CONCERT REVIEW - CREAM AT MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (10/25/05)


I was lucky enough to get a good seat for last night’s Cream reunion show at Madison Square Garden, and must say that I was simply blown away by the show. Health-wise, I didn’t know what to expect as I’d read about Jack Bruce’s liver transplant and over the years the pictures I’ve seen of Ginger Baker have made Keith Richards look spry.

Those fears were put to rest as Cream took the stage Tuesday night. Starting with a rousing “I’m So Glad”, I couldn’t help but feel that the song was going out to the audience, who have waited a lifetime to see their heroes. We were glad, glad, glad.

Highlights of the show included a fiery wah-wah laced “Tales of Brave Ulysses” (which they didn’t play in London) and Jack Bruce’s excellent vocals throughout the night, especially on “We’re Going Wrong” which also featured Ginger on mallets. Jack’s bass playing was very melodic, interesting and lively. In some tunes like ”NSU”, he is soloing against Eric Clapton, in fact, all members are soloing at once, but they come together just in time to go back into the verse. For possibly the “original jam band” they do it better than anyone and know when to go out there, and know when to reel it back in.

I felt EC held back for the first half of the show, playing his signature black Strats very well if a bit on the safe side. I saw Ginger and Jack encouraging him to solo in “Sittin’ On Top Of The World” but he opted to let Jack do his harmonica thing and ended the tune earlier than I would have hoped. But by the end of “Stormy Monday”, he was clearly pushing his guitar playing which was refreshing. In fact, his playing was more fiery last night than at any time since I first saw him in the late ‘70’s. In the wings I noticed a Gibson 335 in his guitar rack but he didn’t pull it out (I was hoping that he would since I’m in the Cream/Gibson through a Marshall camp). Speaking of gear, ever since the reunion was announced, the diehards have been pressing Jack and Eric to play through their old Marshall stacks, and Tuesday, both Jack and Eric showed their sense of humor by having tiny 6” Marshall stacks on top of their amps. I thought this was a funny touch…

Over the years, the “obligatory drum solo” at concerts was seen by many concert goers as an excuse to get up and relieve themselves, but Ginger Baker proved that he is master and commander of the skins. I couldn’t take my eyes off of him as he made his way around the kit. By the end of his 10+ minute solo in “Toad”, he was weaving polyrhythms that were actually very interesting.

Wrapping up with a powerful encore of “Sunshine Of Your Love” (which featured one of the few Clapton solos that assimilated his studio take, starting with his “Blue Moon” intro), all three took a bow and left the stage as brothers in arms.

In hindsight, I once again feel moved by the power of music and am so glad to have had the chance to see them.

 

Set List:
I'M SO GLAD
SPOONFUL
OUTSIDE WOMAN BLUES
PRESSED RAT & WARTHOG
SLEEPY TIME
TALES OF BRAVE ULYSSES
N.S.U.
BADGE
POLITICIAN
SWEET WINE
ROLLIN' & TUMBLIN'
STORMY MONDAY
DESERTED CITIES OF THE HEART
BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN
WE'RE GONE WRONG
CROSSROADS
SITTIN' ON TOP OF THE WORLD
WHITE ROOM
TOAD
Encore:
SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE
[© 2005 Tom Guerra]
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About Tom Guerra
Tom Guerra has played blues, blues-rock, and rock 'n' roll guitar for over 20 years and has recorded or performed with the likes of Rick Derringer, The Dirty Bones Band, Max Weinberg, Ronnie Earl, Charles Calmese, Jaimoe, and the Delrays. In 2000, Guerra released his debut solo CD, Mambo Sons, which featured Rick Derringer on co-lead guitar and bassist Kenny Aronson. His second CD, Play Some Rock & Roll!, by Mambo Sons, was named one of the Best Independent Releases of 2002 by NY Rock Magazine. The Mambo Sons have just released a new CD titled, Racket of Three (read review).
Tom is a journal keeper with Modern Guitars Magazine: Tom Guerra. He also maintains a Tom Guerra / Mambo Sons website: www.tomguerra.com.

 

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