Cream Can Go off, In Time.

Cream of Clapton
Theatre Severn

What do you get when you add brilliant keyboard, a spot on drummer, a great bassist, a vocalist who has a passing resemblance to Eric Clapton’s voice, some pretty lights and a distorted sound? The answer is The Cream of Clapton.

Yes Old Slowhand himself was somewhere else completely whilst this little combo from Anytown in Somewhereshire, ripped off his act. If you are a keen spotter of empty theatre seats, then tonight you would have been in your element. You could have spotted away to your heart’s content as the band played Clapton favourites.

The first song was made light with a purely unintentional, which guitar am I playing first scenario. So imagine the scene, the drums are rolling, the organ is holding one chord vibrato, building up the atmosphere, the bass guitarist has his back against the wall as he simply has nowhere left on his fret board and still, alas, no screaming electric guitar to get the whole thing going. Instead the audience was treated to a live rabbit in the headlights moment as our hero came on and picked up at least three guitars before he got the right one, you know the one that’s plugged in and makes the guitar sounds. There was increasing panic in his face as he knew he was blowing what turned out to be the coolest moment of the show. Anyway half a beat behind, he launched into Cocaine.

Ok, you think, that was fun, he’s got the guitar, he’s breathlessly caught up, entertain me Mr. C soundalike. It was his bogus claim that he had squared it with some sheriff but didn’t, in fact, put his hands up to the deputy’s murder. That I realised that what we had here was at best an average pub band. Maybe we get spoilt in Shrewsbury with our pub music scene, but I believe the Roadhouse Blues Band would have done a better job up there. Yet they were playing in Shrewsbury pubs twenty five years ago.

The lighting script failed to capture our hearts as a follow spot picked out the lead singer and left the red, white, green and blue coloured wash to illuminate the rest. As for the sound, there was an audible distortion and lacked the raw edged anger that created the free generation. In fact, that’s what it was, sterile. That music was written and performed for other purposes. It went with the pot smoking, flower powered generation that promised to love their way to world peace, all that anger, energy and hope lost in translation and now here it was being served up to a very well behaved bunch of fifty somethings who sat silently and clapped on cue.

However, this reviewer can not criticise the musicianship. The guitar when plugged in was mighty. Every note, every nuance beautifully recreated by Alan Earp, who when all is said and done should be good enough to play his own stuff and let us celebrate his skill, not someone else’s. Mark Benfield was a safe pair of hands, when it came to wealding the bass guitar, and Lindsey Turner’s backing vocals were powerful and harmonious, so what is it? What wasn’t quite right?

Tribute bands? What are they? Is it a case that they steal someone else’s act to bring audiences in? An audience who wouldn’t be there if plain Joe was playing maybe?  Is it flattery or robbery? Will this destroy new music and new creativity? Will theatres continue insisting these types of nights and these tribute acts are what the people want? If music was to lean any further in that direction we will be getting tribute bands tributing the tribute band before them. Somewhere in all that mêlée the spirit of music will be crying out, “Don’t forget me!” 

Owen Lewis

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Owen Lewis Owen Lewis

Owen Lewis was born fifty something years ago in the land of the black puddings. For the geographically challenged that is in Lancashire. Moving to Shropshire From 1970 Owen was brought up in Church Stretton. His first real job was in radio. After starting on BBC Radio Shropshire he became known on Marcher Sound, broadcasting throughout the North West for several years. After a university degree course in Theatre, Owen became an actor and went on to play "Pirate Bill" in The Alton Towers Hotel. He also made several television appearances. Returning to university he took his PGCE enabling him to teach. That saw him on the Essex coast as a drama teacher and latterly as a Creative Educational Liaison Officer making films and creating new teaching methods to employ on children in need of more help in their fundamental learning skills. Published playwright Owen ultimately wants a house boat in Amsterdam to focus on his work as Playwright and Poet.

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