Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cream Reunion

Here is a review of the Cream reunion show at Royal Albert Hall from the Guardian:

The atmosphere is less like a rock concert than a corporate hospitality tent at Wimbledon. Paunchy men in sports jackets clink ice in gin and tonics, and mumsy ladies fan themselves with pricey souvenir programmes. Presumably some of them were here the last time Cream played the Royal Albert Hall, squinting at the band's November 1968 farewell concert through a fug of aromatic smoke. Tonight, however, the air is thick with something else, not as pungent, but no less heady: nostalgia for a lost era, when a 15-minute drum solo called Toad could have your average audience roaring their approval, rather than clambering over each other to reach the exits.

..."We're going to play for as long as we can," he announces happily, a remark greeted with deafening cheers, rather than the deeply apprehensive gulp it warrants. A computer generated approximation of a psychedelic slideshow bathes the back of the stage, but what is startling about Cream's oeuvre is how decidedly un-cosmic it sounds in the cold light of 2005. Spoonful and Sleepy Time Time offer a curiously straightforward take on the blues: the solos may be lengthy, and accompanied by much pursing of the lips, frowning etc, but they're oddly prosaic and polished. You get a brief glimpse of what the fuss was about during Rollin' and Tumblin', when Bruce abandons his bass guitar in favour of a harmonica, and Clapton and Baker churn out a frantic, clattering riff. Baker turns out to be the evening's surprise star. A noticeable resemblance to Wilfred Bramble in Steptoe and Son bodes ill, but his drumming is fantastic, adding a snapping, raw edge. In fact, it is Cream's theoretically less substantial material that stands up best four decades on. Full of snaking melodic turns and false endings, Badge is simply a fantastic pop song. Deserted Cities of the Heart strikes an admirable balance between lush vocal harmonies and hulking, muscular power, and even the whimsical psych-pop oddity Pressed Rat and Warthog has the sort of character you are hard-pressed to find in less arcane areas of Cream's catalogue.
Cream would have been pretty good if Eric Clapton hadn't been in the group. Nevertheless, tiny purple fishes did at one time run laughing through her fingers, and I must respect that.

No comments: