Crossroads – Eric Clapton Guitar Festival (2007)

by | Dec 24, 2007 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Crossroads – Eric Clapton Guitar Festival (2007)

Performers: Jeff Beck, Doyle Bramhall II, Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Robert Cray, Vince Gill, Buddy Guy, BB King, Sonny Landreth, Albert Lee, Los Lobos, John Mayer, John McLaughlin, Willie Nelson, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, Robbie Robertson, Hubert Sumlin, The Derek Trucks Band, Jimmie Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Steve Winwood, Bill Murray
Studio: Rhino DVD R2 352124
Video: 4:3 full screen color
Audio: DTS 5.1, PCM stereo
Subtitles: English, French, German Italian, Portuguese, Spanish
Extras: Crossroads Village Stage – edited performances of various artists
Length: DVD 1: 2 hrs. 16 min.; DVD 2: 2 hrs. 12 min.
Rating: *****

This is a remarkable two-DVD collection that almost gives you the feeling of being in the front row. Well, turn up the sound a bit and you will feel like you’re there at
Eric Clapton’s second daylong bash celebrating the guitar, blues, and blues-based music. It took place on July 27, 2007 at a Chicago stadium.
 
Bill Murray deadpans his way through Master of Ceremony duties with guitars, costumes, and wigs. Although the twenty plus headliners are known to music aficionados as guitar gods, Murray keeps the festivities from becoming self-indulgently serious. When he introduces John McLaughlin, Murray refers to the Mahi Mahi orchestra. [But when he tries to sing his one blues song along with the audience, his guitar is way out of tune…Ed.]

There are so many performers that even an avid fan could be at a loss to know to them all. Never fear. Check out the web site for bios and links. My only caveat is the lack of information on the supporting musicians. Some of the band mates are identified (as with Derek Trucks’ outstanding ensemble) but many are not. Who were all those backing players and singers on the final set?

The general tilt of the two discs is blues and blues/rock. The major exception is McLaughlin’s set, which features his own brand of soaring and thoughtful improvisation. Aside from Clapton, the dominant guitarist on the two discs is Derek Trucks. He makes an early appearance with his band and guests: the excellent Susan Tedeschi and then Johnny Winter. Trucks’ playing, mainly with a slide, just grew and grew on me as he appeared and reappeared on the two discs. He was powerful and assertive, yet gracious to the other guitarists and clean and tasteful throughout.

The set most rooted in traditional music was with Doyle Bramhall II on guitar, a bassist, and two traps drummers. They electrified “Rosie,” a pre-blues work song and “Outside Woman Blues” by Blind Joe Reynolds. “Rosie” is the only public domain song on the DVDs. Robert Cray’s story song “Poor Johnny” was touching and heartfelt. American songs don’t often tell a long story like this as other song traditions do. It was a welcome deviation from the norm.

For many people the highlight of the first disc would be the B.B. King set with Cray and his band, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin (longtime Howlin Wolf guitarist), and Clapton. At the age of 81 B.B. can still tear it up on his black Gibson Lucille model guitar and his vocals on “Paying The Cost To Be The Boss” and “Rock Me Baby.”

Vince Gill, Albert Lee and Willie Nelson round out Disc One for y’all who love country picking. Cheryl Crow sings on “Tulsa Time” in a roadhouse jam. Lee’s “Country Boy” is blazing fast and clean while Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” has a slow, meditative intro that really brings you into the song.  And that’s just skimming the first disc!

Disc Two opens with John Mayer. His performance on “Belief” will appeal to fans of the current slashing, noisy rock, but not to this old blues guy. “Gravity” had some pretty soloing and reached into a pop soul ballad style. Mayer can play but needs time to mature.

Los Lobos rave it up with T-Bone Burnett’s “Don’t Worry Baby” and their own “Mas y Mas.” They rocked the house in roots rock and Cal-Mex style.  Bill Murray broke down and fawned a bit over Jeff Beck in his intro. Well, Beck is a certified guitar god. He plays tastefully and superbly on Stevie Wonder’s “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” (with fine soloing too by young bassist Tal Wilkenfeld), and rocks out on “Big Block.”

Finally, Clapton takes center stage with Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks and a full backing band with two keyboardists, two drummers, and two vocalists. Clapton shows his stuff on his own “Tell The Truth” with strong slide work from Trucks. E.C. also gives us fine versions of George Harrison’s “Isn’t It A Pity” and Robert Johnson’s “Little Queen of Spades.” To complete this mini-survey of styles Clapton brings out Robbie Robertson to present a tight version (not easy with all these musicians onstage!) of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love,” complete with maracas.

This is followed by a long Stevie Winwood set with Clapton on four of the five tunes. Winwood starts with Hammond organ on “Presence Of The Lord” and switches to guitar for the remainder of his time in the spotlight. The Winwood/Clapton vocals and Clapton’s soloing surely brought them close to having a reunion on “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

Winwood is on his own with a smaller band for a contemplative “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” Then Clapton and the others (including Trucks and Bramhall) come back for his signature tune: “Crossroads.” This expanded band and familiar song are definitely a crowd pleaser. You would think that would be the climax of the show. Think again.

As the show was in Chicago and Clapton pays homage to his blues roots, it’s time to bring on Buddy Guy with his tough South Side style band for two tunes. Then the show finally does close with “Sweet Home Chicago” and eight great guitarists: Guy, Clapton, Cray, Mayer, Sumlin, Vaughan, Trucks, and Winter.

Bill Murray asked earlier in the evening, “Heard enough guitar?” Me? No. I’ll go back for more and revisit this DVD many times. The concert was a fundraiser for the Crossroads Centre on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean Sea for the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction. The CD’s liner notes and web site give some history and philosophy of the rehabilitation center. It was a great concert for a great cause.

TrackList, Disc One: Introduction/Gloria, Uberesso, Hell at Home, Maharina, Rosie, Outside Woman Blues, Little By Little, Anyday, Highway 61 Revisited, Nobodysoul, Poor Johnny, Dirty Work At The Crossroads, Sitting On Top Of The World, Paying The Cost To Be The Boss, Rock Me Baby, Sweet Thing, Country Boy, If It Makes You Happy, Tulsa Time, Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, On The Road Again.

TrackList, Disc Two: Belief, Gravity, Don’t Worry Baby, MasY Mas, Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers, Big Block, Tell The Truth, Isn’t It A Pity, Little Queen Of Spades, Who Do You Love, Presence Of The Lord, Can’t Find My Way Home, Had To Cry Today, Dear Mr. Fantasy, Crossroads, Mary Had A Little Lamb, Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, Sweet Home Chicago.

— Howard Herrnstadt
 

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