The Music Of Cream: 50th Anniversary Tour – Aotea Centre June 2, 2017


Prepare yourself, for better or worse, this is mostly likely the future of live music. Instead of classic rock trio Cream (Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce), we are presented with Baker and Bruce’s sons along with the son of a Clapton family friend and a couple of ringers…former Deep Purple/Black Sabbath member Glenn Hughes and guitar virtuoso Robben Ford.

Of course the actual band Cream is unavailable…Jack Bruce passed away in 2014 and Ginger Baker is not in the best of health. Clapton just finished a run of shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall, so he’s still in the game.

But there seems to be an inexhaustible demand to hear the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix in concert. Sure, The Stones are still at it, but most of the others are either unwilling to play together, too old, or dead.

Even death doesn’t stop some acts…The Eagles have just announced that Glenn Frey’s son will be replacing his dad in the band.

So this scenario leaves us with “The Music Of Cream”.

Of course the appeal of the original band was the musical virtuosity that each member brought to the trio, plus their somewhat explosive personalities (the band only was able to stay together for 2 ½ years).

During that short time they produced four albums and a legacy that survives to this day, having been among the pioneers of the British psychedelic blues scene of the mid to late sixties. Songs like Sunshine Of Your Love, White Room and Badge still populate classic rock radio stations and reissues of albums like Disraeli Gears and Wheels Of Fire routinely pop up on their record label’s release sheets.

But, does anyone want to see this music played by musicians who are only connected to it by DNA or friendship?

Apparently so.

Auckland’s Aotea Centre held a healthy-sized crowd of Cream fans anxious to hear their old favourites in a live setting.

Sure enough, at 8pm, Malcolm Bruce (bass), Kofi Baker (drums) and Will Johns (guitar) ambled on stage and lit into Robert Johnson’s Crossroads…a song Cream revived in 1968 and turned into a top 40 hit.

Initially, I was a little underwhelmed. The three musicians seemed to approach the tune somewhat tentatively and the volume seemed low…Cream were notorious for their stacks of Marshall amps and eardrum-splitting shows.

But the second tune, another old blues, Sitting On Top Of The World, found the trio sliding into their groove as Malcolm Bruce sang the song in a voice that was eerily like his father’s.

Will Johns (son of producer/engineer Andy Johns) proved that he was no slouch on guitar, firing off a well-executed solo, that, if you closed your eyes, you could imagine Clapton was in the house in all of his frizzy-haired, 1960s glory.

By the time they got to Deserted Cities, a deep track from Wheels Of Fire, the three musicians truly sounded like a band, jamming freely and fluidly.

“It’s different every night”, explained Kofi Baker, before launching into a version of the lumbering Politician.

After that, Robben Ford was introduced to the crowd and Will Johns left for a bit. Ford began with Steppin’ Out, a song Clapton and Steve Winwood had recorded pre-Cream, and that sounded fine, but this was followed by the Clapton/Harrison composition Badge, with Ford handling the vocals. It’s one of my fave Cream songs, but Ford’s thin, reedy voice did the tune no justice and the new arrangement was also unsatisfying.

It turned out to be the low point of the show and provided proof that, as fine a guitarist that Robben Ford is, he was out of place and unneeded here. Ford’s vocal on Born Under A Bad Sign was unconvincing as well.

But Bruce, Baker and Johns sounded fine on their own.

Kofi took the spotlight for Pressed Rat & Warthog and Toad while Malcolm wowed the crowd with a stunning We’re Going Wrong.

Then, almost an hour and a half into the set, Glenn Hughes was introduced and one could immediately feel the energy level rise as he greeted the audience and led the band into Tales Of Brave Ulysses.

There’s no substitute for charisma and experience, and Hughes has plenty of both, along with a magnificent voice.

The crowd was buzzing as the Hughes and the group played I’m So Glad, I Feel Free and Spoonful.

Two hours after they began, the set finished with Sunshine Of Your Love, punctuated by some of Hughes finest classic rock screams. He really took this opportunity to show off his impressive pipes.

For the encore Glenn Hughes appeared alone with an acoustic guitar to play a Deep Purple deep cut…Mistreated, then everyone reconvened for an extended version of White Room. By the time it was over, Hughes was squawking like a man possessed…clearly having the time of his life.

Glenn Hughes talked about how much the music of Cream meant to him when he was a teenager and how he had come to be friends with Jack Bruce. That passion for the band and its music spilled out of the stage and filled the Aotea Centre, leaving several thousand music lovers to head home and crank up their dog-eared copies of Disraeli Gears.

Classic rock is alive and well, even if the originators are not.

Marty Duda

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Ivan Karczewski:

Music Of Cream set list:

  1. Crossroads
  2. Sitting On Top Of The World
  3. Deserted Cities
  4. Politician
  5. Steppin’ Out
  6. Badge
  7. Pressed Rat & Warthog
  8. Outside Woman Blues
  9. Sleepy Time Time
  10. Born Under A Bad Sign
  11. Toad
  12. We’re Going Wrong
  13. Tales Of Brave Ulysses
  14. I’m So Glad
  15. I Feel Free
  16. Spoonful
  17. Sunshine Of Your Love
  18. Mistreated
  19. White Room