Posted in: Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on November 2nd, 2011
Here are four evenings music fans did not anticipate coming, yet anyways hoped for. In 2005 Cream reunited for the first time since their breakup (save for one performance when they were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1993) for four concerts at the legendary Royal Albert Hall. The bad blood between the members of Cream was almost as famous as their influential music. With that in mind, it is wonderful to see these extremely talented men play just as tightly as they did in the 1960s, and some might argue that they’ve never played better than at these shows.
The set list is a rich mixture of chart topping originals (White Room, Sunshine of your Love…), classic covers (Born under a bad Sign, Crossroads…) and even some songs that the band had never played live before, such as ‘Pressed Rat and Warthog.’ The set that appears in this film is cobbled together with clips from each of the evenings, most likely to give us the best possible concert experience. As well, along with the songs, Ginger Baker gets a lengthy drum solo and, of course, Eric Clapton is alloted many opportunities to demonstrate some of the smoothest Blues guitar playing that has ever blessed our listening ears.
Director Martyn Atkins went for a slightly stylish approach to the presentation by having frequent cuts to shots outside of the stage, in the audience or other trips away from the actual concert. Perhaps this is meant to remind us of the venue they are playing in order to stir up a sense of appreciation for how significant this concert is since the Royal Albert Hall was the venue for Cream’s farewell concerts in 1968. Some may find this tactic takes them out of the moment because a Cream reunion seems like something deserving of our focus, and we need not mind what the concession stand ladies are busying themselves in the meantime.
Widescreen 1.78:1. The picture quality is consistently clean, save for a couple moments where a digital camera is capturing images of celebrities like Jude Law and Sean Penn in the audience (which clearly was not staged, hence why it looks more like a bootleg). The stage show is not very dynamic, and the stage lights do occasionally bleach out the musicians a touch, but these issues hardly dampen the experience.
DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM Stereo are available. The songs sound clean and the vocals and instruments are mixed well…what more can one ask for in a concert film? Each track is a good choice.
Subtitles available in English, Spanish, German and French
Alternate Takes (Sleepy Time Time, We’re Going Wrong, Sunshine of Your Love): With there being four performances to choose from, there was doubtlessly going to be other fine versions of songs to see. The clothing has more changes than the songs themselves between evenings.
Interviews (Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton): Expanded from clips used during the ending credits of the actual feature, each member of the group explains the significance and reasoning behind the reunion, the songs choices and their feelings about their history and this event as a whole.
There was no way that a musical event like this wasn’t going to be documented. So the inevitable film release is no shock and ample care went into its presentation. Since this show is not the most dynamic visually, one might consider the Blu Ray version to be an unnecessary expense, but the full bodied soundtrack is worth considering for those wishing to place themselves into this once in a lifetime show.
It probably goes without saying that this is a must-buy for Cream fans.