Eric Clapton's Guitar Festival 2007
" Crossroads 2007 "
Four Hours of Music Performed At The Highest Level
BluesWax Rating: 10

Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival 2007 was the benefit concert that took place in Chicago in July of 2007, and was quickly released in time for the Christmas buying season in November of that very same year. Similar to the previous 2004 Crossroads from Dallas, this concert's proceeds are to be designated towards Clapton's substance abuse rehab center in Antigua. Bottom line: Crossroads is a guitar-lovers delight that

offers a wide range of music, with outstanding guitar players and magnificent performances.

I thought it would be hard to top the 2004 Crossroads, but I am happy to report that this 2007 edition of guitar blasting at least rivals (and at times exceeds) the previous gathering. Throughout this outstanding DVD set the audio and video quality are top-shelf, plus the backstage conversations and goings-on gives this documentary a very personal feel and provides the viewer with a feeling of what it was like being backstage. All in all there is over four hours of footage on this delightful double-DVD package. There must have been some heavy decisions and edits to be made as the entire 2007 Crossroads program ran on for approximately eleven hours!

Bill Murray co-hosts the all-star extravaganza, which is at times hilarious and other times just goofy, but it wouldn't be Bill Murray if it wasn't like this. For example Murray started the show slinging a Stratocaster and struck the chords and sang the vocals of Van Morrison's "Gloria," which was pretty funny. But then Clapton joins Murray onstage and strums some very powerful chords, leaving a jaw-dropped Murray (and the crowd) mesmerized.

Highlights include Sonny Landreth, who performs one track with his backing unit and a second song where Clapton joins in and jams. The great John McLaughlin is allotted only one track, but he makes it a particularly strong and rocking statement on "Maharina."

Susan Tedeschi and the Derek Trucks Band cover Junior Wells and Mel London's "Little By Little." Tedeschi shows off some nice guitar chops, but is certainly not in the same league as her husband, but she makes up for it with her soulful vocal abilities. Up next is an amazing cover of Derek & The Dominos' "Anyday" (my favorite track on the DVD), which has a guitar-less Tedeschi staying on with the band and sharing vocals with the dynamic and rapidly improving Mike Mattison. It's also neat to observe the footage of Clapton during this performance, as he seems to be thoroughly enjoying the Dominos cover, as the band delivers and ignites on an outstanding version of this Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs classic. Trucks literally explodes with his solo to the delight of everyone on stage and in attendance. Johnny Winter then joins the Trucks unit covering Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited." Checkout Trucks who is obviously taking notes observing Johnny, as Winter slides across the frets on his Gibson Firebird.

Additional highlights include Hubert Sumlin and Jimmie Vaughan sitting in with the Robert Cray Band covering Howlin Wolf's "Sitting On Top Of The World," where Sumlin provides the vocals. B.B. King is up next and nails "Paying The Cost To Be The Boss." But before King launches into "Rock Me Baby," he takes a moment to pay homage to Clapton, which is truly heartfelt and meaningful segment. Next up and pleasantly surprising is Vince Gill who speeds along at breakneck speed on his guitar on "Sweet Thing." Gill is then joined by the great Albert Lee, who tears it up on "Country Boy." Sheryl Crow employs Gill & Lee on "If It Makes You Happy," where more pyrotechnics take place. Followed by a rousing version of "Tulsa Time" co-sung by Crow and Clapton, which is another guitar dream as Clapton, Lee, and Gill jam on mightily. Willie Nelson closes the first disc with "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" with Gill and Lee still working overtime, and "On The Road Again," with Crow returning, along with a tireless Vince Gill and Albert Lee.

John Mayer opens the second disc by proclaiming to the crowd "I just want everybody to know that every note that's coming out of my guitar today is dedicated to Mister B.B. King." Mayer performs "Belief" and "Gravity" from his current album, Continuum, showing a lot of guitar aficionados that at times he can be nearly as qualified as anyone who graced the Crossroads stage that day.

Los Lobos is up next and rips into "Don't Worry Baby," followed by a seemingly out of place "Mas Y Mas."

Jeff Beck was all smiles on an amazing version of "Cause We've Ended As Lovers." In between Beck's two songs Clapton makes comments about Beck's playing and describes Beck's style, "as pulling the guitar." How true! Beck was aided by a dynamite band that included the intense drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, Jason Rebello on keyboards (who could hear him?), and particularly adept lady bassist Tal Wilkenfeld. It's no wonder why Tal is one of the most sought after bass players out there today (she's made a believer of me) as Wilkenfeld is unbelievably talented and has that natural sensibility that typically takes players many years to acquire. Interestingly, Tal has a similar look about her that is reminiscent of the young lady on the original album cover of Blind Faith's lone LP.

Eric Clapton and his band followed Beck with a rocking "Tell the Truth," "Little Queen of Spades," and a dramatic version (written by his old buddy George Harrison) of "Isn't It a Pity" where Derek Trucks once again shows off his superlative slide playing. Robbie Robertson sat in with Clapton's band on Bo Didley's "Who Do You Love," which was not very memorable. Steve Winwood joins Clapton for their quasi-reunification of Blind Faith where "Presence of the Lord," "Can't Find My Way Home," and "Had To Cry Today" ensued, but by this time this set seemed somewhat anticlimactic. What faired better was a guitar-slinging Winwood on "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Clapton came back onstage with Winwood and they closed their set with the obvious, "Crossroads."

Buddy Guy had the honor of headliner as he wrapped up the night's festivities in really fine fashion with great renditions of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and "Damn Right I've Got The Blues." The evening appropriately concluded with Guy leading the way in the Windy City with "Sweet Home Chicago," where Clapton, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmie Vaughan, Johnny Winter, Derek Trucks, John Mayer, and a cast of thousands all joined in.

Don't forget to checkout the bonus tracks (which are just short snippets) from the Crossroads Village Stage, as there are some hot (uncredited in the liner notes) segments from Tab Benoit, Orianthi, Todd Wolfe, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, and one of my favorites, Harvey Mandel, plus others.

Guitar fans can now die and go to heaven after watching all of the incredible audio-video footage at Clapton's Crossroads 2007. I have to say that I hope that there will be many more of these Crossroads festivals in the not-too-distant future and that we don't have to wait another three years for the next event and video

Bob Putignano: