Appellate Judge Tom Becker has no axe to grind with this set.
"The Crossroads Festival is the realization of a dream for me."
In 1998, guitar god Eric Clapton founded Crossroads Centre, a rehab facility in Antigua. Clapton's own history of addiction—and recovery—is well noted and has been dissected in his recently published autobiography, "Clapton."
Crossroads Guitar Festival 2007, a day-long event that took place at Toyota Park, near Chicago, on July 28, is the second such fundraiser that Clapton has organized for the facility. The first Guitar Festival took place over a week end in 2004.
This disc offers four hours of the 11-hour concert spread out over two discs. We get an eclectic group of artists giving us one good-to-great set after another:
Clapton has stated that he wants these Guitar Festivals to be like a bunch of friends getting together for an old-fashioned jam session, and that's pretty much what it is. "Casual" is the idea here, and it's funny to see how "suburban dad" many of our music idols look; this makes sense given not only their ages (I'm guessing the median here is around 60), but the crowd and the context. These are sober people for a sober cause. For once it really looks like the people onstage are having as much fun as the audience.
There are many highlights. It's worth the price of the disc to just to see B.B. King, hale and powerful at 81, doing two numbers with the Robert Cray Band. Buddy Guy, a comparative youngster at 71, rips the lid off the place with an energy people half his age can only envy. There's Johnny Winter, looking a bit fragile and sounding anything but, with his rendition of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," and Jeff Beck, awesome, with Tal Wilkenfeld on bass. Clapton and Robbie Robertson tear into "Who Do You Love?" and Clapton's set with Steve Winwood—Clapton joked he'd been waiting 25 years to play with Winwood—is masterful. The big closing number gives us Guy, Clapton, Cray, Winter, John Mayer, Hubert Sumlin, and Jimmie Vaughn jamming on "Sweet Home Chicago," with Mayer looking suitably impressed by the company.
Bill Murray does introductions, often throwing on a wig and some kind of referencing outfit, such as dressing like Clapton to introduce Clapton's set. We also get sound bites from the performers on their love of the music, the first time they picked up a guitar, and their respect for the other musicians.
The concert was filmed in HD, and the picture looks great. The audio is just outstanding, with a choice of DTS 5.1 surround or PCM 2.0 stereo. As an extra we get seven minutes of riffs by Tab Benoit, Orianthi, Todd Wolfe, Skunk Baxter, Harvey Mandel, and Jedd Hughes playing on a smaller stage at the venue.
I'm sure there was a lot of great stuff left out, which is always the case when paring down a performance for a DVD. What's here is terrific, a must for fans, and worth a look for those with even a casual interest in the music.
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