May 20, 2020

March 11, 1968: Memorial Auditorium, Sacramento, CA


Cream, a relatively new British rock music trio which has been, you should excuse the expression, rising to the top very swiftly in America by way of two record albums, made an impressive debut last night in the Memorial Auditorium before a near capacity crowd of around 3,500.
The trio takes its name from the claim that its members are the cream of the crop in England. Guitarist and singer Eric Clapton; Jack Bruce, who plays bass guitar, harmonica, and also sings; and Ginger Baker, the drummer, are all said to be stars in their own individual right at home. After hearing them ride through an hour and five minutes of hard driving and often brilliantly played arrangements, one is willing to believe it.
Their music is, with few exceptions, primarily and very strongly rooted in the blues. Last night's pieces were almost all blues, and included, from their more popular recorded numbers, "Tales of Brave Ulysses," a slow, driving and very verbal piece, and "The Sunshine of Your Love." The very slow and supremely gutty blues which followed the latter, a lament for a gone woman, was even better.
The trio's set closed with three pieces which gave each man a chance to shine. Clapton's moment, a long, insistent solo, came in a duet with Baker. Bruce then teamed up with the tireless drummer for a fast "train blues" on the harmonica, spiced with husky singing that eventually mixed so swiftly with the harmonica one could hardly tell them apart. It was a brilliant, exciting performance. Finally, the two guitarists gave Baker a sendoff and then left him alone onstage for a tremendous 10 minute drum solo that stood the crowd on its feet for a final ovation.

The San Francisco group known as the Grateful Dead opened the program with a 60 minute performance that was uninterrupted from start to finish. The first half of it seemed either to be divided into sections or was actually three or four numbers strung together with some random guitar tuning in between. The second half was a long, long blues that ended in several minutes of roaring, howling, screaming cataclysmic electronic sound, punctuated by several firecrackers set off by one of the two drummers and eventually fading away into a hillbilly-style hymn bidding the audience good night. It was quite a contrast. Some of the earlier parts of the performance worked up some musical momentum, but nothing of what was sung could be understood. Loudness, it would appear, is the overriding quality the Dead are after.
The local group known as the Light Brigade projected from the rear of the stage a light show behind the performers.
The show was an inexcusable 47 minutes late in starting.
Adults who think all young people are rebellious should have seen the incredible patience this crowd displayed during this period of waiting for those outside to buy tickets.
With the Cream's performance, however, it became apparent they knew what they were waiting for.

(by William Glackin, from the Sacramento Bee, 12 March 1968)

Alas, no tape! 

Thanks to

See also:

1 comment:

  1. It's great to come across another review of this lost show. More discussion & links are with the other review, so I'll make just a few additional comments here.

    This reviewer is older, referring to the "young people" attending and rather distant from the music, but fortunately he still describes the sets at length. It's notable how different his reactions to the two bands are. With the Dead he's annoyed by the unintelligible vocals and the "roaring, howling, screaming cataclysmic electronic sound" at the end, and he doesn't seem to see any musical sense in the performance; he concludes that they're just trying to be loud. With Cream, however, there is no complaint about the volume, only raves about their musicianship and "brilliant playing."

    The Dead's setlist, from Deadbase:
    Cryptical>Other One>Cryptical>
    New Potato Caboose>
    Born Cross-Eyed>
    And from this review, we can add Feedback>We Bid You Goodnight at the end. The reviewer states that the "long, long blues" was the whole second half of the show, which implies that maybe there's an Alligator in there too. He also notes that their whole set was an uninterrupted hour (typical of their sets at the time), but is puzzled whether the numbers are one long suite in sections, or a bunch of songs "strung together with some random guitar tuning in between."

    Cream only played 65 minutes, probably an average-length set for them, maybe shortened due to the late start. Their setlist:
    Tales of Brave Ulysses
    Sunshine of Your Love
    Sittin' on Top of the World
    Steppin' Out

    This show was also one of Tom Constanten's rare live appearances with the group before he joined them as a touring member that November. He was likely recording studio material for Anthem with them that week, so it's striking that the presumed setlist is almost exactly the Anthem album, in order.

    One Dead memory of this show was that Cream's speakers blew out, so the Dead lent their own amps. But neither review mentions any equipment trouble with Cream, so I have to wonder about this. Maybe it happened in a soundcheck before the show (which started very late).

    I assume it's coincidental that Cream played Sittin' on Top of the World at this show. The Dead aren't known to have played their version live since 1966 so it was out of their repertoire at the time...but interestingly, they brought it back a couple weeks later for one airing on 3/29/68. (Garcia complains, "We never did that one very good even when we were doing it.")
    For this show, the Dead seem to have not played any of their blues-rock covers of the type that Cream were doing - no Schoolgirl, Death Don't, Hurts Me Too, or even Viola Lee. Maybe it's just due to being confined to an opening set, but maybe they were trying to stay out of Cream's territory.