Clapton’s Crossroads Festival (review)

Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 documentary (review)

Film captures the highlights of a killer concert with an all star cast

Star-studded benefit concerts don’t always work.  For one, raising money often takes precedence over musical integrity.  Second, musicians almost never have time to actually practice for an event like this.  As a result, these type of concerts quickly fall into one giant jam session – fun for the musicians, but often a snore-fest for the audience.

That’s what makes Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 such a delight – it’s one helluva good show.  Sure, there’s plenty of Clapton, but he also gives ample spotlight to an amazing array of artists.  He and Vince Gill turn in a chugging version of “Lay Down Sally,” while Keith Richards joins him for a ragged “Key to the Highway.”  Both Keith Urban and John Mayer get to show off their fret chops, as solo acts, and especially for their duet, the Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down.”  Robert Cray looks like he stepped out of the “Smoking Gun” video from 1986, as he’s backed by the highly-underrated Los Lobos for “Just Got to Know.”

Buddy Guy burns up a ferocious “Damn Right I Got the Blues,” even sharing the stage with 14-year old prodigy Quinn Sullivan, who not surprisingly looks a little overwhelmed by all the legends on stage.

The real highlight were the Allman Brothers, who opened with the hypnotic “Don’t Want You No More / It’s Not My Cross to Bear,” with Gregg Allman still in fine growl, before inviting Clapton back to the stage for a spine-chilling “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad” (originally played alongside Duane Allman in Derek & the Dominos).  Later, the trio of Allman, Derek Trucks & Warren Haynes did stunning takes of “The Needle & the Damage Done” and “Midnight Rider.”

Clapton, himself, unearthed another Derek & the Dominos gem, “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” before the show closer, a searing “Sunshine of Your Love,” featuring fantastic guitar & vocals from Doyle Bramhall II.

The much-hyped Gary Clark Jr was probably the biggest disappointment – not bad, just not living up to his billing.  With a glutton of stellar guitarists, Clark just didn’t have the chops to stand toe to toe with the others.  Great voice, and marks for passion, but his guitar playing was noisy and lacked technique.

Another thing that elevated the documentary was the fantastic camera work – often zooming in on hands on the fretboard or feet stomping on a pedal, it gave you a rare, up close view of the music from the stage.

Keep an eye out for this when it comes out on DVD.  –Tony Peters