BOOTLEG SERIES #11: Cream – Live at Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, TX. 25th October 1968.

“Here they are! The Cream!”, says the announcer right before Cream launch into White Room. You don’t really get band announcers anymore, bands now tend to come out and start playing whenever they feel like it. But back then gigs were almost like an art form and Cream were one of the best around.

The best thing about White Room is the delicious playing by Clapton through a wah peddle. It’s infectious. In many cases during 1968 Cream opened their set with this song however you can’t help but notice the band sound a little too laid back or tired during this particular performance. Just this song though as they would pick up massively after this, starting with Sunshine Of Your Love. Sunshine Of Your Love is hands down the most well known Cream song, in fact you’d find it hard pressed to find any music fans that don’t know that gorgeous intro. It’s one of those songs that you know instantly when hearing it. The only fault here is how short this version is considering at some shows they played it for over 10 minutes, in some cases close to 20 minutes. I mean 6 minutes is probably considered long for most other bands but for Cream that’s barely any time at all! I’m So Glad comes next, a Skip James song that Cream first recorded on their debut album. It is the first song of the set where they really open up the taps and give it everything. The performance lasts just over 10 minutes and you’re reminded why Cream were considered one of the best live bands of the late 1960’s and why Clapton was nicknamed ‘God’.

Sitting On Top Of The World is by far the highlight of the show, Clapton is on another level completely here. The song featured on their third album Wheels Of Fire but the version they played live differed slightly as Clapton doesn’t play the main riff that he played on the studio version. I actually prefer that, the live version of this song is without a doubt one of the best numbers they played live during 1968 and can be heard on the Farewell Concert release recorded at the Royal Albert Hall a few months after this concert in Dallas. It’s immediately followed by Crossroads, a Robert Johnson songs which Cream (and in particular Clapton) made their own. In fact their version of Crossroads recorded live at Winterland earlier in 1968 is widely seen as the standard version. This performance here is no different. The solo is completely different to the one he played at Winterland, but he never played the same solo twice which only highlights the extensive improvisation knowledge that Clapton possessed at the time, and of course still does.

  1. White Room
  2. Sunshine Of Your Love
  3. I’m So Glad
  4. Sitting On Top Of The World
  5. Crossroads
  6. Traintime
  7. Toad
  8. Spoonful

Traintime and Toad are two songs which showcase the abilities of Bruce (Traintime) and Baker (Toad) but in both instances, you can’t help but think “overkill”. Sure it’s great hearing the abilities of both members on their instruments but listening to nearly 8 minutes of Bruce playing harmonica gets a bit tedious after a while and it’s the same with Toad which clocks in at an unbelievable 18 minutes. Especially when you compare them to Sunshine Of Your Love which barely lasted over 6 minutes. But that’s not to say I dislike these two songs, in fact I don’t. But shorter versions of these two in particular would have been better. Just these two songs. When you take a song like I’m So Glad which they went on to play for a little over 10 minutes here, that length is fantastic because all three members of the band are working together to create a musical masterpiece on the stage. But Traintime and Toad, less so. Or perhaps you just needed to be on acid at the time to fully appreciated them.

The band finish with a long version of the Willie Dixon number Spoonful, a live staple of theirs during their entire history as a band. This is a good example of what I was talking about in the previous paragraph where all three members are working together to create something fantastic. It’s not just about one member on their own, it’s the band as a whole. And they sure sound great!

Is this the best Cream performance on bootleg? No, but it captures the band at a certain point of time during their career perfectly. I’d argue that 1968 was their peak year not only in the studio with the release of Wheels Of Fire, but on stage too. This show, at least in my opinion, is one of their best shows from their final US Tour. There are a couple of shaky moments (a mistake by Clapton and Bruce during White Room) but overall it’s a show I wish I could go back in time and witness for myself. You just don’t get them like this anymore.

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