May 15, 2017

March 11, 1968: Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA


CREAM should have convinced everybody within listening distance that they are, without any doubt, the finest in the rock idiom. For the very first time in Sacramento's rock concert history, the audience was courteous as well as appreciative.
Ginger Baker's "Toad" solo was inspired as he was encouraged by the very aware audience. Every complicated passage in his improvisations met with an ovation. Of the three times I have seen CREAM in concert, this was the best solo by Baker.
The songs played were of varying origins. Some were unreleased as yet, and others came from either "Fresh Cream" or "Disraeli Gears." "Tales of Brave Ulysseus," "N.S.U.," "Sunshine Of Your Love," "Sittin' On Top Of The World," and the medley of "Steppin' Out" (solo by Clapton), "Train Comin'" (harmonica solo by Bruce), and "Toad."
The policemen deserve a round of applause for their deplorable treatment of the musicians. Baker's sarcastic comment, "We love your police," was an indication of the obviously disrespectful attitude that usually pervades the cops' conduct. As the musicians were filing out of the back door of the auditorium, I heard the comments of the security police, for instance: "Hi, Sweetie" and "Take a bath." And they complain about the kids being badly behaved. I suggest that our lovable men in blue learn a few manners!!
The GRATEFUL DEAD were surprisingly good. The two drummers came up with a counter play that developed into an Afro-Cuban rhythm. The songs they played remained unnamed, but all six members of the group performed admirably. This is the first concert in Sacramento that even faintly resembled a Fillmore happening.
Both of the rock groups received standing ovations. The concert was a huge success. Aside from the ignorance and rudeness of the police, everyone who was there could feel the goodwill towards everyone. It was the first beautiful happening in our city.

(by Mick Martin, from the Pony Express, Sacramento, 15 March 1968) 

No tape, alas! 

Another review is here:

See also:

* * *

(Here is another Cream review by the same author, seven months later.)


The last two weeks were brim-full of superlative concerts by some of the best well-known and unknown rock groups. Anyone with a fast car could have caught them all and, as an afterthought, should have. Many once-in-a-lifetime rock milestones were happening; I will try to acquaint you with them.

Best of the lot was the really enjoyable CREAM concert at the Oakland Coliseum. [October 4] After listening to four other CREAM concerts, I was ready to be hyper-critical of what they played. I couldn't be. As the rest of the capacity crowd, I was aware that three musicians were spontaneously creating on stage and listened appropriately.
The songs played included tracks from their three album releases: "White Room"; "Politician"; "Deserted Cities Of The Heart"; "Crossroads"; "Spoonful"; "Toad"; "Sunshine Of Your Love"; and "I'm So Glad."
The introduction and conclusion to "Toad," which involved all three artists, was terribly sloppy. The solo was not the best I have heard by Ginger Baker, but it was adequate. "White Room" and "Politician" were earmarked by fine solo passages.
"Spoonful," more than ever before, was the best tune. It was inspiring to hear the interaction between Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Baker. They go into some very pleasing variations. Musically it was exciting to try to follow them simultaneously through the individual and collective improvisions.
[The opening bands:]  The COLLECTORS were fair. At times I felt they were almost into it, but their attitude was all too unsure and they didn't make me want to listen. IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY, on the other hand, was captivating and polished both at this concert and at the Fillmore West the week before. The violinist is a true craftsman; his emotions are easily felt through his music. The rest of the group makes statements that are just as effective. I can see considerable success here.

SUPER SESSION featured an added treat. [Fillmore West, 9/28/68] Mike Bloomfield was hospitalized; so, on Saturday night, Carlos Santanna and Steve Miller jammed with Al Kooper and his sidemen. Miller was poor; he wouldn't get into it. Santanna, on the other hand, was creative and positively engrossing. The interaction between Kooper and Santanna was very pleasing. It's going to be a nice LP. (They were recording live.)

In Sacramento, The GRATEFUL DEAD, TURTLES, YOUNGBLOODS, INITIAL SHOCK, SANPAKU, and FAMILY TREE played to a surprisingly small crowd of 2,000. [Memorial Auditorium, 10/5/68] The TURTLES were funny and entertaining. They were a release from the intensely musically innovative atmosphere. Mark Volmann is a comedian, in the truest sense of the word.
The DEAD, INITIAL SHOCK, and SANPAKU were the musical highpoints of the evening. SANPAKU's hornmen are so beautiful, their solos are always different, and yet they build to a completely emotional climax. Their original material is well arranged and worth repeated listens.
INITIAL SHOCK and the DEAD were better than ever and twice as groovy. Both groups always provide me with the feeling that I have heard something worthwhile, and on this night I felt they did exceptional jobs. YOUNGBLOODS were nice, and FAMILY TREE shows promise. It was an enjoyable evening, but I can't wait for Sacramento to get it together and support promoters like Whitey Davis, who really cares about music.

