwards when we were with Susan and hanging out at the Hoop and Toy pub. I thought this song immediately, but “Spoonful,” “Crossroads,” “Born Under A Bad Sign,” and “Sunshine of Your Love” are all so excellent. The whole thing was so good it makes it difficult to choose.
“Pressed Rat and Warthog” was better than I expected. I must admit I was never a big fan of the song, but there is always something about hearing a song live that can change your mind. To see the interaction between Jack, Ginger, and Eric and to know they were having a good time just contributed to my liking of this song. It was nice to hear it and see it performed. Of course afterwards we get the obligatory sales pitch from Ginger about how rat and warthog have set up outside selling Cream memorabilia which had the audience laughing.
“Sleepy Time Time” follows next, and I never realized how good it was until I heard it live. I listen to all of the recordings of it differently now. Great harmony vocals and some nice guitar work. Just a solid performance.
“N.S.U.” was a real treat. First of all, I start laughing about the song’s influence. I’m wondering if everyone knows why I’m laughing. This performance makes me think of everything I’ve heard before this because the bass, guitar, and drumming were so strong. Great improvisation no matter how small compared to the past. Just seeing the guys really jam for three or four minutes on a great song is really fantastic and all the more better when you think that these guys can, and are, living up to their legendary status.
“Badge” was sounding so much more like the original, which I love! I mean “Badge” through the years has been great, but it has often been missing that bite and strength you get from the shorter version and maybe from not having the instruments played by people like Jack, Ginger, and Eric with his two companions by his side. Eric was really bringing a crunchier or ragged sounded and the vocals were exemplary. I guess right here I should say how much I love watching him play guitar. The way he just tilts his head or body back and you can see him feel every note he plays. It’s just something that helps prove to me why he’s my favorite guitarist. Anyway, and then to have “Badge” segue right into “Politician” was too good to be true. That was something I didn’t expect because I hadn’t read about it yet, and it just made the performance that much stronger. The song just laid down a real nice groove for the night, and I was enjoying it immensely.
“Sweet Wine” was one of the songs I wanted to hear when I was making up my fantasy set list, and I wasn’t sure it would be heard. But there it was. I suppose it could have been better, but it was good nonetheless. It was funny because Jack got a little mixed up on the lyrics and it had Eric laughing which in turn had Ginger laughing. Once again seeing these guys feed off of each other and laughing onstage was really nice.
“Rollin’ and Tumblin’” was a nice blues rave-up with Jack on harmonica and no bass. The song was really moving’ at a nice pace, Jack was performing greatly with his voice and the harmonica, and Ginger kept it all together. I love the slide guitar work!
“Stormy Monday Blues” was a surprise when I read about it being on the set list the first night. At first I was a little upset to see it, but after hearing it I couldn’t be upset about that at all. Well, that is unless it took “Tales of Brave Ulysses” place. If that’s the case I shall stay in the dark and not find that bit of information out. I still can’t understand why Eric thinks he is only an average singer at best. I prefer the singing on “Outside Woman Blues” more, obviously, but this song is another showcase of his strong, passionate singing. And the strongest part of this song is the guitar playing. Eric shows that he knows how to take that single bent note and just make the crowd crazy.
“Deserted Cities of the Heart” was sounding great, and “Born Under a Bad Sign” was excellent! This was another song that really highlighted Jack’s singing. He was just pounding the bass, growling the lyrics, and the guys were just really tearing this song up. Best of all is when Jack sang, “big bad woman’s going carry me to my grave,” he said that he certainly hoped so. That was just a great moment that showcased how comfortable they were performing together for us. Plus, it was funny as hell.
I started really enjoying “We’re Going Wrong” a few months before the reunion. That night the song had a really ominous presence and the tension that the band builds up throughout is phenomenal.
“Crossroads” was faster than we have been hearing from Eric for the many years he has been performing it since Cream. It still wasn’t like that one we all know and love, but the slow gait was gone with something really reminiscent of what I wanted to hear. It’s almost like “Crossroads” of 1968 and 1993’s HOF performance got together and had a baby — that gives us “Crossroads” of 2005. LOL
“Sitting On Top of the World” really has Jack and Ginger challenging Eric and they are really forceful and pull out another great performance. This goes into “White Room” which I wasn’t even sure I would ever hear live whether Eric or Cream to be honest. It was great to hear Eric singing the higher parts and also having him and Jack switch who sings the verses halfway through. It was very effective. The band was sounding just like the days of old. Eric had a great solo, a great groove from the band, and some awesome rhythm being laid down. The only thing I missed is the way Eric starts his solo since about 1990. He does that one long extended note that just kills me. I mean it’s one that makes the show worth all of the money and usually makes me cry from happiness like a big baby. But regardless the solo was still sweet.
