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Chicago Blues

TBT – “Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005″ Was Worth Waiting For

May 14
23:48 2015


By the time Cream performed their final show at Royal Albert Hall in November 1968, its members were pretty well done with each other. Having long been a band of egos, replete with intense competition on a nightly basis, they just couldn’t sustain it any longer.

From the very beginning, for Clapton, it had been an experiment; his initial hope being that the band was to be a predominantly blues performance vehicle. Obviously, that is not how things worked out. Even so, as a group, Cream did accomplish quite a lot. Perhaps most importantly, they had introduced countless new fans to the music of the blues masters whose works they themselves were reinterpreting, and transforming, on a nightly basis. These masters included Skip James, Howling Wolf, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Albert King.

The trio did put aside their differences long enough to perform at their 1993 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their three song set was “Sunshine of Your Love”, “Crossroads”, and “Born Under a Bad Sign.” It had been 25 years since they had played together.

It was not until 2005 when the stars aligned, and an actual, full blown reunion took place. Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005 documents these shows, and has been issued in various formats on the Reprise label, including DVD, CD, Vinyl, and Blue Ray sets. It should be noted that musical performances were only taken from the latter three shows. Running time for the CD set is 115:35.

There are those who have said that these shows were underwhelming, for one of many reasons, including, “The musicians are past their prime,” “The magic is gone,” “Too much time has passed,” and of course, “They are just not healthy enough to play well.” Quite naturally, all three were now over 60, and it is true that Baker suffered from severe arthritis. It is also true that Bruce had recently undergone a liver transplant, having almost dying in the process. So, yes, obviously, time and health had an impact on these performances.

Another equally valid viewpoint is that the quality of these shows benefited greatly exactly because these musicians were older. Sure, there wasn’t the combustive, frenetic pace. Instead, there was an extremely tight band, even as each artist painted mighty strokes with their individual instruments in various places. Sure, Baker was not as intellectual on the drums, but he was tighter, more focused, and economical in his expression. No, vocally, Bruce couldn’t hit some of the notes he could when he was 20, but he still could sing relatively well, and he was still a monster on the bass, his phrasing and tone having retained the beauty it had always shown. Clapton, for his part, had also learned much over the course of his long solo career, and he applied those lessons well. He would not try to blaze away on frenzied fretboard avant-garde journeys to oblivion; instead, he emphasized timing, phrasing, and economy of notes, producing tighter, emotive lines that the audience actually had enough time to follow, and appreciate.

In this humble reporter’s opinion, it is exactly because the band slowed things down a bit, and were more deliberate and economical in their playing, that they succeeded in giving these performances a nuance, that was at once emotionally satisfying, and still left room for plenty of panache.

Whether one chooses to listen to the CD set, or watch the DVD set, the performances on Royal Albert Hall London May 2-3-5-6, 2005 are still as impressive now as they were then. This was a concert worth waiting for.

About Author

Barry Kerzner

Barry Kerzner

For as long as I can remember I have loved music, especially Blues & Jazz. Now I write and share that love of music with others. To see my photoart, visit

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