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Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010(2010)
The third Crossroads Guitar Festival hosted by Eric Clapton, in Chicago, features performances by a host of guitar legends.
For more about Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 and the Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray release, see the Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray Review
Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray Review
These are the real Guitar Heroes.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 15, 2010
Eric Clapton may indeed be (or at least at one point was) the nearest guitar playing equivalent to God, but his Crossroads Festivals have proven quite conclusively that he is not a jealous deity who insists he is the only divinely inspired practitioner of fiery licks and propulsively strummed rhythms. Clapton has held three Crossroads Festivals now (including this latest 2010 iteration held in Chicago earlier this year), ostensibly to benefit the non profit Crossroads treatment center for alcohol and drug addiction center in Antigua. But what these huge daylong jam sessions really turn out to be about is an incredible variety of guitar styles played by a number of iconic musicians, both young and old. This particular Crossroads documentary is interesting in that it contains some really informative and at times quite touching interstitial interview segments which delve into various genres of guitar rock like slide guitar and country. These little breaks from the music itself are in fact neither a distraction nor a hindrance, as they inform what comes after them, showing a clear passing of the torch from older generations to younger. After a nice set of establishing shots showing images as iconic as the guitar artists we're about to see—the Chicago skyline, the El, the gorgeous waterfront—we're whisked into the immense outdoor Toyota Park and yet another sort of silly introduction from Crossroads regular emcee Bill Murray, who brings out our host by informing the audience he's "Chicago's own Eric Clapton." And then the fun really begins.
I'll include a complete set list below the main body of this review (and it's quite an impressively long one, with virtually every main act featuring several notable guest stars), but what is remarkable about this Crossroads, as it was with the two previous outings, is the sheer variety of music which is presented. You might think this is just a Blues festival, given its host city and the leanings of some of its artists. But instead we're offered everything from the blistering Texas rock of ZZ Top, to the more refined pop-acoustic stylings of Sheryl Crow to some blistering trio work from John Mayer, to guitar summits between the likes of Clapton, Jeff Beck, Steve Winwood and, lest I forget, B.B. King. There's a completely relaxed ambience to this gargantuan concert, which evidently lasted close to 11 hours. As it stands, these two Blu-ray discs contain around five hours of incredible music. In fact there is so much here to enjoy that after just one time through it's well nigh impossible to pick out only a few highlights, but I'll endeavor to do my best.
Clapton's own guru, Sonny Landreth is the first guest, performing initially with Clapton in "Promise Land," but then turning in a finely wrought solo on his individual piece "Z. Rider." After a brief background interlude about slide guitar, Robert Randolph trots out his stuff on some finely burnished work. It's fun to hear Randoph's genre defying take on blues, which combines an almost Motown approach to Tex-Mex at times. Hubert Sumlin is on hand in the interview segments waxing nostalgic about Muddy Waters and how "it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that soul," and soul is firmly on display in Randolph's set. Doyle Bramhall II, who backed up Clapton for several years, takes the stage next and contributes some fine material, but is soon joined by Sheryl Crow, who takes things down a decibel or several with some nicely delicate pop-oriented tunes like "Long Road Home" and "Our Love is Fading."
Clapton's eclecticism peeks out on his guest list with the nice contribution of Pentagle's Bert Jansch, whose acoustic work on "Blackwaterside" is one of the highlights of the first disc. If Jansch's singing voice isn't quite what it used to be, his guitar chops are still commanding. We then get a brief voiceover about Mississippi Blues, and indeed the next song is "Mississippi Blues" by the unusual duo of Stefan Grossman and Keb' Mo', who stick around for another song and then join none other than Vince Gill on an inviting Country set which includes Vince and Sheryl trading lead vocals on one of Clapton's own signature tunes "Lay Down Sally." That eclecticism continues full force with jazz guitarist Earl Klugh, who actually sneaks on stage during the previous segment. Klugh does a beautiful acoustic solo called "Angelina," and then a nice combo pice called "Vonetta." It's lovely and challenging fare, but truth be told it doesn't seem to fire this rock-loving audience up the way the other acts do. The first disc comes to a close with a really fine set by John Mayer, who delivers a blisteringly effective "Ain't No Sunshine" to impart a finale to the first two-plus hours of concretizing.
Disc Two offers its own set of delights, starting off with the Bonnie Raitt-esque Susan Tedeschi. Greg Allman was actually supposed to appear at this Crossroads, but as Bill Murray announces, he had just finally managed to get a long needed liver transplant, and so wasn't able to make it. His blues-inflected rock, and his penchant for two drummers, is firmly on display, though, throughout much of this section of the concert. Los Lobos' David Hidalgo joins several others, including Tedeschi, for a fun set of tunes, including an OK reading of "Space Captain," which really could have used a more outstanding keyboard solo than it gets. (If you want to hear a completely unexpectedly great interpretation of this fantastic tune, check out Barbra Streisand's version with the all woman rock band Fanny. You'll be pleasantly surprised).
Buddy Guy takes the stage next, sharing it with the Stones' Ron Wood and youngster Jonny Lang. Their disco-inflected version of "Miss You" is a highlight, especially when Lang insists he doesn't know the words. Next up is Jeff Beck, who contributes one of the odder selections of the evening, Puccini's "Nessun Dorma." Clapton himself finally takes the stage for the final segment, and gets off to a rambunctious start with "Crossroads." He segues through a number of songs with his guests Beck and Winwood, including a strangely wonderful "I Shot the Sheriff" with some quasi-operatic backup vocals from his two female singers. Finally B.B. King is brought onstage to finish up with a host of luminaries accompanying him on "The Thrill is Gone."
