Cream

Although the "once-in-a-lifetime" Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could've imagined.

With:
Musicians: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker.

Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The show, the trio’s first on U.S. soil in more than 3½ decades, was trumpeted as a mega-event — a build-up that this two-hour perf largely justified.

Interestingly, the sense of significance didn’t seem to weigh all that heavily on the band’s members, who ambled onto the refreshingly unadorned stage casually and lit into a rangy “I’m So Glad” that served to prove Bruce hadn’t lost any of his impressive vocal range — and to showcase the still-potent crackle in Baker’s jazzy drumming.

Baker also provided a highlight by deadpanning his way through the oddball spoken-word interlude “Pressed Rat and Warthog,” perhaps the most blatant nod to the experimentalism that characterized the band’s heyday.

The perf could have used more of that boat-rocking. Yes, there were flashes of radicalism — notably a careening, power-packed version of “Tales of Brave Ulysses,” which Clapton said was being performed in concert for the first time — but more often, the tone was one of tasteful virtuosity. That approach worked best when the trio pumped up the volume, particularly on “Sunshine of Your Love” and a freewheeling “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” that saw Bruce trade his bass for a harmonica that he blew with an almost biblical urgency.

Missing, however, in much of the set was the sense of tension that drove not only the concerts the band staged in its original incarnation, but the albums recorded under the Cream moniker. Instead of tweaking one another with off-the-cuff improvisational fire, the trio acted more like members of a support group, ready to unfurl a safety net if one should stumble.

While no outright missteps occurred — something of a surprise, given the amount of rust that ought to have accumulated over their decades apart — a tentative quality permeated several of the evening’s performances, notably a passive version of “N.S.U.” and an “Outside Woman Blues” that, if played in a blindfold test, could be attributed to pretty much any bar band in America. Call Clapton on the carpet for that, as he — unlike his bandmates — seemed uninterested in slipping (or unable to slip) into his old playing style, hewing instead to his post-millennial sleekness.

Energy levels escalated as the set drew to a close, with late-evening versions of “White Room” and “Sunshine of Your Love” — split by a stentorian “Toad” — affirming the band’s position in the power-trio pantheon. And while it would have been nice to see them stake that claim more aggressively, Baker, Bruce and Clapton are clearly past the point of worrying about a legacy they’re satisfied can’t be sullied. On this night, at least, it emerged unscathed, if unfurthered.

Cream

Madison Square Garden; 17,000 seats; $354.50 top

Production: Presented by Radio City Entertainment. Opened, reviewed Oct. 24, 2005. Closed Oct. 26.

Cast: Musicians: Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker.

More Scene

  • 'SORRY TO BOTHER YOU'

    Why 'Sorry to Bother You' Director Boots Riley Thinks His Satirical Comedy Is 'Realistic'

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

  • Tesse Restaurant Opens on L.A.'s Sunset

    Tesse Restaurant Takes on the Challenge of Making the Sunset Strip Hip Again

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

  • Tiffany Haddish

    MTV Movie and TV Awards: The 10 Standout Moments

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

  • Michael B. Jordan

    'Black Panther,' 'Stranger Things' Reign at 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards (Full List)

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

  • Brandon Flynn, Timothy Granaderos, Alisha Boe,

    Alisha Boe Says Brock Turner Case Was Her 'Bible' for '13 Reasons Why' Season 2

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

  • Yara ShahidiMTV Movie & TV Awards,

    Yara Shahidi, Noah Schnapp, More Talk the Dangers of Social Media at MTV Awards

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

  • A Night in the Writers' Room

    'Vida,' 'One Day at a Time' Showrunners Recount Being Called Racial Slur in Writers' Room

    Although the “once-in-a-lifetime” Cream reunion presented in London five months ago turned out to be anything but a one-off, the sense of anticipation that filled the air when Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker took the stage at Madison Square Garden Monday was thicker than anything those ketchup commercial makers ever could’ve imagined. The […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content