Live Review: Sunshine Of Your Love: A Tribute To Jack Bruce

Bright spots and cloudy intervals at Cream legend’s memorial.

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At the centre of the stage in London’s Roundhouse is an open guitar case filled with red flowers. It belonged to Jack Bruce, bass supremo with Cream and one of the most admired musicians of his generation. On the first anniversary of his death, around 3,000 fans cram into ‘the old shed’, as it was known in its 60s heyday, to celebrate Bruce’s talents and to raise funds for East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

This tribute event is directed by producer and soundtrack composer Nitin Sawhney, and features 23 numbers and 35 musicians in total – including Bruce’s daughters Aruba Red and Kyla, his youngest son Corin and nephew Nico.

Level 42’s Mark King provides most of the bass work, while Phil Manzanera, Bernie Marsden, Clem Clempson and Uli Jon Roth alternate on lead guitars.

The anticipated Cream classics are interspersed with selections from Bruce’s solo albums, including Songs For A Tailor and Harmony Row, up to his final release, 2014’s Silver Rails.

A film clip of Train Time transports us back to Bruce’s blues roots, as he sings and plays harmonica on the number he first performed with the Graham Bond Organization.

Elsewhere, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson brings a poignant vocal and flute to Tickets To Waterfalls, while soul singer Liam Bailey and Living Colour’s Vernon Reid turn in a menacing Politician. The most haunting of all is Folk Song, beautifully sung by Aruba Red.

With the simplicity of the power trio exchanged for so many players, it gets messy at times as the frequent changeover on stage breaks their stride and disjoints the flow for the audience. The younger artists are all keen and energetic, even if the repeated calls to “make some noise” seem incongruous to the silver-haired fans.

For the encore, Ginger Baker walks on, arms in the air, to a hero’s welcome from the crowd, but We’re Going Wrong turns out to be awkwardly prophetic. Evidently riled by the presence of a second drummer (Frank Tontoh, who played on Silver Rails), a petulant frenzy between the a petulant frenzy between the pair ends with Baker stomping off a minute into Sunshine Of Your Love, leaving us gaping at the empty drum stool like a shoal of stunned mullets. By this time we’ve abandoned all hope of Eric Clapton and Pete Brown jumping out of a cake – but we do all make some more noise for Jack.

Claudia Elliott

Claudia Elliott is a music writer and sub-editor. She has freelanced for BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 60s, Uncut, History of Rock, Classic Rock and The Blues magazine. She is a 1960s music specialist.