I can’t believe Ginger will be 66 years old later this year and has arthritis! How in the world is this possible? He is the greatest drummer I’ve ever seen live. The groove, the swing, and the otherworldly beats — they are all brought by Ginger like he could do this in his sleep. I mean first we have Jack and Eric playing along with Ginger on this really high-spirited intro with some great feedback from Eric, and then as they leave the stage Ginger just lights it up. The drum solo lasts near 7 minutes, maybe a minute shorter or a minute longer, and about halfway through it just gets really dirty and funkier. And those African beats! I’ve never enjoyed a drum solo so much in my life. It’s a shame Ginger is so underrated. Maybe it wouldn’t be the case so much if we just consider Cream, but his whole career after Cream is overlooked. He’s way too good to not be mentioned every time someone mentions John Bonham, Neil Peart, or whoever else. I’ll take Ginger any day. As a matter of fact from now on when people ask me who my fantasy band is instead of mixing all of my favorites together from other bands I think I’ll just be proud and true and say Cream. Why mess with perfection?
So Jack and Eric return to the stage and the band takes their bow together to a standing ovation. After cheering while they are gone it is time to rush toward the stage! It was amazing to be so extremely close. Granted, I did watch Eric most of the time. Surprise. Just to see the reactions on their faces while being so into the playing and being so cohesive. It was impressive. Eric’s solo was longer than it has been with his band, and it was excellent. It was just stretched out and amazing. Ginger was providing those African beats/groove that I love. Jack was laying down the bass to accentuate the groove of Ginger and the humbling guitar work provided by Eric. And I love when Eric faces the amp and lets the guitar feedback. The band just jams going along at a higher speed and lost within the music. I mean I was actually watching Cream onstage, jamming to Sunshine, while we (the audience) sang along on the chorus!!! Then before I knew it the concert had gone on for just a little over two hours. The band waved goodbye, and I had just witnessed quite possibly the best concert yet. It was simply amazing.
Anything that I think the band could have done better is minor. This was definitely a night I could never forget. People can say whatever they want about Cream, but the band was tight. They were playing some of the best music that has ever been made, and they were playing it just as well and sometimes better than they did 37 years ago. For this 21 year old it was a dream come true.
Review by Joe Sowinski, Tallahassee, Florida
I have been a Cream and Clapton fan since 1967. My wife has been anxious to visit London for years but my “frugality” kept me away. This year being our 25th wedding anniversary should have been reason enough to visit, but when the Cream reunion was announced I decided that there was more than enough reason to go. (My wife still believes we would not have gone if it weren’t for the reunion). Got tickets for the first night. Good seats and the concert was terrific. Being in the Royal Albert Hall was mind boggling. The atmosphere is indescribable. The expected early tentativeness of the band was apparent and Eric’s solos on I’m so glad and Spoonful were shorter than what I expected. However, when they got acclimated, playing Sleepy Time Time, the evening took off. Eric’s playing on this tune, Stormy Monday, and on Sitting on Top of the World was great. Crossroads was not what I had hoped for but the crowd gave it the longest standing ovation of the evening. I knew Eric’s voice would be great but I was concerned that Jack would not have the quality he had during the 60’s. Forget that worry. Jack Bruce proved how important a factor he was in Cream’s success. His vocals were powerful, sustained, and his effort on We’re Going Wrong was a highlight. We left the place just thrilled to have been there. Even though we figured that the rest of the shows were sold out we called the box office just to check and got lucky on Thursday. Seats were fabulous, 10 rows up in Stall O. Right next to Eric. Saiichi Sugiyama’s review (see below) of the third night was right on. They played about 10 minutes longer, probably due to extended solos from Eric on I’m so Glad, Spoonful, and Crossroads. Eric’s work on Stormy Monday was as great a solo as will hear. The crowd gave an ovation during the solo when Eric hit a protracted note as only he can. It tingled the spine. The concert was better than night one and certainly as good a concert as I have witnessed. Friday, our last day in London, found me a bit melancholy. I guess it was like a post partum depression or something. My wife and I were so thrilled to have witnessed these concerts. If Cream does extend this reunion to the U.S. I will be there no matter what.
