Sound: Eric Clapton's career has spanned five decades. Dating back to the 60s, ol' Slowhand has been part of guiding light groups such as the Yardbirds, Cream, and Blind Faith. In the 70s he put together Derek & the Dominoes and following that pursued a solo career that still lives and breathes today. So it's no wonder that back in June 2004 when the guitarist decided to put together a concert to benefit the Crossroads Centre in Antigua a treatment and education facility Clapton founded to assist people suffering from drug dependency everyone wanted to come. The third Crossroads Guitar Festival at Chicago's Toyota Park was held in July 2010 and featured Jeff Beck, ZZ Top, John Mayer, Derek Trucks, B.B. King, Vince Gill, Steve Winwood, and of course Clapton himself in an 11-hour show that included some of the greatest guitar players around.
The event was recorded on DVD and the sound here is remarkable. What really comes across is the extraordinary range of guitar tones that were heard during this performance. Ranging from the crystal clarity of Derek Trucks' sweet slide on Midnight in Harlem and the stinging ringing of Buddy Guy's Strat on Five Long Years to Jeff Beck's pulverizing wah riffs on Hammerhead and Stevie Winwood's classic Fender lines on Dear Mr. Fantasy, every note and every lick resonated clearly in the ears of the 27,000 fans in attendance. ZZ Top burned the house down with vintage electric blues on Waiting For the Bus and Jesus Just Left Chicago. Strangely, Clapton's own tones on songs like Crossroads and his duet with Winwood on Blind Faith's Had to Cry Today came across as a bit thin and brittle. Maybe we're just used to the original blinding and furious sounds he conjured on the originals. // 8
Lyrics: Most of the guitar players present at the Crossroads Show were also singers and their vocal sets were equally as inspired as their guitar workouts. Susan Tedeschi on Coming Home was soulfully poignant and her voice soared. Stevie Winwood's adolescent tenor was still present on classics like Had to Cry Today, Dear Mr. Fantasy and Hendrix's Voodoo Chile. B.B. King conveyed a sense of majestic calm on his signature song The Thrill is Gone, an ensemble piece that included Clapton, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan. // 8
Overall Impression: For any fan of guitar whether you're into blues, rock, country, jazz, world music or just about any other style this Crossroads DVD will stun you into silence. You're confronted with dozens of different players and no two play alike. It truly reveals the chameleon-like quality of the guitar and how it turns into something different everytime a new set of hands start brushing the strings. There are players here you may not know very well Scottish singer/songwriter Bert Jansch [a big influence on Jimmy Page], jazz player Earl Klugh, and maybe even country maestro Vince Gill but after watching this, you're going to want to check them out even more. Assembled here are some of the finest players to ever lay a pick on a string and they are presented in a forum that completely glorifies and exalts the depth of their talents.
Bill Murray is the onstage host here and at various times dresses like a paisley Jimi Hendrix complete with fro and headband and a jumpsuited Elvis. Watch this and laugh and be amazed. And then run out and get your own guitar and amp and start practicing for Crossroads 2011. // 8
- Steven Rosen (c) 2010