SOUNDS OF BLUE
Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Festival – April 12, 2013
First Night of Two at Madison Square Garden, NYC
This is Clapton’s fourth edition of his Crossroads Fest that differs from his first three because this is the first performed indoors and the first that offered two nights. This benefit is for Eric’s Crossroads Center a drug treatment facility in Antigua that Clapton founded.
The main man started the proceedings with a pretty laidback half hour acoustic set the started as trio with Willie Weeks on bass and Steve Jordan drumming, first up was “Driftin.’ Throughout the set the band expanded as Doyle Bramhall, Andy Fairweather Low, Chris Stainton, and Vince Gill joined the fray. The highlight for me was the mostly upbeat “Lay Down Sally.” The set quietly concluded with a sleepy “Wonderful Tonight.”
The remaining two members of Booker T. & the MG’s (Booker T. Jones and Steve Cropper) opened with “Time is Tight,” and “Hip Hug Her” followed. Additional attendees included (a kind of reunited Blues Brothers) with Matt “Guitar” Murphy; Albert Lee also sat in but didn’t solo. I particularly enjoyed a riveting “Born Under a Bad Sign” with Keb’ Mo’ on solid vocals who also traded fiery leads with Cropper who was also very much on his game. Their segment closed with a pretty hot “Green Onions,” that had the crowd on its feet. This was a very solid, satisfying and entertaining set.
Robert Cray’s current band was next and they were in an upbeat mood. I’ve been tough on Cray over recent years, but he brought his “A” game to MSG, and was later joined by the King of the Blues B.B. King who performed a righteous “Let the Good Times Roll,” followed by “Every Day I Have the Blues” with Clapton, and Jimmie Vaughan joining in.
On a smaller side stage Sonny Landreth did one solo tune (no band.) Then Doyle Bramhall II (not my cup of tea) had Citizen Cope and Gary Clark Jr. join in.
First time Crossroads invitee the jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel was solid especially when he dueled with Alan Holdsworth. Holdsworth exited and Clapton joined Rosenwinkel’s band with “If I Should Lose You,” and “Way Down That Lonesome Road,” where Clapton displayed some of his best chops of the night, and allowed ample time to let Rosenwinkel chime in. Clapton looked happiest during this segment which was different (even thought they mostly played blues) than any other set of the evening.
John Mayer impressed especially during a lengthy “Queen of California” where Mayer exhibited one of the strongest and headiest guitar solos of the night. Mayer was intense and spacey and bordered on Jerry Garcia territories with his superb explorations. Mayer’s set ended with Keith Urban covering the Beatles “Don’t Let Me Down” from their “Let It Be” album. The crowd (and yours truly) got a kick out of this excellent closer that had the crowd roaring.
Buddy Guy was next and he had the young fourteen year old guitarist Quinn Sullivan and Robert Randolph in his band. Buddy looks marvelous and performed well letting Sullivan solo regularly as well as Randolph. Needless to say Guy went for his usual audience participation during “Someone Else is Slippin’ In.” The crowd dug it, but I’d seen too much of these antics from Buddy for too many years.
Oddly (on the small side stage) Dan Aykroyd and Keb’ Mo’ did a one song tribute to Muddy Waters covering “Got My Mojo Working” with Aykroyd on vocals, fortunately it was a short segment.
Last up was the Allman Brothers Band who opened with the two songs from their debut self titled 1969 album with the instrumental “Don’t Want You No More” that segued into “It’s Not My Cross to Bear.” Taj Mahal, Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo entered for “Statesboro Blues” and followed with (also from the Brothers first LP) “Black Hearted Woman.” Clapton made his final appearance of the eve joining the Brothers on a pretty nice “Why Does Love Have To Be So Sad” from the Layla sessions. The Brothers wrapped up the evening with a somewhat lengthy “Whipping Post” (the last tune on their debut album) where it was great to hear Derek Trucks dazzle into the near stratosphere trading leads with the also crafty Warren Haynes. Note: I miss Derek’s explorations with the current Tedeschi Trucks band, and really enjoyed hearing his less-traditional playing which is filled with far more creativity.
This nearly five hour show had minimal downtime. The main stage rotated and had the next artist’s instruments and gear ready to go. The smaller side stages also helped to keep the music nonstop all night as well, which made for an extraordinary listening experience. One complaint; over the last four Crossroads, Clapton uses too many familiar faces, and it would be nice to see him give opportunities to other guitarists who deserve wider attention. Though I have to give him kudos for inviting Kurt Rosenwinkel and one or two others artists, but wouldn’t it be nice to have guitarists like George Benson, Larry Carlton, Pat Martino, Ronnie Earl, Robben Ford (and add your own favorites) substituted into EC’s festival lineup? I guess it’s like politics with their existing cronies. No hard complaints, but I’m just saying…
Oh, a big thank you to my childhood buddy Bob Ruvolo for not only inviting me to this outstanding show, but for also seating me into the first row. Wow!
Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com. Now celebrating 13 + years on the air at WFDU - http://wfdu.fm. 24x7 On Demand Radio: http://wfdu.streamrewind.com/show/profile/11, WFDU's Sounds of Blue is the most pledged to program for 5 consecutive years. Senior Contributing Editor to: http://www.Bluesrevue.com , http://WestchesterGuardian.com, and http://YonkersTribune.com.