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Eric Clapton: Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010

Doug Collette By

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Eric Clapton

Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010

Rhino

2010

The latest in a series of festivals created, in part, to gather funds to subsidize the rehab center guitarist Eric Clapton founded in 2004, Crossroads 2010 may not have had the longest roster or the most varied list of participants, but most of the performers who appeared are presented to maximum effect in this package .

The setlist, as featured in order on the two DVDs, is creatively composed to allow for the juxtaposition of Sonny Landreth's idiosyncratic slide work just moments removed from the exquisite technique of British folk artist Bert Jansch, who in turn gives way to the equally understated Earl Kugh. Those two folk and jazz oriented players are in stark contrast to the rough and ready approach of ZZ Top, whose dirty boogie helps the group transcend the caricature that afflicted it at the height of its commercial popularity.

Then there is Jeff Beck and his primal but polished jazz-rock fusion, so expertly and (seemingly) spontaneously rendered it gives the lie to the leader's casual manner. Clapton's playing during the course of the show varies in both ingenuity and intensity. Given his admiration for Landreth,and the blues-derived likes of "Promise Land," it may only stand to reason Clapton plays with a raw intensity matching his guest there. A similar dynamic arises when Clapton shares the stage with Beck as they play "Shake Your Moneymaker," but to lesser extent: Clapton seems to be more than willing to defer to the other ex-member of Yardbirds both as a gesture of respect and also because he knows he literally can't outplay him.

The appropriately rousing finale, sharing the stage with kindred spirit Steve Winwood, finds Clapton in a role perhaps more comfortable for him than fronting his own band alone, at least judging from the surprisingly tentative playing contained on "I Shot the Sheriff" and slightly less so on Robert Johnson's "Crossroads,." Allowing the former leader of Traffic to sing as well as play guitar and keyboards frees Clapton to channel all his intensity into his guitar playing, and nowhere else this day does he sound more passionate and inspired than on Blind Faith's "Had to Cry Today" and Jimi Hendrix' "Voodoo Chile" (the original recording of which found Winwood on Hammond organ with the late guitar icon).

The insertion of spoken word and interview segments such as those with bluesmasters Hubert Sumlin and Buddy Guy, as well as the younger generation including Derek Trucks, Gov't Mule/Allman Brother Warren Haynes and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, actually supports the pacing of the DVD. That said, it might have been worthwhile to include more extended conversations with the likes of those players and others as bonus features to this set (or perhaps given the technology at hand, providing access to such segments as they appear in abbreviated form in the liner sequence of the program).

With cameras roaming around Toyota Park's audience, the stage and behind it, it becomes simple to feel immersed in the experience as it happened that hot summer day in June 2010, especially as the sound quality of the recoding is as clear, clean and full as the video. But to fully appreciate as a bonafide resource, a complete list of personnel who played that day would aid those simply curious as well as those who want to pursue an interest in a newly (re)discovered artist.

There are, however, some inclusions on the artist roster that, while understandable, don't nurture the momentum of the show as it progresses. As Clapton's second guitarist for some years, it makes sense to see Doyle Bramhall II and his band, but he's simply not arresting to watch or listen to. Citizen Cope's abbreviated performance, obviously designed to appeal to a demographic younger than Clapton's (and most of the lineup) is lethargic and lacking direction even with Clapton beside him. And, likewise, Sheryl Crow's appearances, by herself and during her other sit-ins, adds marquee value in excess of musical memorability.

In fact, Crow pales in comparison to Susan Tedeschi fronting her band with Trucks, an act getting some deserved exposure not to mention a humorous and heartfelt introduction from emcee of the day, Bill Murray. It is is one of the most honest presentations of the day and not just because, as relatively unknown as they are, they have no hits with which to please the crowd: "Midnight in Harlem" is an exquisite piece of playing and singing pure and simple. Haynes' solo performance of his signature song, "Soulshine," no doubt cements an impression of him with an audience otherwise not wholly cognizant of his membership in The Allman Brothers Band (which was scheduled to appear here but cancelled due to Gregg Allman's liver transplant). But he's better represented as he adds guitar and vocals to the Delaney & Bonnie tune Eric Clapton recorded with them, "Comin' Home."

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