The mere mention of a “reunion concert” makes me cringe. Far too often, we find ourselves subjected to lackluster performances by well-past-their-prime performers who go through the motions for all the wrong reasons – ego, nostalgia, and yep… lots o’ money. Others seem to prefer the Townshend/Daltrey school of perpetual goodbyes and make virtual careers out of “farewell” performances – equally or perhaps even more disappointing.
Happily, Cream’s brief reunion in 2005 departs sharply from both of these stereotypes. Recorded at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall (nearly four decades after the band’s “farewell concert” in the same noble venue), the enthusiastic, if not star studded audiences are treated to compelling run-throughs of all the expected rock radio anthems – “Badge,” “Sunshine of Your Love,” “White Room,” the live standards – “Sweet Wine,” “Spoonful,” “Sleepy Time Time,” plus a few pleasant surprises – “We're Going Wrong,” “Stormy Monday,” and a delightful version of “Pressed Rat and Warthog.” Like watching three veteran scholars rather than mere relics of some bye-gone era, Bruce, Baker and Clapton mesh like the finely skilled craftsmen they are.
But what makes this set particularly enjoyable is director Martyn Atkins’ no-frills approach to the visuals. The filming is superb as one might expect, yet the clean and unpretentious production leaves it feeling uncluttered and genuine. Interview segments add interest and context, but are quite thankfully kept separate from the performance footage, which gives the film the spontaneous feel of a historical document, rather than a contrived montage of multiple overlays and retakes so typical of “superstar” concert films. Nice!
So, just for fun, here is “White Room” from Royal Albert Hall, 26 November 1968…
And the same track from the same venue in on 3 May 2005…
Alas, after just four shows in London and three in New York, “pressed rat and warthog have closed down their shop. They didnt want to; twas all they had got.”
Cream, Royal Albert Hall, London 05