one evening (early morning, rather) in uptown with some friends enjoying some nasi goreng padprik yang tak sedap.

me: eh, aku misplace aku punya wheels of steel CD lah, sial betul.
the neon: wheels of steel? WHEELS OF STEEL? and this is the person who gets to watch cream. wheels of steel
me: [silence]

tonight i saw a historical event that will only be repeated exclusively for the next three evenings at the royal albert hall. after 37 long years, eric clapton, jack bruce and ginger baker reformed cream. in fact, their last ever gig was at the albert hall on november 26, 1968.

Cream is back!

to tell you the truth, i started to listen to a little bit of cream after hanging out with the neon, an all-time clapton aficionado. i knew who cream were and of the more popular material the likes of sunshine of your love and white room. whilst i know of cream as one of the first jam bands (they Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker.pretty much do 15-minutes improvisations of their stuff), i don’t pretend to know all of their stuff from their short four-album career which spanned 2 years. it was then, shamefully enough, i got to know that badge was a clapton-penned cream song and crossroads was only available on the wheels of fire: live at the fillmore record (polydor, 1968), the vinyl of which is the only cream record i have (i only have CD’s of the 4 albums). we’d listen to strange brew repeatedly in the car on our trips to guitar shows (and one britney concert), commenting on how sakit otak the playing was. truly the best power trio to this day.

thanks to jimmy “aku ch-yeck” cornell, we managed to get two 75 quid tix for the first show. we were delighted to find out that we were upgraded to the pricier (and better) seats on receiving them in the post. today was such a glorious day to walk down to kensington. hyde park was amassed with people. the angin so cool. and we saw the crowd.

the demographic of the crowd was as expected. people old enough to be my folks. what do you expect? it’s the people of the hippie generation who are pretty much running the country now. there were loads of americans. buying the merchandise before the show was simply a waste of time, with the aggressive pushing and pulling. it’s only when we look at the back of the programme that souvenir tees are available online. oh well.

we were ushered to our seats which was actually very close to the stage. it was behind the band, though. which meant we only get to see clapton’s butt all night long. well, at least i get to see them close (he did turn around many times) as opposed to just a speck on a stage a zillion metres away. the stewards were fine with us taking photos. heck, the guy in front of us had a frickin’ digital SLR! people were posing in front of the stage, with ginger’s double-bass drummed green DW kit in the background. clapton had four fender tweed 2×12’s and this large custom (?)rotary cab (the neon, help me out here!). lee dickson (clapton’s tech) had his little workshop just below us and we could see him tinkering around with clapton’s black and white strat (thank god he wasn’t using the gawdy antigua/parrot blue-red-yellow abomination that he used in his recent tour. hehe.).

the lights dimmed and the crowds rose to applaud the arrival of clapton, bruce and baker onstage. they kicked off with i’m so glad from their debut album, fresh cream. already, barely a few minutes in to the song the solo erupted into a typical cream jam sesh. bruce appeared a tad emaciated (he had a liver transplant in 2003) yet his powerful voice still holds. bruce got his harp out thereafter and soulfully did willie dixon’s spoonful. his illness must have taken its toll as he took to sitting for most of this song.

as i’ve mentioned, since i was the man who knew cream’s third LP as wheels of steel, i just sat back and enjoyed the trio’s performance without really knowing the song titles. the first song that i really recognised was badge. clapton strutted out the staccatto-ed riff whilst bruce’s running bass line simply made the crowd go mental.

“then i told you about our kid, now he’s married to mabel…”

and then they just stopped playing.

a silence which was followed by that lick. GOD!!!

muddy water’s rollin’ and tumblin’ saw bruce leaving his bass behind, concentrating on the harp while clapton did the slide work. ginger baker, whom i thought died much to the annoyance of the neon, was just spot on with his drumming (ginger was right cool, narrating (and drumming) pressed rat and warthog later in the show). at the age of 66 (he looks 96!) he rocked. my foot was tapping all the way during this one. i have to say clapton’s slidework was a tad inaudible then.

from their wheels of FIRE album, booker T’s born under a bad sign started with that riff made well known to metallicaheads as the lil’ jam jason and kirk did in one of their tours (typical, coming from people like yours truly). only to be followed later with another bloose number, crossroads (funnily enough, clapton was quoted by guitarist magazine to have hated this version of the robert johnson seminal piece) which was simply mindblowing. just like the 1968 winterland recording, man. i’m sure many clapton fans have heard him sing that, but as cream? gila sial.

white room, another staple from wheels, shook booties. there was this row of what looked like 50-something MD/GM/CEO-types really going bananas, shaking their heads like there was no tomorrow. i shuddered to think that in 20 years time, that’ll be me seeing pearl jam performing their 37th world tour. they left ginger on his own, solo-ing on toad. after which they came back, but only to leave again. i was like, huh? it only meant one thing, though. i knew what was coming next.

sunshine of your love.

everyone, even in the rafters, where on their feet by then. my written words will never do their performance of that song justice, man. unbelievable.

the show was perfect, as far as i was concerned. a few diehard fans were arguing in the online fora on the fact that clapton’s all fender rig were not up to the gibson-marshall stack combo he used in their heyday. i’d say, be happy they got together again, man. many fans were also upset at their decision to just play london for four nights. i’d say, buy the DVD lah. *evil grin*

Rock 'n' roll history.

may 2, 2005 setlist
i’m so glad / spoonful / outside woman blues / pressed rat and warthog / sleepy time time / NSU / badge / politician / sweet wine / rollin’ & tumblin’ / stormy monday / deserted cities of the heart / born under a bad sign / we’re going wrong / crossroads / sitting on top of the world / white room / toad / [encore] sunshine of your love