“Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010” (Blu-ray) by Eric Clapton

Artist: Eric Clapton
Title: “Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010” (Blu-Ray)
Label: Rhino Entertainment
Release: 11/9/2010
Rating: 5/5

Let me preface this review by saying that there is so much to recommend on this 2-Disc Blu-Ray set from Rhino Entertainment that your time might be better spent just going out and buying it instead of reading this review. For those who need convincing I will delineate just a few of what I consider high points of the package which represents a distillation of 11 hours of music played in Chicago’s Toyota Park on June 26, 2010.

Those already familiar with the Crossroads festivals and their ensuing DVD’s expect to be treated to special performances by the “name” acts and for the most part won’t be disappointed. For me it is the unexpected moments of virtuosity that make this and earlier installments of Crossroads on DVD a treat. An immediate revelation amidst 2010‘s performers is Earl Klugh. His beautiful melodic nylon string guitar licks simultaneously evoke “Breezin’” style mellowness and Return To Forever like fusion. I will certainly be exploring his expansive catalog in more depth.

Gary Clark Jr., who had the lead role in the excellent John Sayles film “The Honeydripper”, has been working the live circuit for the last few years. His performance of “Bright Lights” reveals a new level of maturity and believability in both his playing and his singing. Delivering the line “You gonna know my name by the end of the night” with swagger Clark reveals the connection between self mythologizing bluesmen of the past and current rappers.

Another highlight is Bert Jansch’s beautiful rendering his signature tune “Blackwaterside”. That song’s history alone could fill an interesting article as it found its way from oral tradition “collected” by A. L. Lloyd and sung in 1960’s British coffee shops by Ann Briggs and Sandy Denny, given a musical accompaniment created by Jansch himself and eventually appearing on Led Zeppelin 1 as “Black Mountainside”.

Clearly the Crossroads 2010 theme is historical context. Between songs artists are given a chance to reveal their influences, expand on their love of a particular genre or artist, and often even play with them. Buddy Guy and Hubert Sumlin talk about B.B. King’s unmistakable style and it is good to hear Susan Tedeschi give props to the “Tulsa, Oklahoma connection” that was the bedrock of Clapton’s early solo career. Doyle Bramhall II conspicuously wears a Leon Russell t-shirt throughout the show. In fact, the winning set goes to the ad hoc band, featuring Derek Trucks, Susan T and Warren Haynes filling for an ailing Greg Allman and ABB. The set is in part an appreciation of ABB, with Haynes and Derek doing their thing, as well as nod to Delaney and Bonnie & Friends and Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Great versions of “Comin’ Home” and “Space Captain” (featuring original Mad Dogs member Chris Stainton) are included on the DVD.

Vince Gill takes his hat off to James Burton whose work goes back to “Suzie Q”, Ricky Nelson and Elvis, and who virtually invented the double bend style of Telecaster wringing that is now embedded in all country music. Gill was Crossroads 2007’s run away “dark horse” bringing mind blowing country picking to a blues rock audience. This time around they up the ante heaps as Gill is surrounded by Albert Lee and Burton for a killer version of “Mystery Train”. Their take on Clapton’s own “Lay Down Sally”, with Sheryl Crow adding the female vocal, actually breathes fun into what has become a tepid easy-rock radio tune. Crowe’s new tunes, from her Southern Soul oriented “100 Miles From Memphis”, also fare better in the hands of this great stage band then they do on the studio album and have made me curious to go back and hear that record again.

EC himself manages to get past his self effacing nature and offer up a steaming, out of the box, lead on the coda to the otherwise dozy “I Shot The Sheriff”. He plays some really tasty lines behind Citizen Cope and fires off licks reminiscent of his heyday while jamming with Sonny Landreth at the beginning of the show. Clapton also teams up with Jeff Beck for a too short, extremely fun, take on Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker”, a staple of 60’s British blues boom. While Steve Winwood’s voice is still a miracle to be heard, the versions of the Clapton/Winwood duo tunes here (“Had to Cry Today”, “Dear Mr. Fantasy”) were better performed on the DVD documenting their Madison square Garden shows. Hendrix’ “Voodoo Child” while a well meaning tribute never really takes off.