The good news is, as long as Clapton continues to host these fantastic Crossroads summit meetings (and he's promised there will be at least one more), the thrill is never gone. This is incredibly visceral music played brilliantly, and this two disc set captures it all (or at least a lot of it) with excellent coverage and, best of all, a really superior recording.
The complete set list (minus interstitials and Murray intros) is:
1. Promise Land — Sonny Landreth with Eric Clapton
2. 'Z. Rider — Sonny Landreth
3. Traveling Shoes - Robert Randolph & The Family Band
4. Going Down — Pino Daniele, Joe Bonamassa, Robert Randolph & The Family Band
5. Killing Floor - Robert Cray with Jimmie Vaughan & Hubert Sumlin
6. Six Strings Down - Jimmie Vaughan with Robert Cray & Hubert Sumlin
7. Waiting For The Bus - ZZ Top
8. Jesus Just Left Chicago — ZZ Top
9. Gypsy Blood — Doyle Bramhall
10. ln My Time Of Dying (Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed) — Doyle Bramhall ll
11. Bright Lights - Gary Clark Jr
12. Long Road Home - Sheryl Crow with Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Doyle Bramhall ll & Gary Clark Jr
13. Our Love ls Fading - Sheryl Crow with Eric Clapton, Doyle Bramhall Il & Gary Clark Jr
14. Blackwaterside - Bert Jansch
15. Mississippi Blues - Stefan Grossman & Keb' Mo'
16. Roll And Tumble Blues - Stefan Grossman & Keb' Mo'
17. One More Last Chance - Vince Gill with Keb' Mo', James Burton, Earl Klugh & Albert Lee
18. Mystery Train — Vince Gill with James Burton, Albert Lee, Keb' Mo' & Earl Klugh
19. Lay Down Sally — Vince Gill with Sheryl Crow, Keb' Mo', Albert Lee, James Burton & Earl Klugh
20. Angelina — Earl Klugh
21. Vonetta - Earl Klugh
22. Who Did You Think l Was - John Mayer Trio
23. Ain't No Sunshine — John Mayer
1. Midnight in Harlem – Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band
2. Coming Home — Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band with Warren Haynes
3. SouIshine—Warren Haynes
4. Don't Keep Me Wondering - David Hidalgo & Cesar Rosas with Derek Trucks
5. Space Captain - Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi Band with Warren Haynes, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas & Chris Stainton
6. Five Long Years- Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang & Ronnie Wood
7. Miss You — Buddy Guy with Jonny Lang & Ronnie Wood
8. Hammerhead – Jeff Beck
9. Nessun Dorma - Jeff Beck
10. Crossroads; Eric Clapton
11. Hands Of The Saints — Citizen Cope & Eric Clapton
12. I Shot The Sheriff - Eric Clapton
13. Shake Your Money Maker — Eric Clapton & Jeff Beck
14. Had To Cry Today — Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton
15. Voodoo Chile — Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood
16. Dear Mr. Fantasy - Steve Winwood & Eric Clapton
17. The Thrill Is Gone – B.B. King & Ensemble
Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray, Video Quality
Crossroads 2010 arrives on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded image in full 1080p and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, and the results are for the most part spectacular. For the most part. There are some annoying artifacts that crop up occasionally in this presentation. In the early framing sequence following a guitarist around various cityscapes of Chicago, you'll notice pretty bad shimmer on a brick-lined alleyway. Later, in the concert itself, there's an odd sort of mirror thing up above the singers' heads which is evidently reflecting a nearby skyscraper, but the distortion on the reflection dissolves occasionally into moire. If you can get past that (and frankly it's pretty easy to), this is a wonderfully clear and sharp presentation that has abundant fine detail. In fact, is that an errant bug caught in a ZZ Top beard? Colors are really well saturated and look pretty much spot on, even under some fairly poor lighting choices, like a ubiquitous and kind of ugly green gel used in the stage lighting. Close-ups are often spectacularly sharp, where every nuance of fingering can be made out easily and more subtle detail like fine blonde arm hair is completely visible. The concert lasts several hours, changing from bright daylight to moonlight, and the Blu-ray handles the changing light tones beautifully. In fact, contrast and black levels are both superb throughout this multi-hour extravaganza.
Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Both of the lossless audio options provided on Crossroads 2010, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and an LPCM 2.0, are outstanding, though I opted for the 5.1 other than a spotcheck of the stereo folddown. The 5.1 mix is really robust, and I mean really robust, especially on the floorboard rattling low end. On riff driven pieces especially (think ZZ Top and the like) this is a rip-roaring track that delivers incredible low end while maintaining a very pleasing and crystal clear midrange and high end. But what really struck me about this track was its clarity through the vast differences of instruments and styles. While it certainly had not one iota of distortion in the over the top rock moments, when things quieted down for Crow and Mayer, it was just as nuanced, bringing out every ringing tone of the guitars. Things never get brittle here, and indeed the high end, while clear, is never painfully bright. This is a really well modulated piece, with excellent ambience and nice surround activity. Crowd noises, while always present, never overwhelm the music. The music itself is brilliantly recorded and expertly mixed, with no balance issues whatsoever to report.
Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements are offered on either disc.
Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2010 Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Maybe we're just getting inundated with fantastic music titles as the holiday season approaches, but I for one am not complaining. A couple of weeks ago we had the fantastic Time-Life Rock Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concerts, and now we have this amazing offering from Clapton, "with a little help from his friends." While there are a very few video artifacts to report here, otherwise this is a stellar set that any rock fan is sure to enjoy. Very highly recommended.
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