Last night I embarked on a trek south to Millville, New Jersey, for a 90-minute set by Sons of Cream.
The band is appropriately named, as the bassist is Malcolm Bruce, son of Jack, and the drummer is Kofi Baker, son of Ginger. Can you guess the repertoire? Yes, it’s the music of Cream. Holding down the role of young Eric Clapton is Godfrey Townsend. While not a blood relative of Cream band members, Godfrey has played with Jack Bruce, as well as musicians ranging from Dave Mason to John Entwistle. He’s also held down the music director duties for the very successful Hippiefest tours.
|Godfrey Townsend and Malcolm Bruce dig deep into the sound of Cream.|
There are those who say bands like Sons of Cream are just retreading material. I counter that great songs are entities that benefit from a modern-day airing out. That argument was given weight by last night’s performance, which checked into all aspects of the great power trio Cream’s heritage. From a concise “Sunshine of Your Love” to expansive passages in “N.S.U.” and “I’m So Glad,” Sons of Cream breathed life into songs that been dormant too long.
Malcolm is highly-accomplished, like his father able to weave through song structures and emerge with unexpected accents. Baker, now on screens in the film documentary about his volatile father Beware of Mr. Baker, brings a more rock-oriented foundation to Cream’s music that works well, though his long solo in “Toad” displayed ample passages of the jazzy swing and African influence inherent in Ginger’s approach. Townsend, as his resume might indicate, is a musical chameleon. Armed with a Gibson Les Paul, a Paul Reed Smith, and a replica of Clapton’s famed Gibson SG painted by the Dutch collective “The Fool” more than four decades ago, the guitarist was a commanding presence immersed in Eric’s stylistic approaches heard during that incendiary phase of his career.
|The fresh new interior of the Levoy Theatre in Millville, NJ.|
Millville’s newly-renovated Levoy Theatre was a perfect setting for this concert. Originally opened in 1908 with a theater on the ground floor and a dance hall upstairs, the Levoy eventually expanded the theater aspect to feature silent films and Vaudeville acts. But by the 1950s the theater began to slowly descend into disrepair, eventually closing in 1976.
Now, after a determined renovation effort, the theater is launching its first new season since shortly after the original Cream split up. Seating just under 700, the theater has great sightlines, comfortable seating, and the sound was excellent during Sons of Cream. With restaurants and bars in close proximity to the Levoy, as well as a number of interesting shops, this venue looks capable of playing a major role in the vibrancy of Millville’s Glasstown Arts District. And a nice, small theater is always a welcome addition to the tri-state music scene.
You can learn more about the Levoy Theatre, and its lineup ranging from Joan Osborne to Dave Mason, at http://levoy.net/