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Published: 2005/11/08
by John Parker

Cream, Madison Square Garden, NYC- 10/24

Words cannot really give justice to how amazing Cream were on their first of three nights at Madison Square Garden. It was certainly, without a doubt, the best concert I have ever seen. It had everything you could have hoped for. The sound quality was great, they brought the raw energy that came with their classic performances, the set list was awesome (how could it not be), and the three members, still masters at their respective instruments, continued to share that rare and special chemistry that inevitably brought their playing to an even higher level.

The opening of the concert could not have been more appropriate. The main house lights went out as a set of blue lights began to glow from the stage. Almost Immediately, without any gimmicks or fanfare, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton, and Ginger Baker emerged, did some brief final tuning up, and kicked right into "I'm So Glad". Hearing Clapton play the intro, as Baker and Bruce began to work their way in, sent shivers down the spine. As the vocals began they initially sounded a bit restrained, even a little awkward. It was simultaneously refreshing and troublesome at the same time but as soon as they got to the instrumental break in the song you knew all was going to be fine. They were clearly locked into each other's playing and it stayed that way for the remainder of the evening. There was the occasional bum note and one false start going into "White Room" but these moments only made the show better, adding to the spontaneity of the concert and clearly demonstrating that these men were out of their comfort zone and stepping up to the challenge.

To rate the individual band members is hard and perhaps inappropriate. For all their spectacular moments individually (and there were lots), they were really working as a unit with the focus being the quality of the song and concert as whole. Clapton particularly seemed to be pushing himself harder than he has in years, his playing itself was nothing short of spectacular and he proved once and for all that, despite the more mellow path he has taken throughout his of his solo career, he still has plenty of edge left in him. While his lead work was mind blowing throughout, my favorite Clapton moment of the concert was during "Rollin' and Tumblin'" where Jack Bruce took a break from the bass (while handling vocal and harmonica duties) forcing Clapton to hold everything together with his fender. The look of intense focus on his face and the invigorated tone in his voice when he briefly thanked the audience after getting through the song was an indication of how hard he had just worked.

Ginger Baker also seemed very serious throughout the show, utilizing his skill at mixing steady beats with constant fills and off time drum patterns – while somehow maintaining a groove that is nothing short of hypnotizing. It was incredibly gratifying to see the look he gave his band mates at the end "Sunshine of Your Love", their final song of the evening, that seemed to say "it was hard but we pulled it off yet again". It was also great hearing him "sing" Pressed Rat and Warthog (a song I did not expect to hear). My favorite moments of his playing were his drum solo during "Toad" and especially his delicate handling of "We're Going Wrong".

Of the three members, Jack Bruce looked like he was having the most fun, not because he seemed to care any less than the others, but rather there was an added confidence about him in both manner and the way he played & sang (which obviously says a lot given the strong personalities with whom he was sharing the stage). I would also dare argue he was doing the most improvising. Often you would hear and see him break from the structure of the song and it always sounded incredible and how the hell he could sing lead so forcefully while handling those bass lines is a mystery. My favorite Bruce moments were his singing and playing during "Tales of Brave Ulysses."

As for the audience, everyone seemed to be having a blast. Some dancing around, others in complete awe. You could hear constant cheering throughout all the songs, my favorite image was a few rows in front me a little girl (couldn't have been older than 7 years old) on her father's shoulders having the time of her life as she waved her hands and shook her head in complete unison with the beat of the music. As for me I was in the "in awe" category, often with my hand clasped over my mouth in utter disbelief trying to take in as much of this as I could absorb because I knew throughout that I would never experience anything like it again. After they finished Toad, there final song of the main set did I finally become unhinged, thrusting my fist in the air screaming yesssssssss!!

Whether or not they continue after these shows at MSG is obviously up them and them alone. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I would love to see them do more shows as anyone who wants to see them should have that chance. On the other I would hate to have them continue to the point that they were no longer enjoying this. As hard as they worked, there were constant grins and looks of gratification to each other that demonstrated that they were enjoying the experience and being rewarded by it. If they can't do an entire tour on that level, which obviously would be hard, than they really shouldn't.

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