Review by Rick Kent
The Madison Square Garden show opening night started around 8:35. It was raining in Manhattan. Fans strolled in late while I had run from my hotel just across the street 30 minutes early so I wouldn't miss anything. I wanted to stroll around The Garden.
MSG is pretty big compared to the regal Royal Albert Hall. This would be a different set of shows if for any other reason the sheer crowd sizes. It was bound to get loud and it did. There would also be a few surprises from Cream tonight.
Would they change the set order? Surely they'd do the same tunes but this set of shows could command more since this would be the first shows in the country that made them great. The San Francisco scene of '67 with its free love, and drugs would turn Cream into a jam band with solo extensions that are sheer legend.
The ticket prices were so much more expensive here with a max price of $354.50. That's about a 50% increase over the Â£125 at Royal Albert Hall (about $225) With the service fees added in - $390.15. All three shows would cost over a grand. That's serious money. Cream had to do more for the MSG crowd.
I'll tell of the changes and high points of the show. The set was the same with I'm So Glad as the opener and much better than any of the RAH shows. Jack and Eric both gave it so much more power. Ginger had the amps up louder, or so it seemed. The acoustics were good at MSG much to my relief. They had my full attention with the way the show started. The audience was louder and looser than the British but that's not always a good thing. Way too many people stayed standing for entire songs blocking the views of people behind them. We Americans have our shortcomings I'm afraid. A few bad apples do spoil the bunch.
Spoonful confirmed this would not be what I'd seen in London. They were trying harder to please and it showed. I knew now it was worth all the bucks and time to do this again. Jack ripped the vocals but Clapton took it to a much higher level here. .. and this is the first night! I didn't put a clock on any of the tunes but Spoonful was about the same if not a bit longer compared to May.
Pressed Rat & Warthog had Ginger nervous now. He is rushing the lyrics too much. He even sounds confused and embarrassed when trying to plug the concession stand at the end. "I want to inform you that Pressed Rat has reopened his shop, and is selling things with Cream written on them". Always a gas to hear Baker do this Wheels classic. Clapton introduced him much like he does on the DVD (Friday show-last show from RAH).
Here comes my favorite... Sleepy Time Time and they are doing these tunes better and better. I have to think if they keep this up with the reunion concerts we'll see a Cream that won't look anything like what we saw in London. Clapton kicks ass on his soloing here. Just incredible. The audience was "getting it" too. Long standing ovation after his solo. I was feeling good.
Are you ready for THIS? Same set so far right. Wrong! Instead of NSU after Sleepy the guys goose us with Tales of Brave Ulysses (!!) and the crowd went nuts. This was my first time to hear this tune live from Cream and it was so sweet. I can't tell you anything special about it since I was so stunned a new song was thrown into the set. I just know I liked it. more on this tune for the next review on Tuesday show.
Back to the normal set with NSU then the rest. The show would turn out to be a much better sharper presentation. Baker stepped it up a bit but Eric and Jack trying to do something more. Jack is kicking his leg out on some notes. He did this sparingly in London but this time he’s even jumping up and down just a bit. He looked so much healthier from my view.
Cream jams are known to occur mostly on NSU, Spoonful, and Sweet Wine. On this night Sweet Wine they got the CLOSEST to a total improvisation of any of the times I've seen them up to now. Eric and Jack were playing a sort of boogie jam directly in front of Baker and they were synced up hard. Everybody around me was getting in to this boogie groove. I've never heard then produce this exact sound on any recording. Then Jack just put it to a halt much like he did on NSU's in London and it was so sad to have this end. They were so in to it and tight but there is a schedule to keep tonight. So many numbers to play and not enough time to really give it a stretch.
When it came time for Stormy Monday I was in shock with more aggressive changes he used to swing into what has to Clapton's best song of the evening. He ripped it hard. He was hitting the strings harder and putting even more passion into the vocals. Again ....this is the first of three shows! Way lay ahead can only get better.
The guys seemed to coast on Born Under A Bad Sign which was a surprise. Clapton came alive on the solo but the rest was pedestrian pace. Sitting On Top of The World is my only disappointment since I want to get Jack off that harp and back to pounding the Warwick. White Room made the crowd go bonkers but I know Toad is next so that's all I can think about. White Room was done with the same formula as before.