On the low end Bill Murray’s MC shtick runs from unfunny to embarrassing. Murray does his best to pull the historical theme together by dressing up as Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, and Jimi Hendrix for visitations by the ghosts of rock and roll past, but ultimately the routine falls flat. A 27,000 seat arena filled with guitar-heads is simply the wrong venue for his kind of irony.

Filmed for HD, the Blu-Ray presentation is stunning. Super sharp visuals with saturated colors. Contrasts and colors get even better as the day progresses and the stage lights come into play. Editing is brisk and keeps the 4 1/2 hours of material interesting. Thankfully there is a lack of vertigo inducing “Cloverfielding”; though I wonder at the decision to regularly cut to backstage fidgeting while innumerable great musicians are on stage.

As always my test for purchasing is repeatability and there are lots of little treats here like Keb’ Mo’ and Stefan Grossman’s delta blues acoustic numbers, cameos by Jimmy Vaughan, Joe Bonamassa and David and Cesar from Los Lobos, that will have you coming back to sample performances and segments. Rhino’s “Crossroads Festival 2010” on Blu-Ray is well worth your investment.

Disc 1
-Bill Murray Introduction with Eric Clapton
1. Sonny Landreth with Eric Clapton – Promise Land
2. Sonny Landreth – Z Rider
3. Robert Randolph and the Family Band – Traveling Shoes
4. Joe Bonamassa & Pino Daniele with Robert Randolph – Going Down
-Bill Murray introduces Robert Cray
5. Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughn & Hubert Sumlin – Killing Floor
6. Jimmie Vaughn, Robert Cray & Hubert Sumlin – Six Stings Down
-Bill Murray introduces ZZ Top
7. ZZ Top – Waiting For the Bus
8. ZZ Top – Jesus Just Left Chicago
9. Doyle Bramhall II – Gypsy Blood
10. Doyle Bramhall II – In My Time Of Dying
11. Gary Clark Jr – Bright Lights
12. Sheryl Crow with Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Doyle Bramhall II & Gary Clark Jr – Long Road Home
13. Sheryl Crow with Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall II & Gary Clark Jr – Our Love Is Fading
14. Bert Jansch – Blackwaterside
15. Stefan Grossman with Keb Mo – Mississippi Blues
16. Stefan Grossman with Keb Mo – Roll ‘N’ Tumble
-Bill Murray introduces Vince Gill
17. Vince Gill, Keb Mo, James Burton, Earl Klugh, Albert Lee – One More Last Chance
18. Vince Gill, James Burton, Albert Lee, Keb Mo, Earl Klugh – Mystery Train
19. Vince Gill, Keb Mo, Albert Lee, James Burton, Earl Klugh & Sheryl Crow – Lay Down Sally
20. Earl Klugh – Angelina
21. Earl Klugh – Vonetta
-Bill Murray introduces John Mayer
22. John Mayer Trio – Who Did You Think I Was
23. John Mayer Trio – Ain’t No Sunshine

Disc 2
-Bill Murray introduces Derek Trucks
1. Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band – Midnight In Harlem
2. Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band featuring Warren Haynes – Comin’ Home
3. Warren Haynes – Soulshine
4. David Hidalgo and Cesar Rojas featuring Derek Trucks – Don’t Keep Me Wondering
5. Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band featuring Warren Haynes, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas, Chris Stainton – Space Captain
-Bill Murray introduces Buddy, Jonny & Ronnie
6. Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang & Ronnie Wood – Five Long Years
7. Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang & Ronnie Wood – Miss You
-Bill Murray introduces Jeff Beck
8. Jeff Beck – Hammerhead
9. Jeff Beck – Nessun Dorma
-Bill Murray introduces Eric Clapton
10. Eric Clapton – Crossroads
11. Citizen Cope & Eric Clapton – Hands of the Saints
12. Eric Clapton – I Shot The Sheriff
13. Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck – Shake Your Money Maker
14. Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – Had To Cry
15. Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – Voodoo Chile
16. Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – Dear Mr. Fantasy
-Bill Murray introduces BB King
17. Finale: Eric Clapton, BB King, Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughn, Joe Bonamassa, and others – The Thrill Is Gone

Official Website: http://www.ericclapton.com/

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