Their talent as a band is undeniable, but that in itself could conceivably be looked at with only passing interest these days. Over the last few decades any number of solid rock groups have had several big hits yet have long since passed into obscurity, either disbanded or playing on with only a smattering of fanfare after their 15 minutes of fame. What truly sets Cream apart from that kind of fate is one simple fact; that being, Cream was a chapter in the canon of one Eric Clapton. Three times inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. A 16-time Grammy award winner. The case would be made by many that Clapton is the greatest rock guitarist of all time; even those who disagree will be hard pressed keeping him out of the top five. While Bruce and Baker have stayed busy enough over the decades with various musical projects, Clapton became a rock and roll God- and as a result the Cream legacy only grew in stature with the passage of time.
Thus when it was announced that Cream would reunite for a series of shows both at Royal Albert Hall in London it was of great significance to a huge number of fans- this was a slice of rock and roll history being served up for a limited time only. With the exception of an appearance brought about by their induction to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993, Cream had not played together since their farewell performance some 37 years before- on the very same stage. Clapton himself had (more or less) made the remark that if a Cream reunion were ever to take place it needed to be done soon, while all three members were still alive and able to perform. What this DVD set brings to the viewer is a compilation of highlights from the four landmark London shows spanning May 2,3,5 and 6, 2005.
Watching the trio take the stage was a bit of a culture shock, certainly for the baby boomer crowd- the fellas are showing their age these days. What the viewer should bear in mind is the rather startling fact that this is a reunion of a group that disbanded almost 40 years ago- to put that in perspective, Richard M. Nixon had yet to be sworn in as President and the Beatles were still going strong.
Yet here they are. Just because they don't look the same as they did in the 60's doesn't mean a thing when it comes to the music they are still able to produce. From the opening number, the Cream sound is given rebirth by the very men who have the most right to lay claim to it. Their sound, if anything, is better than ever- all three have grown more proficient as musicians in the decades since their breakup.
One thing apparent from the beginning is the fact that these three are loose and seem to be oblivious to anything other than simply putting on a great show, which they do. If there were any worries over the historical significance of this short reunion, they didn't allow it to affect their performance or enjoyment of the moment. The interplay between the trio gives one the impression that if there is any animousity from years gone by, it has long since been put in the past. Genuine respect and friendship between the three is obvious, both in their deference to each other and between song musings, grinning at each other and giddy in the moment; they seem delighted to be playing on stage together again.
In the truest sense this is a Cream performance, rather than a showcase for any single member; Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton share lead vocals throught the show, complimenting one another vocally with Jack's leathery voice and Eric's soulful tone. Throughout the set Bruce brings his bass guitar to rousing, thumping life. While Baker certainly doesn't appear capable of being a whirlwind on drums these days, looks can be deceiving- he is more than able to fill each song with his strong,constant backbeat. Clapton is consummate Clapton- he has grown incredibly as a musician since the sixties, these days seemingly able to bring the goods to the stage on any given night. Though many Cream songs have been staples in his live shows over the years, hearing them here is a treat; while they have sounded technically fine with other performers backing Clapton, they lacked the signature sound only Bruce and Baker can complete; listening to this show that difference becomes apparent. The band doesn't always sound perfect, and the songs are a bit stripped down in comparison to their studio versions, but they certainly sound like Cream- which is what matters the most. Fact is, hearing these guys play songs such as "Badge" and "Politician" so well after 4 decades sent a chill up my spine.
Listed here is a song list of the 2 Disc Set:
I'm So Glad
Outside Woman Blues
Pressed Rat & Warthog
Sleepy Time Time
Rollin' & Tumblin'
Deserted Cities of the Heart
Born Under a Bad Sign
We're Going Wrong
Sitting on Top of the World
We're Going Wrong
Sunshine of Your Love
An argument can be made that some songs could have been left off the set list in favor of other Cream classics such as "I Feel Free", but the selections here should be comprehensive enough to satisfy most fans. The fact that the band sounds this good 40 years later more than compensates.
Aspect ratio for the DVD is 1.78:1 and the show was filmed in high definition. It shows; colors are rich, bright and appear to be accurate. Blacks are decently black, and imaging seems sharp and clean. This is a fine example of how good a concert can look even on standard DVD- making one wishful for its eventual rerelease on HD media.
There are two audio tracks here- dolby digital stereo as well as 5.1 DTS. The stereo track is pleasing enough but the DTS track truly shines, producing a full rich sound on a home theater type setup that is well worth cranking up the volume.
Alternate takes of "Sleepy Time Time" and "I'm Goin' Wrong"
Interviews With Cream-Clocking in at about 16 minutes, given here is the viewpoint of each member individually on the reunion of Cream; the differences between their 60's rendition and today; and rehearsing for the shows. Of note is some insight from Bruce as to why "I Feel Free" was left off the set list. Pretty delightful stuff on the whole, listening to all three expound about how rewarding it has been to perform together again, what they wanted to do with the Royal Albert Hall opportunity and how much they both appreciate and compliment each other musically.
An alternate take of "Sunshine Of your Love" is also an extra on disc two.
While it would have been great to see the band reunite some 10 years ago and go on a full blown tour many more fans may have been able to enjoy, what we are presented with is a slice of rock and roll history- preserved for posterity and presented on a media far surpassing what was available in the past. This is a great concert DVD set for any fan of Cream or Clapton to pick up. Highly recommended.