Stars Go Down to the Crossroads: We weren’t at the Crypto.com Arena on Saturday for the first night of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, but by all accounts it was a goodie. The likes of Albert Lee, Samantha Fish, Stephen Stills, ZZ Top and Clapton himself put on a show that fans were still raving about as they filed in on Sunday.
This was, in fact, the first time that this writer had attended the Crossroads Guitar Festival at all. Since 1999, Clapton has been hosting these events in various cities to raise funds for the Crossroads Centre, a drug treatment center in Antigua founded by Clapton. Does the great work totally wipe out some of the problematic stuff that he’s blurted out in the past? No, but a good cause is a good cause.
As was the case on the Saturday, comedian and actor Bill Murray was the presenter for the evening, and the whole thing kicked off with a gentle run through Cream classic “I’m So Glad” with Clapton.
The format from then on was pretty much: a band comes on, plays three songs and splits. To keep the show rolling, a full band with a big backline was generally followed by a more low key acoustic performance on the side stage, to allow for the changeover. Not always, but usually.
Pedal steel player Robert Randolph was a pleasant surprise for us. Passionate, skilled and lively, he and his band, joined by blues rocker Joe Bonamassa, were superb. Similarly, we had never heard Ben “son of Merle” Haggard before, but he’s certainly inherited his father’s gift for raw, rough and authentically lovely country.
Daniel Santiago & Pedro Martins wowed with some acoustic wizardry, and then jazz fusion man Kurt Rosenwinkel played a dreamy set with his band. Clapton joined him for the best song of his short set, which we think was called “Get On Up and Dance.”
Keb’Mo’ played a frankly hair raising blues set that only got better when he was joined by the iconic Taj Mahal.
Things got really lively when South Carolina man Marcus King took to the stage, hootin’ and hollerin’ and, more importantly, playing beautifully and getting everyone off of their arena seats. He was followed by recent Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Sheryl Crow, who played a handful of hits and was joined by John Mayer at one point.
Citizen Cope put in a heartfelt performance, and then HER pretty much stole the whole night. She did something very similar with her short set at a Global Citizen event at the Greek Theatre a couple of years ago, and she did it again at Crossroads.
She’s such a joy to watch. Her brilliance with her instrument, her frankly beautiful voice, her natural charisma, her great tunes — “Prince” is a big name to mention, but he’s honestly the first person that springs to mind while watching HER.
She was clearly moved when performing with her dad on “Comfortable,” as was he. John Mayer also returned to the stage for that one. “The Journey” was her best song, and she ended with a cover of Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” Perfect!
Bluegrass musicians and singers Molly Tuttle and Sierra Hull dazzled with their guitar and mandolin skills, and stunningly emotive voices. And then local boys Los Lobos played seven wild, rocking’ tunes that opened with “Mas Y Mas,” and ended with a riotous “La Bamba.”
Carlos Santana received a hero’s welcome, despite some ignorant recent transphobic statements. But he rattled through the hits, including his cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Black Magic Woman” and the Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues,” joined by Clapton for both.
Of course, Clapton himself had to close the show and he rattled through the hits including “Layla” and “Tears in Heaven.” Stephen Stills joined him for “Love the One You’re With,” and the legendary Stevie Wonder got up for Robert Jonson’s “Crossroad Blues,” which Clapton popularized with Cream.
And with that, it was all over for another year. We went home with HER’s voice still ringing in our ears.
Visit crossroadsguitarfestival.com for more info.
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