Live recording of the Cream reunion at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005. As the title implies, the recording includes songs from their four reunion shows on 2, 3, 5, and 6 May 2005.
1) I'm So Glad
3) Outside Woman Blues
4) Pressed Rat And Warthog
5) Sleepy Time Time
9) Sweet Wine
10) Rollin' And Tumblin'
11) Stormy Monday
12) Deserted Cities Of The Heart
13) Born Under A Bad Sign
14) We're Going Wrong
16) Sitting On Top Of The World
17) White Room
19) Sunshine Of Your Love
With the exception of playing three songs at their 1993 induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the performances from 'Live at Royal Albert Hall' feature Cream's first time touring together since their 1968 break-up. Despite not having toured together in 37 years, the trio of 60-somethings demonstrated that they sure still had what it takes to put on a strong live show.
Based on the music alone, Cream purists may feel let down and betrayed by 'Live at Royal Albert Hall.' (Average Cream listeners need not worry). Sure, they show reunites all three original members of the band - but they don't play like they used to. No, during Cream's reunion tour, each band member played his instrument the way he played it in 2005, not 1965. They no longer play with their loud Marshall stacks. Eric Clapton long since ditched his deep, rich and bluesy Gibson electric guitars for the standard Fender Stratocaster. The players, lyrics, and riffs may be the same, but they don't quite have the ring to them.
'Live at Royal Albert Hall' is a pretty impressive show for a trio of old guys - the oldest being drummer Ginger Baker, then 68-years-old. It's amazing how much sound can come from a three-member band. They may have weathered faces and rusty voices, but their instrumental skills haven't diminished one bit. Bass player Jack Bruce can still slap a bass better than most of today's young bass players. Clapton is still blues god on the guitar. And Baker's 5+ minute drum solo near the show's finale proves that wisdom is not the only thing that comes with age.
Cream's reunion tour consisted of four shows at London's Royal Albert Hall and three in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Instead of showing one continuous performance out of the four in London, the Blu-ray jumps around between all four dates, showing you the best from each night. Whenever the Blu-ray shifts to a different night's performance, the date appears on screen.
I'm quite a big fan of concert Blu-rays. There's a small list of requirements that I expect from a concert Blu-ray: first, cameras and cameramen should rarely appear on screen. Nothing pulls you out of the concert experience more than seeing cameras and cameramen everywhere. They remind you that you're sitting in your home, not in the arena. The makers of 'Live at Royal Albert Hall' understand this and hide them as best as possible. That's not to say you never see them, you're eyes are simply focused on something else.
Second, it shouldn't feature fast, jumpy cuts. Again, that "MTV" style pulls you right out of the home-viewing concert experience. Cream's Blu-ray doesn't do that either, but where it does lack is in the use of transitions. Too many times, instead of jump cutting or dissolving to another shot, it cuts to black, then fades into another camera shot. I could see why this technique would be useful when changing over to another night's performance, but as used on this Blu-ray, it occurs mid-song during the same night's performance. This poor decision doesn't kill the show, but it sure takes you out for a minute.
The only other small-but-annoying decision is the use of split screen. Once during each song, the screen splits into three smaller side-by-side boxes that show what each member of the band is doing during that moment. While not a tragic decision, it's a little too "MTV" for me.But aside from those editing and stylistic flaws, 'Live at Royal Albert Hall' is a near perfect Blu-ray (if you can dismiss Ginger Baker for wearing the band's concert t-shirts each night).
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Cream: Live at Royal Albert Hall 2005' arrives on a Region A/1 BD-50 in a standard blue keepcase. The back of the cover art paper contains a stage shot that becomes visible when you remove the psychedelic inserted booklet and disc. Upon inserting the disc into your Blu-ray player, a quick unskippable promo runs for Eagle Vision HD before taking you to the main menu.
'Live at Royal Albert Hall' looks pristine, with a 1080i/AVC MPEG-4 transfer with a 1.78:1 aspect ration. Cream fans will laud this Blu-ray for making the band look better than they ever have or ever will.
The sharpness of the video is noticeable from the very first shot of the film. As the camera walks you through the halls of the historical London venue, you will notice every single pit in the painted white brick walls backstage. Each follicle of Eric Clapton's thin beard and Ginger Baker's stubble is high defined. Faces of individual fans in the audience are distinguishable. If you were ever to find yourself in a seas of faces on a concert Blu-ray, this would be the one.
The video is clean and relatively noiseless. There are only two times when the filmmakers decided that a shot was worth sacrificing via noise - the first shows a long, zoomed-in shot of old folks dancing in one of the upper balconies, the second is another distant zoomed-in shot showing Jude Law, Sienna Miller and Sean Penn in attendance. Aside from those two flawed shots, the concert is relatively flawless.
At times, the white balance of certain cameras isn't properly adjusted, washing out the faces of the band. Shadows can also For this same reason, contrast and black levels aren't always consistent. Slight aliasing appears on mesh speakers, microphones, and guitar strings and straps. And one shot contains barely noticeable artifacting featured in the black void behind Jack Bruce - but you really have to be looking for it to notice it.
This may seem like quite a large list of flaws, but know that each one of these flaws is minute. They aren't always prevalent and even less distracting.
Without a doubt, Cream has never sounded so good. 'Live at Royal Albert Hall' gives you three listening options: DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1 and LPCM Stereo. While I flipped around between tracks, I found the Master Audio to be clean and all-encompassing. It's rich sound distribution evenly spreads the rocking concert audio to all channels of your home theater. A perfect amount of echo is present in the surround and rear speakers to create a genuine concert-going feel.
The audio tracks never feel flat. At any given time, you can tune your ears and hear exactly what each member of the band is playing. No instrument gets lost amidst the loud tracks. They are perfectly balanced.
Cream's audio quality lacks nothing. From Baker's phenomenal drum solo and Bruce's bass slapping to Clapton and Bruce's battles on the harmonica and Stratocaster, the audio is perfectly fitting for a classic rock and roll blues band like Cream.
Eagle Rock Entertainment has released yet another fantastic concert Blu-ray. 'Cream: Live at Royal Albert Hall 2005' isn't perfect, but its flaws are minor - all dealing with video issues and never getting in the way of the reason we all want to experience this Blu-ray anyway, the audio. Recommended.