(L-R) Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, & Eric Clapton
I could not have foreseen it at the time, but looking back on a concert going history now entering it's fifth decade, my first three concerts were absolutely formative in the development of the music obsession that has driven life as we know it from that point forward. Attending a rock concert pre drivers license was no small feat, that I even got to these shows is the first indication that I knew I was onto something even if I couldn't quite explain it.
I've already detailed my first concert (The Beatles at JFK Stadium) in my MMMM#1. My second and third concerts took place at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, they were less than a year apart, and due to the fact that concerts never end at the time predicted, these concert experiences both ended with a very angry driver stuck waiting in the car outside the venue until the last encore had finished.
I shot both concerts with the same starter camera I took to the Beatles concert, no telephoto lens, just a 35mm rangefinder camera. Looking at the enlarged scans of the slides from these shows, I'm amazed that there are any useful images at all. Apparently I was not able to get as close to the stage for pictures at Blind Faith as I did for Cream, but these pictures clearly reflect that even at a young age I knew that these were events that needed to be documented.
Cream - The Spectrum, Philadelphia, 11/01/68
According to the Slowhand Tourography website, the stop in Philadelphia was close to the end of their farewell tour which followed the Wheels of Firealbum, released in June, 1968. After Philadelphia there were three more USA shows followed by the final two night stand at London's Royal Albert Hall which was videotaped by the BBC for a television special and has been released on DVD as Cream - Farewell Concert.
We don't have an exact setlist for Philadelphia, but again according to the Slowhand Tourography website, the sets on this tour consisted of the following songs:
- White room
- Sunshine of your love
- I'm so glad
- Sitting on top of the world
- Deserted cities of the heart
- Passing the time
The stage for this show was located at the center of the floor of the Spectrum, it was round and it slowly revolved. This staging technique was soon abandoned in favor of a stage at one end of the arena. Yes revived the circular revolving stage about a decade later for their 1979 tour. The stage arrangement on this tour had Jack Bruce on the left, playing bass and handling lead vocals, Ginger Baker in the middle on drums, and Eric Clapton on the right playing guitar.
As the stage revolved, the above shot was taken from stage left, slightly behind Clapton, looking across the stage. Cream took the seemingly simplistic format of power trio, electric guitar, bass and drums and excelled on any number of levels, not the least of which was Clapton's electric blues excursions. The audiences on this farewell tour were treated to the work of a master guitarist who earned with his playing, every one of the often ridiculous accolades that he accumulated during his tenure in Cream. Here is all 16:43 of "Spoonful" recorded live at Bill Graham's Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on March 10, 1968. Even though the Wheels of Fireliner notes list the live tracks as "Live at the Fillmore", numerous internet sources agree that only "Toad" was recorded at the Fillmore West, the other three tracks on the live album of Wheels of Firewere recorded at Winterland.
Cream - Spoonful (live at Winterland) from Wheels of Fire
In this shot of the back of the stage which faced half the crowd at any given time, a guitar tech replaces a broken guitar string for Clapton.
Above, Ginger Baker pounds out the drum solo during "Toad" which is basically an endless drum solo, an exercise that I've always felt fell into the "less is more" category. Baker's head is leaning to the right in this shot and he's looking down. Below, Jack Bruce wails on harp during "Traintime".
Opening the show was the band Sweet Stavin' Chain, a local Philly favorite whose excellent combination of blues and rock, "Stormy Monday Blues (Call it Stormy Monday)" may have been overshadowed by their popular novelty rendition of "Teddy Bears Picnic". Led by guitarist Danny Starobin, Sweet Stavin Chain was the house band at Starobin's Germantown club, Hecate's Circle. They made one and only one album which was released on Cotillion (div. Atlantic) in 1970.
Blind Faith - The Spectrum, Philadelphia, 7/16/69
Helping to define the term "supergroup", Blind Faith combined the talents of guitarist Eric Clapton and drummer Ginger Baker from Cream with Steve Winwood from Traffic on keyboards and vocals. Rick Grech completed the lineup on bass. Critical assessment at the time was mixed, and Blind Faith was probably doomed from the start by the enormous commercial pressure generated by mountains of money and too short a period of gestation to develop a group repertoire.
The quality of the songs on their one recording holds up even now, but the touring with less than an hour's worth of material, playing for huge audiences that cheered regardless of the quality of performance, not to mention the occasional riot, took their toll. By the end of the tour, Clapton had built a relationship with opening act Delaney & Bonnie to the point that his next job after Blind Faith was the much more anonymous role of guitarist sideman with Delaney & Bonnie and Friendswhich led directly to the formation of Derek & the Dominoeswhich included several players from the Delaney & Bonnie band.
The Philadelphia show was the third U.S. date of the Blind Faith tour, only having previously played two shows in London and an eight show tour of Scandinavia in June of 1969. The London shows were released last year on DVD as Blind Faith - London Hyde Park 1969.Their first U.S. show at Madison Square Garden, NYC four nights earlier included a half hour melee when the crowd rushed the stage and tangled with the police, in the process destroying Winwood's piano and Baker received a police billy club to the head according to an excellent Blind Faith biography written by Bruce Eder for the All Music Guide. The Spectrum crowd was comparatively well-behaved and there were no fisticuffs that I can recall. For Blind Faith, the Spectrum used the same circular revolving stage as they did for Cream.
For the music enthusiast in 1969, the music and the excitement of seeing Blind Faith perform live, totally lived up to the excessive hype. Again, we don't have an exact set list for Philadelphia, but it most likely did not stray far if at all from the lineup of songs that were performed on this tour:
- Had to cry today
- Can't find my way home
- Sleeping in the ground
- Well all right
- Presence of the Lord
- Do what you like
- Under my thumb
- Means to an end
- Sunshine of your love (Encore w/ Delaney & Bonnie)
Blind Faith - Sleeping in the Ground (from Blind Faith, Deluxe Edition)
Bonnie Bramlett of Delaney & Bonnie
The Blind Faith U.S. tour had two opening acts. British group Free ("All Right Now") and Taste which featured the blues/rock guitar of Ireland's Rory Gallagher alternated cities to open the show. The Philadelphia show opened with Taste. Playing second at all the shows was Delaney & Bonnie, offering up a decidedly more American sounding mix of soul, rock and blues.