Every three years for nine years now, Eric Clapton has hosted the Crossroads Guitar Festival. This year it consisted of nine and a half hours over two nights at Madison Square Garden in New York. Needless to say, trying to give a complete summary of the events would be difficult, so we’ll just give you the highlights.
4/12/13 – First Night
The evening started out with a sit down acoustic session by Eric Clapton who started out with “Driftin’ Blues.” He was quickly joined on stage with his old band mate Any Fairweather Low. They reached back and played an energetic version of Andy’s 1974 solo release “Spider Jiving,” which was followed by “Tears In Heaven.” Then Vince Gill joined them on stage for the classics “Lay Down Sally” and “Wonderful Tonight.”
Next set had “Born Under a Bad Sign” where Booker T was joined by Matt Guitar Murphy, Albert Lee, Steve Cropper, Blake Mills, and finally Keb’ Mo’ who really tore into the guitar and belted out the lyrics with a real passion to the Albert King classic.
Robert Cray was up next and started off with two tracks from his latest release, Nothin’ But Love with the humorous “Side Dish” and “Great Big Old House.” Eventually he’d be joined on stage by B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Jimmie Vaughan. After a bunch of kidding from B.B. over everyone sitting down because he’s an old man, they lit up a superb version of “Everyday I Have the Blues.”
Doyle Bramhall II was up next and after a scorching version of “Green Light Girl,” he was joined on stage by Citizen Cope for his hit, “Bullet and Target,” and eventually Gary Clark Jr. stepped on stage for Cope’s “Son’s Gonna Rise.”
Between major sets they often used a couple of small side stages and had someone or a small group play together. One of these was Ernie Ball Play Crossroads winner Philip Sayce. He was all alone on stage with his Strat and only had time for one song. So he broke out the title track from his latest release, Steamroller. Alone on stage Philip did a bit of the lyrics and then proceeded to work his guitar over with an extended solo that showcased some serious fretboard skills.
Gary Clark Jr. also did one of the short side stage sets. The crowd was on their feet after Gary showcased his skill as he strummed an acoustic guitar and used his feet on a bass drum and hi hat. Gary played “Next Door Neighbor Blues” and “Don’t Owe You a Thing” from his 2012 debut album, Blak and Blu.
John Mayer and Keith Urban teamed up on the Beatles’ classic, “Don’t Let me Down.” Quinn Sullivan and Robert Randolph joined Buddy Guy on stage and the 14-year-old phenom Sullivan surprised everyone as he traded licks with the blues master.
The Allman Brothers capped the night off with visits from Los Lobos and Taj Mahal, and had the true highlight of their set when Clapton stepped out on stage and they played “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”
4/13/13 – Second Night
After Sonny Landreth and Derek Trucks opened the night trading licks on the slide guitar, Doyle Bramhall II sat down on one of the side stages with his acoustic and played the Hendrix classic, “Hear My Train A Comin’.” After that he was then joined on stage by John Mayer on a 12 string where Doyle dedicated to his late father the SRV classic, “Change It,” written by his father.
After Los Lobos we were again treated to an amazing side stage as Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes sat down and treated us to “Old Friend.” Then they brought out Gregg Allman and proceeded to play the Neil Young classic, “Needle and the Damage Done,” and “Midnight Rider.”
Gary Clark Jr. and his band then took the stage and took it to the crowd. His blend of blues, rock and Motown soul had the crowd on its feet. Gary created a wall of sound from his band and set the bar for the rest of the night. “When My Train Pulls In” and “Please Come Home” were followed by “Bright Lights,” which was the highlight of his set.
Jeff Beck raised the bar even higher when he brought out Beth Hart. Her powerful voice belted out the Freddie King classic recorded way back in 1972 by Jeff Beck, “Going Down.”
To end the evening and the festival, Eric and his band took over the stage with surprise guest Keith Richards. They did “Key to the Highway” and the Chuck Berry hit, “Sweet Little Rock and Roller.” Eric has the band down to only one other guitar player now. In the past it was Doyle Bramhall and Derek Trucks sharing the stage with Eric, allowing him to sit back a little and let them carry a lot of load. Tonight he only had Doyle and the two of them just pushed each other along. “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” “Crossroads,” and “Sunshine of Your Love” were the highlights of this set.
The night ended with the typical everyone on stage for the short solo over the final jam. Although not as disjointed as the 2010 festival final jam, this one was still filled with issues. Let’s face it, that many guitar players on stage at the same time is going to be a sound man’s nightmare. Many of the solos were difficult to hear as they scrambled to figure who was on what amp. At one point Gary Clark Jr. even had to switch amps by borrowing a cord so he could be heard.
Before the third festival in 2010, Eric said that was going to be the last one. Well, here we are in 2013 and we just had a fourth festival. Eric’s been hinting that at his age he might be ready to hang it up and stop touring, so when he made the comment that he’d see us again in three years the roof almost came off the place with cheers of excitement. Let’s all hope he holds to that comment.
– Kevin O’Rourke
*Photos by Kevin Mazur/WireImage