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Music DVD Review: Eric Clapton – Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010

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Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 is the third installment of the concert event that Eric Clapton launched back in 2004 to benefit the Crossroads Centre in Antigua, a drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation center that Clapton founded in 1997. The 2004 and 2007 festivals were both captured on a couple of outstanding DVDs, and this latest installment, which took place on June 26, 2010 before a sold-out crowd of more than 27,000 fans at Chicago’s Toyota Park, has also recently been released on both Blu-ray disk and DVD.

The video opens with someone driving around the south side of Chicago in a classic Buick Invicta convertible, soaking in the scenes of this year’s host windy city. Native son, Bill Murray, returns as emcee of this year’s festival, and he welcome’s “Chicago’s own” Eric Clapton to the stage to join Louisiana slide guitar wizard Sonny Landreth as they kick off the festival’s impressive opening set. Watching Clapton and Landreth trade licks during the show’s opening number, “Promise Land,” was one of the highlights of the entire concert.

Shortly thereafter, blues-guitar prodigy Joe Bonamassa joins Robert Randolph and the Family Band onstage for a blistering performance of “Going Down,” which only begged the question – why the hell didn’t smokin’ Joe get his own set!? If you have not yet laid witness to Bonamassa’s career defining set at the Royal Albert Hall last year, where Clapton joined him onstage to essentially pass on the blues-rock torch, do so now, and you will understand what I mean.

This year’s Crossroads Festival was not quite up to snuff with the previous two events. There were just too many of the same performers and same old songs being performed. With such an incredible catalog of songs, why would Clapton possibly choose to repeat most of the songs he has already performed at the other two festivals – and performed much better. Same goes for the set with Steve Winwood. Yes, “Had To Cry Today,” and “Dear Mister Fantasy” are two of my all-time favorite songs, but we’ve already got better performances of them on the 2007 Crossroads DVD, and on the Live From Madison Square Garden DVD.

And did we really need another Crossroads DVD with Jimmy Vaughan and Hubert Sumlin playing on half of the damn songs? Jimmy is to Stevie Ray, as Tito Jackson is to Michael, and Mr. Sumlin, who must be about a 100 years old now, was just painful to watch. But I guess Eric feels he can’t not re-invite certain people. And what the hell is Sheryl Crow doing there again? This is a GUITAR festival, is it not? Sure, she is a fine enough singer, but even I can outplay her on the guitar. And could this Citizen Cope guy have possibly looked more wasted during his performance with Clapton? Eric was looking over at him the whole time like, “I better get this guy down to Antigua before it’s too late.”

Clapton really needs to shake the guest list up next time around and invite the likes of Robben Ford, Steve Lukather, Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Ronnie Earl, Gary Moore, Robin Trower, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and Gov’t Mule, to name a few, and also give Joe Bonamassa and Jonny Lang their own sets next time. And, hell, if you’re going welcome a bunch of country pickers to this shindig with open arms, how about inviting some metal guitarists next go around. I’d probably fly across country to attend that one.

Although the performances selected for this four-plus hour DVD set were very hit and miss, it was still very enjoyable overall. ZZ Top sounded better than ever on two of their best old-school blues-rockers, “Waiting For The Bus,” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” but Doyle Bramhall II’s set was surprisingly disappointing until fellow Texas-blues guitar sensation, Gary Clark Jr., came out to show him how it was really done. I had never heard of this guy before, but his performance of his own “Bright Lights” was a real showstopper that should win over many a new fan.

I’m not much of a country music fan, but Vince Gill’s set featuring the legendary James Burton and Albert Lee on guitars was one of the few real bright spots on the first DVD. I loved their take on “Lay Down Sally,” which also featured some exquisite backing vocals from Sheryl Crow. People sure do love to slam John Mayer, but he turned in another great performance here, wisely choosing to perform in his blues-trio mode for some impressive performances of his own “Who Do You Think I Was,” as well as a glorious take on the Bill Withers classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

The second DVD is where things start to heat up a little. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi’s set was killer, especially their performance of the old Delaney and Bonny number, “Coming Home,” which also featured Warren Haynes on slide guitar and vocals. The Allman Brothers Band was scheduled to play this year, but Greg Allman received a very fortunate liver transplant only a few days before the event. Jeff Beck performed a couple of songs, “Hammerhead,” and “Nessun Dorma,” from his most recent album, and they left me pretty underwhelmed. Jeff’s mastery of the guitar is always a pleasure to watch, but I have just not been able to warm up to his new stuff all that much.

