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Rock group Cream takes final bow

Glowing reviews for Clapton and band as they part ways
/ Source: Reuters

After reunion concerts packed with nostalgia and their signature gritty blues-rock, Eric Clapton and his pioneering British band Cream are parting ways again, their promoters said Thursday.

Performances in New York and London were the last planned for the band that broke up in 1968 after turning obscure blues songs into Top 40 hits and transforming guitarist Clapton into a household name and rock ’n’ roll legend.

“The band has no plans for the future,” said publicist Kristen Foster of KFPR.

A few U.S. newspaper headlines poked fun at the aging trio after their final performance in New York on Wednesday night, one summing up their style as “geezer” rock. But the Madison Square Garden concert won generally glowing reviews.

The band “dipped into the musical fountain of youth for a tight jam of blues-rock that thrilled the sold-out house,” said the New York Post.

“Cream’s driving, powerful sound isn’t old, even though Clapton, the youngest of the three, turned 60 this year,” said The Washington Post, adding that the concert was “more than just a nostalgia trip.”

There was plenty of nostalgia.

White hair and loosened ties predominated in the arena, while onstage -- on what looked like a giant computer monitor -- the band’s signature psychedelic album artwork was updated on a digitized, kaleidoscopic screen saver.

Some worried that age and health problems for the three musicians -- Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Clapton -- would turn the show into a psychedelic “doo-wop” revival. Modern Guitar Magazine’s Tom Guerra said, “Those fears were put to rest as soon as Cream took the stage.”

Starting with their set with Delta bluesman Skip James’ ”I’m so Glad,” written in 1931, Cream packed their own greatest hits into the nearly two-hour set, a mix of songs they wrote, like “Sunshine of Your Love,” “Badge” and “White Room,” and played the blues standards they updated in the 1960s, like ”Crossroads” and “Rollin’ and Tumblin.”

The group, known for onstage spats and sparring egos, surprised the rock world by announcing a series of shows this year in London and York. They were almost immediately sold out and tickets were being scalped for up to $4,000.

“The underlying vibe was that a musical miracle was taking place,” said Dan Aquilante of the New York Post. But he added: ”Why, after all these years, the three have agreed to any reunion, even one as fleeting as this one, is unclear. You could guess it’s about the money or about reclaiming their place in rock history while all three men are alive.”

The seven concerts -- the three this week in Madison Square Garden and four in London’s Royal Albert Hall last May -- could generate $100 million in tickets, record sales, videos and related products, industry experts say.

While rock concerts proceeds aren’t what they used to be, older acts like Cream and the Rolling Stones continue to rake it in, since their fans have the funds to pay for $175 average tickets and $40 T-shirts.