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Eric Clapton – Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD Review

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The Crossroads Guitar Festival was a guitar fan’s wet dream, especially for those of us whose influences extend a bit past the Korns, Linkin Parks and other drop-D aficionados of the world. What we have here is a gathering of many of the world’s greatest living guitarists, who came together for a three day festival at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, in June 2004, to help their friend and idol Eric Clapton raise some money for his addiction treatment center in Antigua, called the Crossroads Center. Although this is primarily a blues-guitar summit, there is enough variety of music styles to keep everybody happy. Not only do you get all of the blues legends like Buddy Guy, B.B. King, and Clapton jamming together, but you also get the guitar wizardry of Steve Vai, the jazz stylings of John McLaughlin, the folk-rock of James Taylor, and the funk-rock of Joe Walsh.

As with any festival of this size and variety, you would expect some of the performances to be great and others to be not so great. That was not the case with Crossroads, as almost all of the performances were extraordinary. I own about six different Clapton-featured concert DVDs, and this is easily one of his best performances in a long while. He seemed very inspired to be jamming with some of his guitar heroes, and this carried over to all of his performances. The icing on the cake was having Doyle Bramhall II
playing guitar in his band. He helped to make "Cocaine", and "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" some of the best versions I have ever heard. Clapton was playing heavier, more distorted, and more energized than ever–as if he was rehearsing for the forthcoming Cream reunion. His jams with Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and Jimmy Vaughan were an absolute pleasure to behold.

I could not begin to cover all of the festival highlights, and keep this a
reasonable length review, so I will just touch on some of my personal favorites. Dan Tyminski and Ron Block, perform "I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow", the song that made the O’ Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack such a hit. Armed with only acoustic guitars and some excellent harmony vocals, they nearly stole the show. Joe Walsh was loose and having fun, as he tore through some great improvised versions of his classics "Funk 49", and "Rocky Mountain Way". He also came out to add some serious muscle to James Taylor‘s performance of "Steamroller". Steve Vai, and his all-star band, gave a blazing performance of "I’m the Hell Outta Here", which was followed by the ever reclusive Eric Johnson, who turned in a incredible performance of "Desert Rose". It sure would be nice to get an album from him more than once every five or six years–who does he think he is Tom Scholtz?!

There are a couple of notable shortcomings with this DVD. First of all, the festival is not presented in chronological order. Not even close. Most annoying, is that Clapton‘s set is completely scattered throughout the other performances. The performances will jump between daylight opening acts, to evening headliners, and back and forth. Several notable performers also did not make it on the DVD, including Jeff Beck, Pat Metheny, and Neal Schon, and other’s sets were severely underrepresented, such as B.B King. I could have lived without two songs each from Vince Gill and J.J. Cale, in order to squeeze in a few other performances. There is no "concert only" option, so you have to sit through, or fast forward past, the between-song interviews and backstage footage.

The production quality was outstanding overall. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 surround tracks sounded excellent, and captured the festival atmosphere perfectly. The video quality and camera work where nearly perfect in all aspects. Extras included short interviews with many of the performers, and an MX multichannel presentation of many of the performances. One of the best features, especially for us guitar geeks, is the inclusion of a "guitar solos" option, which lets you select from among many of the notable guitar solos from the festival. This is a must have for any fan of the guitar, and great music in general. The royalties from the DVD sales will also benefit the Crossroads Center.

Setlist – Performers
Cocaine – Eric Clapton
Love in Vain Blues – Robert Lockwood Jr.
Killing Floor – Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Hubert Sumlin and Jimmie Vaughan
Sweet Home Chicago – Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin & Jimmie Vaughan
Six Strings Down – Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Robert Randolph and Jimmie Vaughan
Rock Me Baby – Eric Clapton, Guy, B.B. King and Jimmie Vaughan
I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow – Dan Tyminski and Ron Block
Road to Nash Vegas – Dan Tyminski and Ron Block
Copperline – James Taylor with Jerry Douglas
Steamroller – James Taylor and Joe Walsh
Oklahoma Borderline – Vince Gill and Jerry Douglas
What the Cowgirls Do – Vince Gill and Jerry Douglas
After Midnight – JJ Cale with Clapton
Call Me the Breeze – JJ Cale with Clapton
The March – Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Green Light Girl – Doyle Bramhall II
Jingo – Santana with Eric Clapton
City Love – John Mayer
Rag Bihag – Vishwa Mohan Bhatt
Tones for Elvin Jones – John McLaughlin
Josie – Larry Carlton
Going Down Slow – David "Honeyboy" Edwards
If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day – Eric Clapton
Time Makes Two – Robert Cray
Give Me Up Again – Jonny Lang
Neighborhood – David Hildago
I’m The Hell Outta Here – Steve Vai
Desert Rose – Eric Johnson
Funk 49 – Joe Walsh
Rocky Mountain Way – Joe Walsh
I Shot the Sheriff – Eric Clapton
Have You Ever Loved A Woman (Blues in C) – Eric Clapton
La Grange – ZZ Top
Tush – ZZ Top

Performance 9/10
Production 9/10

Read all of my DVD concert reviews at Roy’s

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About Paul Roy

  • I’ve been wavering on this one, as I’ve seen clips here and there which have indeed been impressive, but there have been other bits which were downright sleep-inducing. The omission of Jeff Beck from the DVD is a major negative for me, however, I was particularly glad to see both Robert Randolph and Robert Cray represented. As far as Eric Johnson goes, a good live performance of “Cliffs Of Dover” would have been wonderful (I’m still trying to nail that piece!) but an eclectic selection is of course better than none. I’m glad that Buddy Guy and Hubert Sumlin got propers in this set, video documentation of them is long overdue.

    I think that capturing a definitive Santana performance on video is indicated. Nice to see him jamming with Eric, however, other than Woodstock, he’s pretty poorly documented. There’s the “Live In Mexico” bootleg, which manages to avoid focusing on Carlos every time he takes a solo, which is a bloody shame. I’m also pleased to see John McLaughlin here, who’s been way off the radar for too long (although I have pulled out Shakti here and there).

    A darned shame they didn’t invite Phil Keaggy, who continues to blow me away every time I hear him. Phil’s nicely struck a balance between his religious and secular sides, and it would’ve been nice to see him with a full electric band as a compliment to his “Philly Live” acoustic set.

    Nice that Joe Walsh hauls out a James Gang chestnut here. I would’ve liked “Walk Away” as well, but you can’t have everything.

    And finally, thank you to Paul for taking on these seven-string hacks. Not one of the hockey mask-wearers could hold a candle to these guys (although in all fairness my band does have one Drop-D song in it’s set – “Dear Prudence”).

  • Proprietor, I know what you mean about Jeff Beck. He has been on my list of great artists that have yet to put out a concert DVD (or VHS even)! I saw him open for Santana back in the mid-90’s and he blew my mind. Phil Keaggy is also on that same list. He is supposed to be on Neal Morse’s new cd. I haven’t heard it yet, but I hope it is as good as it promises to be with Phil.