(by Mick Martin, from the Pony Express, 10 October 1968)


  1. The Express was the Sacramento City College paper. The review is short, but clearly by a student. No older mainstream Sacramento reporter at the time would have written such a positive review of a rock concert, calling it a "beautiful happening," complaining about the cops, and even giving a setlist based on his knowledge of the albums!

    The Lost Live Dead post goes over what's known about the show, so I won't add much. Note that the reviewer has seen Cream three times, and may have been to San Francisco, but he's apparently unfamiliar with the Dead. (Or maybe he's seen them before too, but he just says they're "surprisingly good," as if he didn't expect them to be.) He points out the drummers' Afro-Cuban rhythm duet, which was probably in an Alligator/Caution jam. Mickey Hart was very pumped up about playing before Ginger Baker, so no doubt the drumming in this Dead show was extra intense.
    As Mickey remembered it, "We played in Sacramento, and Kreutzmann and I got really up for it. We got there and we one could play like that. Ginger got crazy and they went out there and I really felt for them because they blew out every speaker on the first note. They were trying to reach our intensity. We were sitting in the front row and we thought about it, and so we got our equipment guys, Ramrod and Heard, to roll all our equipment out. They played through it, and it was so clear it scared the shit out of Clapton. They were used to feeding back through all their Marshalls. But Ginger was great."

    You can be sure that the Dead drummers were listening intently to Toad! It may seem unusual for the reviewer to describe the audience giving ovations during Baker's drum solo, but hearing Cream audience tapes from the time, they certainly did.

  2. I added another review by Mick Martin, from October '68. Another school year, and a dedicated music columnist traveling from city to city to write his reviews!

    By this time Cream was burnt-out and disinterested and ready to break up, and the Oakland show is quite a falling-off from their earlier concerts, but that wouldn't have been so obvious at the time. The reviewer notices that Toad (his favorite tune?) is sloppier, but he was excited by the rest, and admits that he couldn't be critical, even seeing them for the fifth time!

    The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper was released as a double-album the next year from that week's Fillmore West shows, and featured one track with Santana.

    The reviewer may have seen the Dead again since March; at any rate he says they're "exceptional," "better than ever," and "always" worthwhile, so his opinion of them is improving. But he's covering six bands in as many sentences, so the Dead don't get much space here, and they don't stand out that much from all the other bands - he's as excited by the now-obscure Sanpaku and Initial Shock.

    1. Whitey Davis, by the way, promoted the October 5 Sacramento show; Mick Martin often mentions him favorably in other columns.
      Martin's later reviews showed him to be a big supporter of Sanpaku, praising their success in San Francisco shows and predicting that they'd be one of the top groups of '69. (They were a Sacramento band, so he may have known them personally.)
      And, on reading more of his reviews, it turns out he made regular trips to the Fillmore over the years.
      Out of curiosity, I looked up Martin's other reviews of Cream in the Express.

      10/6/67: "Eric Clapton's newest and most promising group, The Cream, is making a slow but resolute rise in fame here on the West Coast... Last month at the Fillmore, the Electric Flag played on the same bill with the Cream in one of the finest shows this writer has ever seen."

      11/17/67: "The Cream's new LP has been released in England... The songs are so groovy, I can't believe it. This one beats out 'Fresh Cream' completely. Listen to KMPX where they play a cut an hour from it, and dig 'Sunshine Of Your Life!'"

      10/3/68: "The last Northern California appearance of Cream will be at the Oakland Coliseum on Oct. 4. This will be a night to remember as the newer, perhaps even more progressive, rock groups repeat some of the notable accomplishments made by the trio.
      Cream is directly responsible for bringing rock closer to an art music. Their soloing and comping techniques combined with their individual virtuosity have turned a mass media, commercial field into a creative form of musical expression through improvisation. This will be the end to a short, but profitable chapter in the progression of rock. I hope everyone even remotely interested will bid them a farewell."

      He also constantly mentions rumors of Clapton leaving the band & Cream breaking up, as early as fall '67, so the actual breakup must have come as little surprise.

      His only other mention of the Dead was a brief May '69 note on Aoxomoxoa: "the Grateful Dead, far...far...further out in space."
      He was also not a fan of Jefferson Airplane, finding them mediocre live & disappointing on Baxter's; but he did like the first Quicksilver album.