Review by Nick Kernoghan
After Tuesday’s wonderful show I just had to go again and take my son who is a Gibson SG playing young Cream fan. This show was even better than Tuesday’s. They were on magical form playing out of their skins. I have seen Eric 20 or so times, but this is the finest I have seen him play and in fact the finest concert I have ever been too.
So many highlights! NSU and Sweet Wine were played very like they would have in 1967, but shorter. Politician really grooved, quite fitting really. Stormy Monday and Sitting Top Of The World were magnificent (in the latter Eric hit more of less fulfilled his ambition of knocking the audience out with a single note). Crossroads was superb with Eric’s second solo up close to Wheels of Fire standard. White Room, We’re Going Wrong and Toad were awesome and Sunshine was beyond words. hat’s it I’ve peaked in terms of concert going, I really don’t think that can be equaled.
Review by Mark Pearman
What can I say as an exordial? ……… WOW!!!
After around 32 years of listening and enjoying the music of CREAM my wish and dream of the band reforming came true. I arrived at the Royal Albert Hall early to find loads of fans already mingling outside and dozens of scalpers roaming around. From the conversations around me outside the venue, the dialects suggested a really cosmopolitan audience, including a high contingency of Americans along with Germans and Japanese.
The show began at around 8pm, the band ambling onto stage completely unannounced and without the lights being fully dimmed. I was exceptionally fortunate to have managed to procure a great seat at top price face value thanks to a “good fairy”. My heart began to race like the devil and a lump rose to back of my throat as the shock reality hit me “I am about to witness CREAM live”.
Despite having read revues and snippets on the net already I was determined to remain impartial. A deafening standing ovation before the band played a note set the scene for this historic concert that began with “ I’m So Glad “ which incidentally was often the last number the band used to play, but that was then and this is now. The next thing to hit me was how tight the band were and just how good the sound was as the R.A.H. has never been conducive to what is colloquially referred to as loud rock music.
Next number was “Spoonful “ which was very powerfully performed and followed by “Outside Woman Blues “. My feet were moving, my head was rocking and my arms were flailing, shouts and screams from me and the people around me alike. After “ Outside Woman Blues “ came a surprise as they went into “ Pressed Rat And Warthog “, as this song came to an end Ginger cracked a joke that rat and warthog had reopened a shop after all these years and were selling T-shirts, mugs, caps etc outside in the foyer. The incredible wall of sound that was applause dying away as they went into “ Sleepy Time Time “ which had people singing along until the next number which was “ N S U “ a fantastic rendition with “ Badge “ hot on its heels. The solos of Eric’s on “Badge “ had the crowd going crazy. Next four numbers were “ Politician “ “ Sweet Wine “ “ Rolling And Tumbling “ and “ Stormy Monday Blues “. It was on “Stormy Monday Blues “ that Jack swapped from what looked like his old faithful EB3 to his latter day more familiar Warwick bass guitar; Ginger used DW and Eric a strat.
All the oldies but goldies were getting an airing as the melodious notes of “ Deserted Cities Of The Heart “ thundered around the hall, “ Born Under A Bad Sign “ and We’re Going Wrong “. I half expected to hear “that’ll do” and “hit it!” just before “D.S.O.T.H” ala Live Cream Vol 2 hehe. All 3 players had excelled my expectations, Eric had that fire in his belly again, pumping out those amplified blues licks and wailing away, Ginger despite approaching 66 and suffering from arthritis, his playing was quite remarkable, each note had as much meaning as the spaces between them and of course his trademark parradiddles were in evidence everywhere. As for dear old Jack, my favourite bass player of all time, understandably still looking ill as he slowly recovers from his liver transplant was simply astounding. His contribution on “ We’re Going Wrong “ was incredible, his voice was just so strong and powerful, he really sung his heart out on this one and of course his bass playing was exemplary throughout the whole gig.
