Tag Archives: Eric Clapton

Cream : Royal Albert Hall – London May 2-3-5-6 2005

The fanfare surrounding Cream’s reunion in 2005 was as loud as the trio’s final show in 1968, and rightfully so. Over the course of three years, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker, gave the psychedelia of the era their own blues stamp, and then, with one final performance at Royal Albert Hall, they parted ways, their legacy cemented in the annals of rock and roll history.

Thirty-seven years later, Cream took the stage once again at the site of their final performance, older, wiser, and more refined. But it was a limited engagement – four nights at the London, England, space, and an additional three performances at New York City’s Madison Square Garden – and just like that, the trio who penned such classics as “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Badge,” “Politician,” and “White Room,” was gone again.

But that isn’t the end of the story. In the modern era, few occasions this momentous go undocumented, and Cream’s Royal Albert Hall run is no different. Cream: Royal Albert Hall – London May 2-3-5-6 2005 boasts 19 tracks from the reunion shows presented in high definition and directed by Martyn Atkins.

For a band that lay dormant for nearly four decades, Cream deliver a classic set of well-worn rock and roll songs. Beginning with Skip James’ “I’m So Glad,” the trio proves that they can still lock-in and let loose, using song structures as mere launch pads for expansive performances. However, they struggle to coalesce, and given the time apart – and the squabbles that have plagued the band – the players seem rigid. That’s not to say that there aren’t high points here. Bruce and Baker roll up a deep groove on Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful,” giving Clapton plenty to solo over, and “Badge” allows Clapton to step forward on vocals, drawing  the most passion from the guitarist over the course of the performances found here.

Yes, I said the “P” word, and while the reunion of Cream is, in itself, remarkable, the passion that fueled the band in its formative years is largely missing. They certainly can wear out Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads,” but the fire in their eyes – and in their performance – is largely muted. Bonus interviews with the three members of the band  counter this assessment, and even the cantankerous Ginger Baker expresses his initial trepidation about the reunion, and the joy that he ultimately felt playing, even suggesting that they are better than they have ever been. Unfortunately, Bruce spends much of his time during the interview reasoning away the thought of being a nostalgia act at this point, or worse, a tribute band.

All said, Cream: Royal Albert Hall is a good use of time, if anything, to see the interplay of three musicians who set the world on fire in their heyday. Cream diehards may be left lamenting the sure death of the band that they love, but seeing the trio on stage, in crystal clear high definition, running through some classic songs, is nothing short of enjoyable.

Cream: Royal Albert Hall – London May 2-3-5-6 2005 is out now on Rhino/Eagle Rock Entertainment.

Clapton and Trucks burn down Atlanta

Eric Clapton

Gwinnett Civic Center

Duluth, GA

October 14, 2006 

 

Sometimes bandmate are able to interact so well that it seems like a match made in heaven.  In the case of Derek Trucks and Eric Clapton, perhaps it is in the literal sense.

 

As Derek played Clapton’s former Derek & the Dominoes foil Duane Allman’s slide guitar part during the coda of "Layla" in Duluth, Georgia, Duane was probably smiling from somewhere up above.  While stylisitcally Duane and Derek are not mirror images, there’s just something there in Derek that evokes Allman’s image.

 

Regardless of any cosmic connections, from the opening notes of "Pretending" at Clapton’s show at the Gwinnett Civic Center this was a band that was clearly locked in and firing on all cylinders.  "I Shot the Sheriff" had Clapton singing with the conviction and passion he had in the 1970’s, and bassist Willie Weeks got a nice little bass solo during "Got To Get Better In A Little While" as Trucks switched from his Les Paul to his SG.

 

Opener Robert Cray came on stage for "Old Love," which featured a great guitar solo from Clapton.  After a nod to the D&D days with "Anyday," "Motherless Children" was busted out, and with Trucks, Clapton, and Doyle Bramhall II all on slide guitar, it was definitely one of the highlights of the night.  Their triple slide attack was fantastic, as all three guitars sang in unison.

 

There has been a seated, acoustic portion of each of Clapton’s shows on tour, and after "Motherless Children" the lights in the arena went out.  The roadies brought out two chairs, and Trucks and Clapton took a seat center-stage, spot-lit with guitars in hand.  They ran through the first few bars of "Back Home" before the lights slowly went up across the rest of the stage as the rest of the band quietly joined in.  Bramhall, absent for the first song, came back out for the rest of the set as Trucks put away the acoustic and played his SG on the remaining songs, "I Am Yours," "Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,"and a phenomenal "Running on Faith."

 

The band was back to full electric for "After Midnight," and then Clapton completely owned "Little Queen of Spades."  He’s clearly been pushed by the young guitarists like he hasn’t been pushed in quite a while, and has responded with sharp guitar work.  On "Little Queen of Spades," the guitarists took turns soloing, each one setting the bar just a bit higher for the next guitarist to hurdle.  Trucks was perfect here, and the crowd exploded after his solo.

 

After "Further On Up The Road," the band slowed it down a bit with "Wonderful Tonight."  Then, Trucks’ guitar conjured the ghost of Allman, and the opening riff to "Layla," arguably the 7 most famous notes in guitar history, rang out across the Gwinnett Civic Center.  The crowd exploded, and the band responded.  Pianist Chris Stainton’s work on the coda was perfect; in fact, he was stellar all night, the unsung hero in a band which spotlights (and rightly so) instruments of the six-stringed kind.  As Stainton, Trucks, and Clapton brought "Layla" home, the band broke into "Cocaine."  Clapton’s only just started playing this song after a long absence in his setlists, and he’s added the word "deadly" to the chorus (she’s all right, she’s all right, she’s all right…that deadly cocaine).

 

After a short encore break, the band was joined again by Cray for "Crossroads," and they called it a night.

 

In the grand scheme of rock and roll shows, Clapton’s currently got one of, if not the best one out there.  With each note he shows why he’s the legend on stage, and in the process he’s building that of Trucks.  While Bramhall certainly is a great guitarist in his own right, on some songs it really seems like it’s the "Derek Trucks show."  Hopefully Trucks is soaking up all of this, because sooner rather than later, he’s not going to be a sideman to anyone; these huge crowds that show up to see Clapton will soon be showing up for him.