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CREAM Concert Review

As written in the NY Post

IT COULD have been a disaster — considering that since the band broke up 37 years ago, Cream had played together only five times.

But at Madison Square Garden last night, the trio of guitarist Eric Clapton, drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Jack Bruce dipped into the musical fountain of youth for a tight jam of blues-rock that thrilled the sold-out house at the first of the band's three-show series, which concludes tomorrow.

On stage, there was no evidence of any infighting or bitterness.

In fact, at one point mid-show, Bruce praised Clapton for his vocals, guitar work and for being "an all-around good guy." At this historic musical event, drugs, booze and especially egos were checked at the door, making plenty of room for three men, grown old, who still love the music of their youth.

Although the bandmates hardly needed the massive applause they received for just walking on stage, the underlying vibe was that a musical miracle was taking place.

"I can't believe they're back together" was repeated by concert-goers in conversations on the escalators, in rest rooms and at the concession stands.

Rather than sounding as if every song contained an instrumental duel to see who'd bask in the spotlight, there was a remarkable spirit of ensemble playing for the former super group. If this show was proof, Cream has risen to become the electric-blues trio it set out to be in the beginning.

It was clear that past tensions in the rhythms of Baker and Bruce have eased. That is, until the two squared off musically during the song "Sweet Wine" mid-show.

It was a rare moment in a concert where the new harmonies lent the old songs unexpected warmth.

In the two-hour set, Cream glided through familiar songs such as "Badge," "Born Under a Bad Sign," "Sitting On Top of the World" and "White Room," as well as the less familiar "Deserted Cities" and "Tales of Brave Ulysses." Clapton said this was the first time Cream had ever played that song in a show.

All the big hits were there, but a surprise in the music was the absence of the band's former love of long jams and extended solos.

Another surprise was how much of Cream's sound was defined not by Clapton but by Bruce, who is really the voice of the band.

Why, after all these years, the three have agreed to any reunion, even one as fleeting as this one, is unclear. You could guess it's about the money or about reclaiming their place in rock history while all three men are alive.

But for now, the Garden fans were just pleased Cream hasn't spoiled.

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