I quickly glanced at my watch and could barely believe how quickly the time had passed as the band ripped into “ Crossroads “ then “ Sitting On Top Of The World “ and “ White Room “ the latter lifting the audience to their feet yet again. A ten-minute drum solo ensued within “Toad “ the crowd ecstatic, the band exiting to tremendous applause. It seemed like forever and a day before they came back onstage for the obligatory encore, surprise surprise “Sunshine Of Your Love “. Sadly here endeth the gig, pity they never played “Tales Of A Brave Ulysses “ or “Strange Brew “
So, summing up, a 2 hour concert with no break is not the norm these days so that was a bonus in itself I suppose. I thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of the concert, the atmosphere was tense at times, electrifying for the most part. Was the 125 pound face value ticket worth it? hell yes !. Overall concert rating has to be 10 out of 10 and all things considered one of the very best I’ve ever been to and I’m talking in excess of a thousand concerts over the past 32 years or so.
Review by Jake Smith
Well, let me get this out of the way first, I love Eric and I thought the gig was good. Now that’s done, I need to qualify my comment. I thought it was a bit safe, I was really hoping it would be fiery and full of life, and to be fair in places it was. But overall I felt it was all a bit too tame. True the guitar sounded great, but it would have been better to see a few of the Gibsons come out, and only one small bit of wah wah in the whole gig? Now fair enough the wah wah in white room was great, but I wanted more of it!! I felt that the sound lacked a bit of bite and dare I say it so did some of the playing. I know Cream was about improvising, but the recorded guitar solo on Badge is just about the greatest thing ever, passionate, screaming and melodic, but last night it was unrecognizable, laid back, meandering and rambling. In another song these would be good attributes, just a shame that it was in Badge. I do think that Eric played some great stuff, Stormy Monday was awesome, but it was as if he wanted to be “just” playing the blues rather than going for it in a rocked out psychedelic style! Jack’s playing was great, though again, I kind of missed the real growling, driving tone he used to get on the old albums or the farewell concert documentary, he looked pretty tired, but I can’t really hold that against him I hope I look that good if I make it to 60 after major surgery… Eric and Jack – and even Ginger’s(!) singing was really good, they have all really improved over the years, but to this youngster (33!) who never saw Cream first time round, the passion was not quite there for me. I did enjoy the night, just feel it could have been so much better, but then again who the hell am I to tell these guys what to do!! It was a dream to see them all play together again, and loads of people seemed really happy with it after the gig, but I heard a few comments that seemed to agree with my overall feelings of being slightly underwhelmed. Maybe our pretty bad seats almost behind the stage had something to do with this; it was a bit too quiet for me, though some people were complaining that it was too loud! Maybe that’s where the problem lies, for this young at heart regular concertgoer, I prefer a venue where it feels like an assault. Brixton Academy or Shepherds Bush Empire, get more atmosphere, really the Albert Hall is best left to Classical music in my humble opinion. It left a bit middle class, middle aged and middle of the road from where I was sat. Still I am really glad I went and can say I saw them all together, thanks for the show gents.
Review by Dave Oswald
I did not see Cream live in sixties so cannot compare with total true authority. My opinions are based on what I have seen or heard of available recordings. Well what can I say? It way exceeded my expectations. It was just staggeringly, unbelievably awesome. By all accounts best night so far.
Out they came. They had to just start playing to cut short the applause. Opener I’m So Glad was just fine but they were really up and running in Spoonful. The power they were emanating was fierce. Yes I was listening to Cream. Not a Cream reunion. Cream. The greatest band ever. I knew ALREADY that this was going to be a night to end all nights.
Jack sometimes in Willie Dixon voice and Jack sometimes in Jack voice was in full flow already. Ginger was flexing his muscles. Eric was wailing.
How many times did Jack sing Spoonful at the end? Don’t know but each time it was just subtly different. How can singing that one word over and over again sound so good? Frank Sinatra’s voice went fairly quickly as he aged. Jack has still got it! Replacing the once loud intensity with more variety, he can still muster the monumental roars when needed.
Outside Woman Blues was short and snappy but Eric’s singing was a treat. Never been a fan of his singing except a few great bits on Derek and The Dominos. He always seemed a hesitant, unconfident singer with Cream but his voice was strong and confident last night.
Pressed Rat and Warthog was a hoot. Everybody loved it. At one bit Ginger drifted from recitation and almost started to sing it! Calm down Ginger. Sleepy Time, Time was just outstanding. Jack was simply on top form. Eric singing too. NSU a hair raising bash.
