According to most reports, Cream has taken the live concert experience to a whole new level. Gone was the insane goblet of teenage worship and bad sound. Here was a trio of exceptional musicians, neglected and weathered, determined to enchant their audience with their virtuosity and improvisational skills. On that basis, they were successful. As individuals and people, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker naturally had all kinds of problems that disrupted the creative process and prevented further collaboration. After two years, the three agreed that they would get as far as possible as a unit and set off Farewell tour 1968, Recording shows along the way. The complete performance on October 18, 1968 at the Forum in Los Angeles, California, is a limited double LP on blue vinyl with the name. published Live in the Forum 1968.
Taken from the 2020 version of the Farewell tour 1968 Four-CD set appropriately captures the forum show Cream in its final winning round. It’s a blues-heavy set with the band’s hits, “White Room” and “Sunshine Of Your Love” thrown in to ease the wide-eyed trio and audience (though the solos are barely easy). They are characterized by how much space is given to each player – enough to keep the music up to date without losing footing. Grooving to the swinging rhythm and booming bass on “Politician” will keep you in balance. Clapton elegantly transforms “I’m So Glad” into a fast-paced feast for the ears. And you can feel like you’re chasing a train when Bruce blows the harp and calls out the verses on “Traintime”. There’s not much that can be said about “Toad” other than rampant drum showcases like this not an excuse for a band to break up. That was the slightest problem Jack Bruce had with Ginger Baker.
Just before they close with a rather optimistic, almost playful “spoonful”, there is an announcement that the show will be one of their final gigs. Bruce had probably sung the Howlin ‘Wolf classic hundreds of times by 1968. For Cream, it was a launch pad for extended jams that were different each time in length and style. On stage, with Clapton coloring the lines in between, Baker leaving the jump on Bruce’s bass, it’s hard to quantify what Cream has become in terms of popularity and maintaining her artistic integrity. Only the Beatles and the Stones had a similar mix of wild fame and coolness. None of that seemed to make a difference. For Clapton, Jimi Hendrix was close to taking the baton, and blues-based guitar bands like Led Zeppelin and the Jeff Beck Group were well placed to fill the void. The impact Cream has had on all of this couldn’t be more obvious than it is Live in the Forum 1968. Enjoy it while you can.
~ Shawn Perry