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Reviewed by R. David Smola
f you have four and a half hours laying around and want to watch some real masters have fun with one of the Jedi Knights of the guitar, then Crossroads is for you. After an absolutely priceless introduction and truncated version of “Gloria” by Bill Murray (the event’s host), Sonny Landreth and his band rip off some blistering Louisiana-flavored blues in “Uberesso” (an instrumental) and “Hell At Home” (with Clapton). Landreth is amazing and his style and sound is unique. He can noodle with all these heroes, but he has a touch and feel all his own. That is just the beginning of this tremendous celebration of the blues.
This very diverse group of artists shares an absolute joy and love for making music, and that vibe permeates through each and every performance. Shots of Clapton and others backstage watching and enjoying all the other artists just reinforces the joyous nature of this event. There are big stars present, like Jeff Beck, Sheryl Crow, and Willie Nelson, but the inclusion of artists like jazz fusion legend John McLaughlin, blues immortals Hubert Sumlin and Johnny Winter, and the ageless wonder B.B. King really make this event special. Clapton gives them the richly deserved opportunity to play in front of a huge crowd. Each of them delivers the goods, especially King, who at 81 years old can still belt out a song vocally and has a feel for the guitar like no other.
The collaborative feel radiates throughout; Clapton plays a tune almost with everyone. Sheryl Crow joins Willie Nelson, Vince Gill, and Albert Lee for “On the Road Again.” Jimmy Vaughn joins the Robert Cray Band for “Dirty Work at the Crossroads.” Susan Tedeschi and the Derek Trucks Band rip out a great version of Junior Well’s “Little By Little.” Everybody and their uncle are onstage for the finale, “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Doyle Bramall II, accompanied by a bassist and two drummers, delivers a memorable cover of Blind Joe Reynolds’ “Little By Little,” and the double drum approach really adds to the texture of the song. Los Lobos delivers its own style of rollicking blues in “Don’t Worry Baby.” Jeff Beck’s two fusion-laced songs are breathtaking. Bass savant (and 22 year-old) Tal Wilkenfeld, Zappa graduate Vinnie Colaiuta on drums, and keyboardist Jason Rebello accompany Beck through (an instrumental version of) Stevie Wonder’s “’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” and Beck, Bozzio and Hymas’ “Big Block.” Those cuts made me wish that all of Beck’s set was included. By the way, as he gets older, he starts to look more and more like Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel (Beck was Christopher Guest’s inspiration in Tufnel’s creation).
Now, how much would you pay? Don’t answer that, because there is more, so much more. Robbie Robertson and Clapton offer up a tasty version of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” Steve Winwood and Clapton recreate some Blind Faith magic (worth the price of admission in itself), and Chicago’s Buddy Guy gets his moment in the sun (well moon, because he played at night). This was an incredible festival, and there are no duds here. What are you waiting for? Go get it now!