Ginger Baker - Toad
What happens here is what happens in dreams for a Ginger Baker fan. like me. He extended Toad way longer with his solo section at about 10 minutes and he was on the Toms for much of it. I like it. I like it a lot. On the DVD interviews he speaks of how he likes it better when there are more people. He says he is more relaxed when playing for more people. Ginger Baker plays better with more people! He was so powerful and this guy is almost 70 years old! I can't wait to see this again Tuesday.
Encore with Sunshine but I'm still on a high from Toad and I've seen this presentation four times already so I know a bit too much of what to expect. They ripped Sunshine at the end with a fast and furious jam. They did the bows and they were out.
Review by Jay Snyder
The best testament to the talent of the members of Cream is how they make it look so easy. Even though they haven't played a full concert in America for 37 years, their set at Madison Square Garden on the first of their three shows there went off almost flawlessly. The chemistry that led to classic studio tracks and historic live performances in the sixties was obvious to the wildly appreciative New York crowd on Monday night. The ease and comfort they showed with their material didn't seem to come from the result of repeated rehearsals as much as it did from the three of them all speaking the same musical language which they used to communicate song starts and stops as well as other more subtle musical cues. The only obvious slip came when Ginger Baker skipped over "White Room" and started into "Toad," to the surprise of Clapton and Bruce. The band simply laughed it off and then went into "White Room" to the relief of the crowd who were obviously looking forward to hearing it.
The set list mirrored the Royal Albert Hall shows with one exception that proved to be a highlight of the show. After the first five songs the band kicked off "Tales of Brave Ulysses" to the delight of the fans. At one point during the show Jack Bruce praised the New York crowd as "the best audience in the world." The addition of "Tales" seemed to be their way of showing their appreciation to that audience. "Tales" also stood as a highlight due to the way it synchronized so well with the psychedelic light show that was projected behind the band (similar to the RAH shows).
It was a little ironic that Eric Clapton's playing (which is rarely anything less than virtuosic) reached its greatest heights during a song that Cream had never recorded in its heyday - "Stormy Monday Blues." Clapton knew just how to drive the crowd wild as he built his solo up to a dramatic climax just before going into the final verse of the song. Jack Bruce was also in top form for much of the show, acting and sounding like he had energy to spare.Possibly the greatest compliments from the crowd went to Ginger Baker. As Ginger launched into his solo for "Toad" and the other two members left the stage, very few in the crowd (as far as I could tell) headed for the refreshment stands, rest rooms, or any other destination that concert-goers will usually reserve for the "drum solo" portion of the show. Even the restless fans seated in my row (including one guy - seated right in the middle of the row, of course - who must have left and come back to his seat at least four times during the show) were compelled to stay seated and watch every move Ginger made until the band came back and finished the song.
The final nod to Ginger's drum prowess came as the crowd began to leave their seats at the end of the show and head down the stairs past the Garden's large windows. Steam from the wet, rainy weather coated the large panes of glass, prompting many to write messages on the windows as they made their way down the stairs. As I looked for what I thought would be the obvious "Clapton is God" message, I found instead just one word - "GINGER!"
Review by Rod V
What can I say? Well, I don't regret going to see these concerts, provided they will be as good as tonight! Though I have to say and we knew this already, the RAH was special, from the first to the last concert. That will never happen again.
The set list was almost identical, apart from Tales of Brave Ulysses. According to Eric "Never done live before"! And I think it sounded great. In general I can say I enjoyed the concert very much. I think Eric's playing was great (I think Ginger and Jack are always playing well as far as I know!) and believe it or not, there was actually some jamming!!!! Real jamming!!! I don't think I have ever seen that before! Great versions of Sleepy Time Time (with jamming), Stormy Monday and I'm So Glad.
And there was some real fighting on stage too, really like in the old days! Fighting between Jack and Ginger. Jack complaining that Ginger was playing too loud, Ginger cooling down and then all of a sudden beating the drums like a maniac....!!! And this didn't happen one time...I have no idea what Eric must have thought.... He probably regretted doing these dates... Oh well, I guess if he doesn't enjoy it he still needs the money!!!