Badge was greeted with roars and did not disappoint. great arrangement. Eric got downright grungy on guitar and vocals. They could never have played this live before as it was on Goodbye Cream. I don’t think so, anyway. All three sizzled through it. Straight into Politician without a pause. Eric plays with minimalist movement these days. Slightly crouched with only a slight tapping of one foot as his hands blaze away. Occasionally throwing his head back in response to his emotions. Badge was brilliant but Politician was even better, well, maybe. On UK General Election night too. Jack said they were in no way trying to tell us which way to vote and that it was probably too late to vote anyway.
Sweet Wine was OK but middle break looked like they had forgotten the plan collectively. Was probably the only minor quibble in the evening? Jack got a bit mixed up with lyrics which Eric found hilarious and even Ginger was smiling and it is one of his songs!
Rollin & Tumblin was great. Eric and especially Ginger driving Jack along at breakneck pace. Harmonica and voice were up to the task.
Stormy Monday a showcase for Slowhand. My friend’s wife thought it was the highlight. I could not agree but it still scored 10 out of 10. Eric’s playing was sublime and he sung with real passion. Cream of course did not play this before either. Jack and Eric on a live recording of Stormy Monday in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers on album Looking Back. Not very well recorded but highly impressive.
Deserted Cities of the Heart was pretty good too, with the change of pace instrumental bits sounding menacingly great.
Born under a Bad Sign was another highlight. Jack just sang this one to pieces. Growling and wailing. Some real, low, deep down notes. More great guitar. That was magnificent, but then came We’re Going Wrong. Utterly mind blowing. Jack gave it the full treatment with Eric and Gingers counterpoint and growing tension just spot on. Please open your eyes, Try to realise…sang in passionate, shimmering falsetto… I found out today… went through the fucking roof. They were refurbishing the roof a few years ago. Just as well as Jacks voice at this point could have got us all killed. A true tour de force.
Crossroads beginning to get back to original pace. Eric played chuggingly like Rock Hall Of Fame pace but Jack was playing it the, old, slightly faster way. Ginger kept it all swinging along nicely. Somehow it was still great. Only Cream can get away with things like that because they are just such good musicians.
Sitting On Top of the World again was out of the top drawer. Jack singing, bassing and blowing harp so fluidly. Staccato Ginger and Jack bit late on with Eric soaring over the top. Vintage. White Room. Jack sings verse — Eric wails chorus a la Jack. Fucking wow. Now that was a surprise. Jack sings second verse and Eric wails second chorus. More wow. Eric on third verse (Yellow Tigers) and Jack belts out chorus. Eric was an impressive Jack Bruce, I’m telling you. They really got grooving on ending too. Jack usually really takes off here in his own bands and he took the guys with him.
Toad. Ginger brought the house down. Jazzier bits than the sixties but all the better for it. Solo lasted 7 minutes 23 seconds. One of my mates stop watched it. Sad bastard. Toad ends to deafening applause and roars. Ginger got up and hugged Eric. Jack stood in centre stage imploring them to come and hug him. They duly obliged although Ginger’s arm around Jack maybe not the most natural of actions. They were all smiling at each other a lot through the performance though.
Off stage with peace signs from JB, arms aloft from Ginger and waves from Eric. Deafening ovation.
Leaving us hanging on for about 10 minutes until they eventually return. Maybe these old guys needed 40 winks. They deserved more but we needed them back. Sunshine after 10.00 o’clock at night in London in May. Only Cream can work that miracle. Downstairs crowd leaving their seats and boogying up against stage. Jack seems to be so close to front of stage that he could step onto their heads. Thunderous performance. Free wailing improvisation after vocals was intense and really doing the business when Jack seemed to hurt his hand and Ginger too was hurting. He’d been shaking his hands vigorously between the last few numbers. Think they probably wanted to go on as they were playing so damned good, but had to call it a day. It was all over. Ginger tosses sticks into crowd. Eric a plectrum. Jack handed something small to somebody too. Maybe his harmonica? Surely not. Eric leaves with more waving. Ginger next, pumping arms aloft, clearly elated. Jack off last, seemingly loathed to go, flashing two-handed peace signs to us all.
