When Eric Clapton first adopted the Robert Johnson song “Crossroads” as his own, he probably had no idea that he would soon be standing at his own personal crossroads, as he eventually was forced to confront his own demons of addiction.
That story is far too long and complicated to recount here. But to his credit, Clapton was finally able to conquer those personal demons — which is probably why we are still able to enjoy the music of the man who was once called “God” (as scrawled graffiti style on buildings in England in the sixties), today.
Which is what this marvelous two-DVD set is really all about.
You see, not only did Clapton overcome his addictions — in 1998 he also founded the Crossroads Centre (for treatment to such addictions), located on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean. The location was picked by Clapton himself, because of its serene surroundings where “one can begin the process of healing.”
What is captured on these two DVDs is the second of two (and hopefully more) amazing concerts put together by Clapton to benefit the Crossroads Centre. Here, some of the world’s greatest musicians — “the cream of the crop” as described on this DVD by Albert Lee (a guy who would definitely know) — have come together to support that great work. Profits from the sale of this DVD will also support that same cause.
So as far as the performances captured here go?
There are so many great ones, the only real question is where to begin. Recorded earlier this year in Chicago, the emphasis here is clearly on the blues. And with the clout of a guy like Clapton, the names involved truly do read like a “who’s who.” You’ve literally got everyone here from the masters like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, right on up through the likes of truly underated modern players like Doyle Bramhall II and Robert Randolph (who turns in an absolutely smoking performance of “NobodySoul”).
But what you also get here is everything from the modern “adult-pop” of people like Sheryl Crow and John Mayer, to the fusion jazz of John McLaughlin (emcee Bill Murray references McLaughlin’s stint in the “Mahi Mahi Orchestra” in a particularly humorous moment).
Even country guys like Willie Nelson and Vince Gill get into the act here.
Throughout the proceedings, Clapton himself often joins the musicians onstage, and can also be seen taking it all in from the sidelines as a fan. For one thing, you can see “God” snapping away at the camera during both B.B. King and Sheryl Crow’s sets. Speaking of the camera, much of this DVD is displayed in split screen images — giving it a decidedly down home, Woodstock sort of feel.
As to the musical highlights?
Again, far too numerous to mention — although both Robert Randolph and Jeff Beck are standouts here. Johnny Winter also turns in a blazing version of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” despite the fact that it is somewhat apparent from his appearance that he is not in the best of health these days. He sounds as good as he ever has though.
But ultimately what makes this DVD a real keeper is the surprise reunion — well, almost anyway — of sixties supergroup Blind Faith. Although drummer Ginger Baker and bassist Rick Grech are missing, Clapton’s amazing band more than makes up for the absense. Clapton’s reunion with his one-time Blind Faith partner Stevie Winwood is the undisputed highlight of this DVD.
I should mention at this point that Blind Faith was one of the earliest concerts I ever saw. It was at the then H.I.C. Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. I was all of thirteen years old, and by this point the band had already pretty much broken up and were simply playing out the last dates of what turned out to be a disastrous first tour. Despite a great first album, Blind Faith never really jelled as a live band — which certainly shows on their one official live document, the horrible Live At Hyde Park DVD, released last year.
Here however, Clapton and Winwood sound absolutely magnificent on songs like “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and “Presense Of The Lord”. Check out the video below for “Had To Cry Today,” from this DVD:
Although Winwood is primarily known for his vocal and keyboard prowess, he is also not a half bad guitar player. You can see that for yourself in the video below for his performance at the Crossroads Festival of his classic Traffic song, “Dear Mr. Fantasy”:
From what I understand, Clapton and Winwood are going to extend the reunion for some dates together early next year. I also understand that at least one fellow Blogcritic will be making it out to one of those shows.
In the meantime, for those unable to catch Clapton and Winwood on the road together, you can see them here — along with several other amazing performances.
Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007 is an amazing DVD, that captures some of the greatest musicians in the world, doing what they do best on a truly inspired night for a great cause.
So what are you waiting for?