Cream Classics Review

Jimmy Coultas witnesses Cream take an Orchestra to Liverpool's jaw dropping Anglican Cathedral in stunning fashion.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 21st Apr 2016

Image: Cream

Last year Cream bid farewell to Nation, their home of twenty four years now demolished (check all that is left below). The long goodbye, started in glorious fashion on Saturday October 17th, has since morphed into what former resident Seb Fontaine described as a reawakening of a community; clubbers who saw the farewell as an opportune moment to revisit those halcyon times with fervent enthusiasm. 

 

All that's left! #creamliverpool #liverpool

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This eagerness to bask in the glory of the past is no new thing of course - Retro were ahead of the curve doing 'down memory lane' nights a full two decades ago - but they have picked up a zeal recently, particularly when Pete Tong's Electric Proms inspired both the Hacienda and Cream themselves to utilise orchestras to showcase this era.

Again, classical music colliding with clubs isn't a fresh concept. Nils Frahm and Francesco Tristane are examples of artists who merge the two, whilst techno dons Laurent Garnier and Jeff Mills have both worked with orchestras on several occasions. And where Cream et al have basked in the past, these have also helped push music forward.

So if you're going to focus on the past, you need to make sure your show is on point. And as this breathtaking weekend at Liverpool's stunning Anglican Cathedral showcased, Cream don't half do it well. We were in attendance for the second instalment of the weekend, prickled with goosebumps of anticipation as we strode up towards the incredible structure with swathes of people up Upper Duke St.

It's impossible to convey just how gargantuan the building is for those who have never seen it, a colossus which was designed not so much to reflect God alone but as an encounter with an awe inspiring other. Consider that brief well and truly nailed.

Inside it is even more jaw-dropping, Tracey Emin's subtle 'I felt you and I knew you loved me' neon installation underpinning the huge Benedictine window. Irrespective of your beliefs walking through creates a connection with an otherworldly splendour, and on this occasion a huge Cream logo projected on the walls is an indicator of it being transformed for a very different purpose.

The Cathedral has shown it's versatility before, and you have to doff your cap to the team behind it. They previously demonstrated a risk taking streak by allowing Freeze to utilise the building for a dance event in 2011 with Hernan Cattaneo and Danny Howells, and it's one typical of an institution that holds so much symbolic resonance for Liverpool beyond Christianity.

There's it's attachment to the fight for justice for the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy in 1989, and that openness is of real credit to Liverpool. The first words we heard on the night came from the Canon Chancellor in waiting Dr Ellen Loudon, who lets us know that whilst we're in God's house, it's also a house that belongs to us all, a statement met with raucous cheers from a very special congregation.

That welcome is ratcheted up as she's followed by the aforementioned Fontaine, who brings in the musical cast of Liverpool's Philharmonic Orchestra - vocallists Jennifer John, the Sense of Sound, and Bobbi Depasois, and the Cream connection who have curated it all - veteran house heads K-Klass. They all take their places and soon the spine tingling chords of Subliminal Cuts' 'Le Voie Le Soleil' start and the show has begun.

What follows was a wondrous tour de force throughout the pumping house and US flavours of the early Cream years, mixed with the melodic driving trance that defined it in the late nineties. Certain tracks work better than others with the orchestra, but the one's that did felt immeasurably lifted by the presence of live instrumentation.

 

#CreamClassics

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The brass stabs that mark the unmistakable intro to The Bucketheads' 'The Bomb' are one obvious example, as does the solo sax turn which dovetails with the orchestra brilliantly during rendition of Laurent Garnier's 'The Man With The Red Face' (the above video giving you an idea of the scale of the building). 

The latter melts effortlessly into Underworld's 'Two Months Off', the clattering percussion proving that the set has been created very much in the vein of a DJ set whilst the orchestra allows the breakdown to slowly swell. Another techno classic in 'Knights of the Jaguar' from DJ Rolando is equally transformed with gusto, but it's the more distinctly epic trancier tunes which get the biggest reaction. 

The lush strings that define 'Seven Cities' from Solarstone are one such example, the crowd basking hands in the air with the stunning lazers that punctuate the building. It was a similar sensation to the one felt at Nation back in October, only this time in a much more grandiose setting.

What's also refreshing is how everyone fills their roles. Whilst the Philharmonic are for the most part the composite concentrated orchestra (although we do catch one making an emphatic fist pump during the introduction of a pulsating kick drum), the vocallists each add something new to the mix - particularly the operatic vocals on Y-Traxx's 'Mystery Land'. And when they're not performing they come off as a manic cross between podium dancers and evangelical choir, all coordinated hand waving and smiling faces.

K-Klass too treat it like a DJ gig; despite being way back they milked the show much like as if behind a booth. The crowd don't hold back, adding that distinctly Scouse sense of letting themselves go amid the delirium.

Yes this was a performance in a huge church with an orchestra, but we were never in any doubt that this was essentially a proper Cream classics rave - albeit with an added air of musical sophistication. That almost leery charm is central to the evening being so enjoyable.

The night draws to an end when the distinct strings of Massive Attack's epoch defining 'Unfinished Sympathy' come through, and it's at this point where the orchestra really shines. A record made famous at the club as Nick Warren's end of night anthem, the moment enables the musicians to really transcend the thudding beats of dance music to create something eerily wondrous and awe-inspiring - much like the Cathedral itself.

It's the kind of gloriously bitter-sweet euphoria that really comes to life through performance, a showcase which proves why the enduring power of classical music has lasted nearly a thousand years. Even the obligatory one more tune shout, dutifully delivered via Grace's 'Not Over Yet', can't steal its thunder.

Dance music will always feel most at home in clubs, and for the sake of its future will need to focus on moving forward musically. But that can't stop the celebration of its past taking on a suitably epic guise. It'll be tough finding an occasion that does so with quite as much splendour as this one.

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