Some other things about the concert: visually not as good as the RAH, I thought the back of the stage was well done in London. Now it was a little bit the same, but less. And the audience: well you could have guessed - Cream? Who are they? Do have hit singles? And of course the usual phoning, champagne Charlies, walking in out to buy merchandise and of course Stormy Monday was a great relieve, finally a song during which you can talk to each other! And I always have the pleasure to be seated between the VIP's... The ones who find it more important to be backstage than seeing the show! But I have to say they behaved quite well.
Review by Christopher Kilgore
The Show was absolutely amazing. They all played with even more intensity than before in London. I was absolutely amazed by Badge, I'm so Glad, and Stormy Monday. Also Crossroads and White Room were yet again flawless. They all seemed to have a greater appreciation of the music that they were playing than before in the 60's. Now Cream has most defiantly defined their greatness.
Review by Shawn Rosvold
We get into the Garden, get to our seats and the show starts at 8:30 with I'm So Glad. The crowd goes nuts. We're five rows from the stage. I'm in heaven. I won't go through every song and review, but I'll give you my impressions. Eric Clapton was amazing, as he always is. I am baffled by people who shit on him for his blues guitar ability. Just because he's a white Englishman they crap on him. I've seen and heard a lot of blues players and he is the best. Period. Maybe he didn't have to give his soul to the devil at the crossroads, but who cares? He plays this stuff because he feels it. You can't deny that. Jack Bruce is an incredible bass player. And, given his age, his voice is still pretty good. But I noticed him clenching and unclenching his hands and shaking them, like he was losing feeling or something. And he looked really tired. I don't know how his health is, but he went balls to the wall all night. Ginger Baker was his excellent skeletal self. I'm not sure who it was, but I think it was Baker who lost time on a few songs. Clapton and Bruce covered very well, and I noticed a few times that Bruce walked over and counted Baker into a bridge or an ending. Baker also had a small temper tantrum when a roadie was trying to put a headset mic on him while he was playing. Baker obviously didn't like it and threw the thing on the floor with a resounding boom. But, all in all, they looked happy to be there. They smiled a lot, something you don't see Clapton when he plays solo. Especially when they got into some great grooves and all three knew it. I was surprised and honored to be at the very first concert performance of Tales of Brave Ulysses. "Never before done onstage," Eric Clapton declared when it was finished. It was the show of a lifetime. I'm so glad I got the chance to go.
Review by Thomas Farruggio
I think they sounded outstanding; Eric was on the money as always, When Ginger Lost his time on White room, Eric brought him right back in. I Loved the exchanges between Jack & Eric, during Toad! It was as they were looking back in time, and saying... WOW, what planet where we on. Jack's Voice was stronger then I remembered from RAH, his energy is unbelievable. What they must have been like, 40 years ago! I was 4yrs old. Ginger Peter Patrick Baker. His drum solo and those as we call them...The Drop it in the Bucket! People I don't think realize the chops, and the licks he was playing where just unreal. When he kicked in the double Bass, playing those rhythms, man I had chills going down my spine...awesome!
What can you say about Eric Clapton! I would have liked to have had the pleasure to say hello to him, after meeting him. I always want to say Thank you for the contribution that he has made in the lives of so many people. The world is a better place with him in it. There is a saying in AA that God has spared each of us for a reason to give back to others to keep it. Eric gives back in his music, love for family, sobrity, charity, and humility. That is what I saw last night. I man who guitar is a part of his soul, that everything maters, he wants all to be pleased for the music and the experience.
Eric plays from the heart. My guitar instructor John "Rats" Geradi tells me all the time, slow down it's not a race, phrasing is important, tell a story when you’re playing, so your audience can follow along. Well, that is the feeling I felt last night on several songs, The Harrison Tune, Stormy Monday Blues.When you speak from the Heart it reaches the Heart!
Wonderful show can never get close enough in the action. Very grateful to be there and to experience what my peers have back in the 60's, and music I have been listening to for over 20 years.
