Review by Karen Hetherington
Going to a cinema to watch a concert is not how I usually get my musical fix, however, when you know the film in question is a one off showing in honour of singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and musical legend Jack Bruce and featuring a whole host of veteran musicians the pull was somewhat difficult to resist.
Jack was probably best known for being one third of the supergroup Cream but with a career spanning over 50 years and the very short shelf life of Cream this seems like a small contribution to a lifetimes achievement , on the grand scale of things.
Arriving at Mayfairs’ Curzon cinema on Monday evening my expectations were mixed and I was intrigued to hear a different spin on some classic songs, I was not prepared for the musical extravaganza which followed. As the film commenced, it showed Jacks widow Margrit take to the stage to deliver a few heartfelt words before a vintage performance of “Traintime” was shown on the screen behind the stage. The live music commenced with “Hit and Run” featuring Mark King on Bass and Vocals and Clem Clempson on Lead Guitar before Uli Jon Roth took the lead on an amazing version of the classic Cream tune “I Feel Free”.
The concert featured first class performances by Neil Murray, Ian Anderson, Phil Manzanera and many others including three of Jacks children – Aruba Red, Kyla Simone Bruce, Corin Bruce and Jacks nephew Nico Bruce. “Weird of Hermiston”, performed by Kyla Bruce was particularly endearing as was “Folk Song” with vocals by Aruba Red (Natascha Bruce) – I can’t say it was much of a surprise that Jacks daughters both have striking voices. Bernie Marsden’s vocals and guitar on “White Room” were outstanding and without listing everyone by name the calibre of performers involved in this endeavour, ranging from musical icons to less well known musicians was of an exceptional standard.
Due to the variations and numerous changes of line up on stage, debris and equipment had accumulated to such an extent it looked like a bomb site and a potential tripping hazard but everyone just carried on regardless and as the film drew to a close, recorded messages from Charlie Watts, Ringo Starr, Robin Trower and others were shown which added a nice touch.
Thereafter, chairs were arranged on the stage area in front of the screen for the question and answer session hosted by Edith Bowman. Jack Bruce’s daughters discussed the decisions on musical arrangements and how they had been keen to showcase some of Jacks lesser known songs. When asked who called the infamous and notoriously difficult Ginger Baker the reply came “No one, we emailed him!” Ian Anderson later voiced his relief at being let off the hook as such… with a piece that was to feature just himself and Ginger. Ian also recounted the first time he saw Jack play, alongside Ginger Baker in The Graham Bond Organisation, many, many years ago but explained that he hadn’t known him professionally until later in life.
Questions were also invited from the audience with one viewer praising the performance of the Cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson on “Rope Ladder to the Moon”, a stunning rendition indeed, however the absolute highlight for me was perhaps predictably the finale “Sunshine of Your Love” – not only as its one of my all-time favourite songs but also because of the sheer raw energy summoned up and fused together by the musicians involved in its performance. This particular line up featured four guitarists and two drummers (initially), with vocals by Mark King and Joss Stone. Ian Anderson added his signature stamp to the classic track as his flute playing wove its way in and out perfectly throughout the arrangement. Unfortunately Ginger Baker vacated his drum stool about a minute and a half into the song after (what looked like) trying and failing to garner the attention of fellow drummer Frankie Tontoh. To me, the reason for his premature exit was unclear, however, Baker – eternally cemented in my opinion as one of the greatest drummers in the world, seemed sedate on this track in comparison to the powerhouse Tontoh who carried the song to its conclusion with ease, precision and passion. The surge of emotion caught on stage and picked up on camera clearly relayed to the cinema audience who were, rather oddly (myself included) left applauding the screen.
The concert, performed at The Roundhouse, London 24th October 2015 – a year to the day after Jacks passing, and the subsequent screening on 14th May 2018 and what would have been Jacks 75th birthday were a fitting and emotive homage indeed to one of the most talented and iconic musicians of all time and one who certainly brought so much “Sunshine” and inspiration into the lives of his family, fans and fellow musicians.
This event was held in aid of EACH – East Anglia’s Childrens Hospice’s, a charity Jack supported for much of his life.
JACK BRUCE 14th May 1943 – 24th October 2014