The performance I enjoyed the most from the second DVD was Buddy Guy’s set with fellow legend Ronnie Wood, and young gun Jonny Lang as they tore through an inspired performance of the old blues standard “Five Long Years,” where Lang fires off one of the most intense guitar solo of the entire concert. They followed with a terrific instrumental rendition of the Rolling Stones’ classic, “Miss You,” that had the two old timers playing like it was 1978 all over again. At one point Guy breaks a string, mid-solo, and Wood immediately whips off his own Strat and offers it up to Guy, in a humorous, “TA DA, here you go,” kind of way. It was priceless.

The production quality of this DVD is outstanding just like the previous two releases. DTS 5.1 Surround and PCM 2.0 Stereo audio options are provided and they each sounded excellent, especially considering that this was recorded in an outdoor soccer stadium and featured several dozen set changes. The video was equally impressive and the camera work was about as good as it gets. How refreshing it is to be able to soak in a good performance without the picture jumping back and forth between different camera angles every half second. There are no extra features included on the DVDs.

Although I didn’t find this latest installment of the Crossroads Guitar Festival to be quite as satisfying as the first two, it is still one of the best bargains around, with over four hours worth of live performances from many of the best musicians in the world.

Set List (Performers)
Disc 1:
01. Promise Land (Sonny Landreth with Eric Clapton)
02. Z. Rider (Sonny Landreth)
03. Traveling Shoes (Robert Randolph & the Family Band)
04. Going Down (Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Joe Bonamassa, Pino Daniele)
05. Killing Floor (Robert Cray with Jimmie Vaughan and Hubert Sumlin)
06. Six Strings Down (Jimmie Vaughan with Robert Cray and Hubert Sumlin)
07. Waiting For The Bus (ZZ Top)
08. Jesus Just Left Chicago (ZZ Top)
09. Gypsy Blood (Doyle Bramhall II)
10. In My Time Of Dying – Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed (Doyle Bramhall II)
11. Bright Lights (Gary Clark Jr.)
12. Long Road Home (Sheryl Crow with Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Doyle Bramhall II, and Gary Clark Jr.)
13. Our Love Is Fading (Sheryl Crow with Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II, and Gary Clark Jr.)
14. Blackwaterside (Bert Jansch)
15. Mississippi Blues (Stefan Grossman and Keb’ Mo’)
16. Roll and Tumble Blues (Stefan Grossman and Keb’ Mo’)
17. One More Last Chance (Vince Gill with Keb’ Mo’, James Burton, Earl Klugh, and Albert Lee)
18. Mystery Train (Vince Gill with James Burton, Albert Lee, Keb’ Mo’, and Earl Klugh)
19. Lay Down Sally (Vince Gill with Sheryl Crow, Keb’ Mo’, Albert Lee, James Burton, and Earl Klugh)
20. Angelina (Earl Klugh)
21. Vonetta (Earl Klugh)
22. Who Do You Think I Was (John Mayer Trio)
23. Ain’t No Sunshine (John Mayer Trio)

Disc 2:
01. Midnight In Harlem (Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band)
02. Coming Home (Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band with Warren Haynes)
03. Soulshine (Warren Haynes)
04. Don’t Keep Me Wondering (David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas with Derek Trucks)
05. Space Captain (Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band with Warren Haynes, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosa, and Chris Stainton)
06. Five Long Years (Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang and Ronnie Wood)
07. Miss You (Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang and Ronnie Wood)
08. Hammerhead (Jeff Beck)
09. Nessun Dorma (Jeff Beck)
10. Crossroads (Eric Clapton)
11. Hands Of The Saints (Citizen Cope and Eric Clapton)
12. I Shot The Sheriff
13. Shake Your Money Maker (Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck)
14. Had To Cry Today (Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton)
15. Voodoo Chile (Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood)
16. Dear Mr. Fantasy (Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton)
17. The Thrill Is Gone (B.B. King and Ensemble)

Ratings:
Performance – 8/10
Production – 9/10

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