Review by Barry Fisch
Same as RAH with addition of "Tales...” Musically, I'd say the worst of the five 2005 shows so far. No chemistry. Mostly because Jack and Ginger were fighting. Not to the point where it interrupted the set, but there was great tension between the two of them that was clearly evident. EC just played along. This night probably reminded him of why he quit this outfit 37 years ago. Occasionally some nice musical moments though; particularly We're Going Wrong and Stormy Monday. Eric used the Wah Wah for White Room, as well as Tales. Opening of White Room had Ginger playing the drums to Toad; he read the set list wrong. They had to stop and start again.
Review by Eric Byrd
I've seen Clapton many times and I own the CD and DVD of the CREAM reunion shows, but NYC was another level of musicianship. There were even times when the band wasn't quite together - didn't quite land on the 'one' at the same time, but there was true spontaneity and improvisation. As a huge Clapton fan, let me also say that Jack Bruce may have stolen the show. He was in great form, both vocally and musically and he and Ginger both kicked EC in the butt a few times, inspiring EC to be the phenomenal cat that he is. Overall it was a fantastic show; outside of a few sound issues like problems with Eric's vocal mike and feedback while Bruce played harmonica, it was a great gig.
Review by Darryl Genis
First three songs were pretty weak by comparison to any of the London shows, but after that, every song was better than anything played in London, recorded or not. All three band members played with more energy, and more creativity than ever before. The audience was on their feet the entire show (I was in Section 2, R row 4, seat 4). Eric used a wahwah pedal on Tales of Brave Ulysses, and White Room (not in London) and the Decibel level was much more akin to cream in the 60's. Eric also came closer to using feedback on a few leads, and played with much more distortion. Nobody can say there were no Marshall stacks on stage either, because both Jack and Eric had the miniature ones (as in a few inches tall - the ones you use to goof off with - toys really). Crossroads was much closer to the Winterland version, and Ginger had a senior moment and started playing Toad when he should have been starting Tales of Brave Ulysses. Jack made a joke about it and said "That was Ginger's solo - (it was about 30 seconds before they stopped and started over) The audience laughed, and it was great comic relief, though I am sure there is a critic out there who will use this point to take pot shots at the performance!
This show was a must see, and I can't wait till tomorrow.
Summary: Cream today is every bit as creative and energetic as it was the first time I saw them at the Anaheim Convention center in 1967. What little they lack in volume and raw energy they more than make up for with musical experience, and wisdom. Anyone who says differently either did not see them the first go round, or destroyed too many brain cells with bad acid.
Review by Joe Kelso
I was fortunate to attend the first of Cream's three shows at The Garden last night. Overall, a very memorable show. My previous Eric Clapton highlight was seeing him, front row, at Irving Plaza in 1994 during his "From the Cradle" tour. Although some other reviews have focused on the supposed "fighting" between Jack and Ginger, I think that's somewhat overstated. I had great seats (Section 80, right off the floor; if you can't be in the front 10 rows, those are the best seats to have), on "Eric's side" of the stage. Although I noticed Jack motion to Ginger to "keep it down" a few times, I wouldn't characterize it as fighting.
Best numbers: Spoonful, Sleepy Time Time, Stormy Monday Blues, Ginger's solo on Toad and Sitting on Top of the World. While I've always been more of a general Clapton fan than a Cream fan, I must say some of the lesser known songs sounded GREAT.
Worst number: Crossroads. Seriously, Eric seemed completely bored! It was as if he were playing Oklahoma City in 1986 on the "August" tour or 1989 in Atlanta in support of "Journeyman." I don't think that song motivates him anymore. The other "hits" (Badge, White Room, Sunshine) were solid, if not quite spectacular.
Jack Bruce looks worn, but had lots of energy, hopped around the stage and just seemed to be having FUN. It was quite a love-fest between him and Eric. "Eric Clapton on guitar and vocals, and an all-around great guy," he said after one song. He also said, "New York is the greatest place in the world to perform." Maybe he said that in London, too? He appeared to be the most emotional of the three. And man, his bass was LOUD.
Ginger Baker played his tail off. I found it slightly annoying that he asked everyone to "visit the concession stands for T-shirts" (of course, I did!), but he sounded in great form. The 15-minute solo at the end of the show was unlike anything I've ever seen or heard. I could do without his singing on "Pressed Rat and Warthog" (akin to Keith Moon on "Bellboy"), but people seemed to like it.