As I said this was not a Cream reunion. This was just Cream. Older, wrinklier, wiser, sober and maybe taking legal medication, they were jaw-droppingly good. Although we did not get any very long jams they were still Cream. It is probably more fun to jam a little bit in 19 different tunes than to jam on only 4 or 5 very long songs. Once Cream were into their touring routine, way back then, I bet they could not have remembered how to play 19 different songs, so from that point of view I thought it was clearly a bonus.
Everybody was beaming as we left the hall. One of the most uplifting nights of my life. My pal’s sons, 21 and 17 both budding musicians were as moved as us oldies. My 30 year old mate, Gordon Munro, who I introduced to Cream’s music some 12 years ago was mesmerised.
Eric looked fighting fit, Ginger, impressively, kept up his insistent rhythms all night and Jack did not use his stool that often. He walked to the crowd at his corner a few times playing right up close to the lucky few. Collectively these three amazing individuals become something so much greater when they start to play I hope tonight is not the end.
Review by Rick Kent
I’ll hit on my personal high points for Thursday, the 3rd Show. They did the same set list but a better set! For the second number Spoonful they got more serious with it. This has to be the best song on the planet that has only two notes. Both Clapton and Bruce did some improvisational work that wasn’t present the other nights. I’d guesstimate that an extra minute or even two minutes was added for this little jam on Spoonful. The concert was just getting started.
Sleepy Time Time was incredible again. Monday was incredible but tonight Clapton bumped it up a notch again. Eric seemed to be more in charge tonight. He was on.
When Ginger started with the vocals on Pressed Rat and Warthog the audience let out a cheer. People are expecting the songs and the order since the set list is published so many places. It has become a delight to hear Ginger Baker do this song. It’s such a novelty. Once again Ginger and Jack were kidding around and cracking each other up and even Eric got in the act Thursday. Right away Ginger flubbed a lyric (same as Tuesday) and let out a big belly laugh (but much louder that Tuesday). I’m telling you those three guys are having a great time up there! No question.
N. S. U. is a Cream fan staple and arguably their best jam song. When the time came for what could be the jam Clapton took his stance and seemed to plant his feet for the Jack, Ginger, Eric strut. It happened folks. They light it up for about a 4 minute jam and it was heaven. Jack seemed to cut it off pretty quick. They have so many numbers to do it’s a shame in a way since the jams have to be shorter. No 15 minute free for all’s. One more night to change that. This was not a frantic jam of immense proportions but it hit the spot. A couple minutes longer here too.
Born Under a Bad Sign was totally bad ass. Is that a musical term? Jack was so strong here. His singing, his bass. People don’t realize it but they never did this song ever live. Technically this was only the fourth time they’d played it live if you include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards. They are getting right! The audience went nuts after this one. I’m going to credit it mostly with Jack’s singing. He really drew out the last bit. “if it wasn’t for bad luck, I’ve have no luck at all”… over and over and over sang different each time. Eric would have made Albert King proud tonight with his treatment of the blues guitar.
We’re Going Wrong was the best they’d done it and again Jack was on for this one. They are so much better tonight. It’s the third night and it’s looser. Each song seems to be just a tad longer and more drawn out.
Badge has got wonderful reception each night. Badge has been the same every night and one of the only songs that was totally on from the first show. This could be due to Clapton doing it so many times in his solo shows over the years. It’s really a Clapton number.
Crossroads was great Thursday. The other nights not so great. I really like this song but I’ve always said it’s hard to hit it just right with the changes in it. Clapton seemed to really concentrate. A lot depends on how well Ginger and Eric mesh on this one and it worked. Great job guys!
White Room was tasty. You can tell they are starting to wind up for the finish. It’s getting more intense. The last bit of White Room gets a jam thrown in and not a song you’d expect that to happen but it was done right. It was incredible.
Toad! I love it! Ginger was on again. Best tonight. I’m so down with those African beats. He could stay on the toms all night and that would be enough for me. He has that swing that Eric talks about. He doesn’t need to hit the skins hard to get his message across. Most all know Toad is the last song before the encore. Just before Baker finishes up there is rush to the stage on the arena floor and I was ready, I got to center stage less than 10 feet away from Mr. Eric Clapton.
The last couple minutes of Sunshine were a total frenetic free for all jam. This is what we want. This is Cream. The pace was way over the top. They exceeded all the speed limits they’ve been putting on themselves. I was overwhelmed. This could have been my high point of the reunion. I don’t see how it can get any better for Friday night.