NYC & The Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival
Trying to start this article off with a bang isn’t easy. What words can I use to depict what I saw, or more importantly, heard. Epic doesn’t describe the historic significance of the people performing. “Awesome” or “the best” are too generic and popular to express the magic moments created on stage. Entertaining can’t cover the amount of skill on display, literally, at every minute. How about extraordinary? That’s getting close.
However, I’m going to have to go with Legend(wait for it)dary. It was simply a legendary experience to have, on display, the innovators of the blues in one place, playing together and free to do their best for the audience.
Eric Clapton has a rehabilitation centre in Antigua that is used to fight addiction. So every three years, he collects some of the best guitar players in the world to come and play for two nights back-to-back. This year Eric really pulled out some amazing acts. The average age on that stage was 60+ as the likes of Booker T, Buddy Guy, BB King, Robert Cray and Clapton himself brought you back to a time when the blues was evolving in to their only special types and how they influenced each other.
The show started with Clapton coming out on stage and doing some solo acoustic songs, most importantly tears in heaven as well as some other favourites. The next two days were a blur of entire bands playing with special guests. John Mayer & Kieth urban brought the house down with The Beatles “Don’t let me down”. With acts being combined together you are left in shock at the improvisation and jamming that went on.
My personal favourite moments:
Buddy Guy getting the crowd going with the help of a 14 year old blues prodigy going through every lick he can
Clapton tears in heaven & sunshine of your love
Gary Clark Jr. – fat blues/rock sound
BB King making fun of Clapton for being old
Robert Cray’s entire set
Booker T closing his set with Green Onions
It’s hard to place a con on the show. I can’t think of one moment where I was disappointed. Each evening was MC’d by the surviving blues brother, Dan Aykroyd. He did a great job building introductions and keeping the night rolling. The stage was an attraction in its own right. Think of those secret doors in a big mansion where you pull the book out of the bookcase and you flip to the other side on a turnstile (great description… I know). It was like that except the curtain would come down in the middle while the stage side was being played, the other side, behind the curtain would be setup for the next act. It really kept the night moving. Which lead to the biggest surprise of the night. Clapton while talking to the audience gives a subtle introduction followed by a big BAM! as the spot light his the name next to him, and it is none other than Keith Richards. Who breaks in to a couple of old blues favs for everyone. No stones tunes but everyone was cheering like mad.
The first night closes with the Allman Brothers Band and the last few songs with Clapton. You’d think Layla would have closed the night but no it seems like they played everything but however I left only wanting more and already couldn’t wait until tomorrow night. The second night ended exactly how you would have wanted. Fourteen legendary, up and coming, guitar heros all jamming together on stage. However, everyone kept pointing out the 14 year old boy and what an experience it must be for him to share the stage with some of the best guitar players in history.
My father and I both left saying we’d go to the next one no matter where it is. Clapton only puts on the crossroads guitar festival once every three years. And he is not getting younger, so here’s to a great show and a big thanks to Eric!
Honourable mention: While not at the festival, I saw an amazing guitar player last fall. When you have the time, youtube: Tommy Emmanuel.