As for Eric: He played the best on the slow blues numbers, i.e., Stormy Monday. It was weird, having seen him in concert probably 10 times, watching him as a "supporting" member, as opposed to the "main" star. As usual, he didn't say much to the crowd, except for "Thank you" and "Jack Bruce ..." No complaints about his solos!!!
The show clocked in at just over 2 hours. As others have noted, they played "Tales of Brave Ulysses," but I wished they had performed SWLABR. The crowd, not surprisingly, loved the show. Chris Noth of "Law and Order" and "Sex and the City" fame was 8 seats down from me.
It would be nice if they tour again, but I get the feeling this is it. Not sure how healthy Jack and/or Ginger are. So I will treasure this forever!
Review by John Parker
Words cannot really give justice to how amazing Cream were on Monday night 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 brilliant, and he proved once and for all that, despite the mellower 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 grove that was beautifully hypnotic. 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 he was sharing the stage with). 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 Jack Bruce moments were his singing and playing during "Tales of Brave Ulysses" - AMAZING!! 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.
Review by David Layton
well I flew to new York & this was truly the greatest experience I have ever had!!! even though we had "nose bleeders" it was fabulous.
they played "tales of brave Ulysses" a song that Eric announced that this was the 1st time they ever played that song on stage!!!
the solos were great, the sound was great, & they played for 2-21/2 hours straight. a nice psychedelic back drop, it was like going back in time to 1968. I think
that "were going wrong" was the best song!!! jack really sang that one phenomenal. ginger delivered a fantastic drum solo on toad. the set list was pretty much the same
as what was recorded on the CD/DVD.
Review by Daniel Medina
The rain was constant and annoying, making the multitude of umbrellas collide and the rambling of the crowds on Times Square even more wayward than usual. Not that it mattered, as I was on my way to MSG to watch Cream. I had flown all the way from Brazil, beat hurricane Wilma - I connected in Miami - by mere 5 hours and it would not be that driving rain that would get me down.
Along with a great friend, I finally got to my seat and waited, watching the gaze of the audience and then, lights out. It just hit me that if anyone had told me, 25 years ago, that one day I would be seeing Cream perform at MSG I would never believe. But today was that day.
I won't go into specifics of all songs but, suffice to say, the concert was unbelievable. If anyone came out to watch Cream in 1968, they were disappointed. These guys are not in their 20's anymore and that kind of aggressive soloing displayed at Winterland, for instance, has been replaced by a more mature approach. But the dynamics of the band were just as lively as Wheels of Fire portrays and there was improvisation and on-the-fly changes happening all the time. What an incredible group of musicians!
I've seen Clapton play live 3 or 4 times but I never saw him play with the kind of refined ferocity he displayed tonight. A (mostly) clean Strat through Twin amp, a Wah pedal and a Leslie speaker, but the intensity of his playing really hit home. I don't care what faster or cleaner guitarists have to say, to me, Clapton IS God.
One thing has got to be said: For my money, there's never been a better bass player than Jack Bruce and he delivered all the goods with passion and fire. His voice seemed a bit strained at the end but he sang with the usual power and character.
Ginger was the pleasant surprise for me. Not because I ever doubted his drumming prowess but because of his age and arthritis. He sat there and pounded the skins as only Ginger can and frequently led the band into different twists double-times and such.
The show was rather slow to really click for me but by "Tales" it just came full on with a bang. Contrary to what Clapton said and to some other posts, this song was performed in their heyday, as anyone who owns Live Cream Vol 2. knows.
By NSU, I just couldn't believe how these guys were throwing caution to the wind and going off in different tangents, the same kind of spontaneous combustion that propelled the band in the 60's.
There were a couple of glitches, too, but I would much rather see musicians of this caliber taking chances and presenting us with stunning musical ideas while missing a few beats than tidy, note-perfect renditions of studio material.
In the end, with the last notes of "Sunshine" reverberating through my soul - possibly forever - I left the Garden with an strange feeling of accomplishment, as if their musical virtues were mine as well. It reminded me why their music had so many times seemed just right, how the chemistry between these 3 gentlemen always seemed to yield greater artistry than the individual members. How much the music that this amazing group of gifted musicians create has made my life much richer.
What a night.