Note: this was the last rock show I saw in 2020. By mid-March, music venues, stores, and pretty much every place of business normally open to the public would be shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Music of Cream originally began in 2017 to commemorate Cream’s 50th anniversary. It went over so well that the project became an official band, one that has been touring ever since. Two of its musicians are related to the original band members of Cream. Drummer Kofi Baker is the son of Ginger Baker, who passed away on October 6th of 2019 and Will Johns is Eric Clapton’s nephew. Members Chris Shutters (guitar/vocals) and Sean McNabb (bass/vocals) round out the rest of this excellent group of musicians.
Will Johns, Kofi Baker, and Sean McNabb
Last Wednesday, The Music of Cream sold out the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, California. The excitement in the small club was high, however. When the band opened with “Strange Brew” they had the attention of their audience, many of whom were singing along. “Sunshine of Your Love,” with its infectious riff, was one of the most recognizable Cream songs of the evening’s set. Most of the lead vocal duties were split between Johns and Shutters, both strong guitarists as well. With McNabb at the mic, the background vocals and harmonies were reminiscent of Cream with a new added dimension. Each player added their own personal flair and nuance to every song on the setlist while honoring their forefathers’ creations.
The songs on the Disraeli Gears album are relatively short, most under four minutes, though Cream was famous for stretching out the songs, sometimes several minutes longer during their live performances. Johns, Baker, Shutters, and McNabb kept with tradition, giving the audience an all-out jam session, while clearly enjoying their time on stage. “Tales of Brave Ulysses” is but one example.
Johns shared a story of an experience he remembers as a little boy, pounding away on his drum kit, waking up his Uncle Eric. Clapton told his nephew, “Will, don’t you think it’s time you played a proper instrument?” Johns said jokingly that when he asked his Uncle Eric to teach him “Crossroads,” Clapton said no. The musical influence that Clapton has had on Johns is apparent. Shutters is an accomplished guitarist, and his style of guitar playing is Clapton-esque as well.
The playlist included a few other Cream classics, as well as tunes from Eric Clapton, Blind Faith, and Derek and the Dominos.
Kofi Baker’s eleven-minute drum solo during “Toad” was a show in and of itself. While footage of his father drumming on the screen stage left, the young Baker unveiled the rock drummer, the jazz drummer, the poly-rhythmic percussionist, and what otherwise might not have been seen and heard that night. He displayed the facets like his dad’s drumming, but during the latter part of the solo he flaunted his rock drummer superpowers.
The Music of Cream has sold out every show on its current run of touring. They are keeping the spirit of Cream and rock’s golden age era alive and well.
1. Strange Brew
2. Sunshine of Your Love
3. World of Pain
4. Dance the Night Away
5. Blue Condition
6. Tales of Brave Ulysses
8. We’re Going Wrong
9. Outside Woman Blues
10. Take it Back
11. Mother’s Lament
12. Pressed Rat and Wart Hog
13. White Room
14. I Shot the Sheriff
17. Presence of the Lord
19. Can’t Find My Way Home
20. Do What You Like
22. Wonderful Tonight