Decades of graffiti have proclaimed "Clapton is God," but he may end up being canonized as a saint due to his founding of and continued work for Crossroads, a major rehab facility located in the lush setting of Antigua (hey, if you're going to go into rehab, you might as well enjoy yourself, as much as possible). This 2007 Chicago (actually Bridgeview) concert was put together and hosted by Clapton in order to both bring greater awareness to recovery issues (he's obviously an expert in the subject, having battled drug and alcohol addiction for most of his adult life) and to raise money for Crossroads, with the concert revenues and resultant DVD sales both benefiting the center. Clapton's legendary status helped compile an amazing list of artists for this event, including such disparate acts as Sonny Landreth, John McLaughlin, Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, B.B. King, Vince Gill, Albert Lee, Willie Nelson, John Mayer, Los Lobos, Jeff Beck, Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood, and Buddy Guy. If one can't quite endorse performer Sheryl Crow's introductory statement that "this is the most important music of all time," there's certainly no denying that for rock and blues aficionados, this 2 DVD set is going to provide literally hours of stellar entertainment.
The concert begins with some lightweight and pretty gratuitous joking from Bill Murray, who introduces Clapton, who in turn quickly passes the torch to Sonny Landreth, who plays a fiery "Uberesso" before quieting things down (a little, anyway) in a duet with Clapton on "Hell at Home." John McLaughlin of Mahavishnu fame brings his incredible dexterity to the stage next with the peaceful "Maharina," one of the jazzier tunes of the concert. Doyle Bramhall's set has more of a swamp-Boogie feel, with lots of wah-wah. The Derek Trucks band accompanies the next several artists, including Susan Tedeschi, who sounds like a rawer version of Bonnie Raitt, and Johnny Winter, who does a nice version of Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited," even channeling Bob's unique vocal "stylings" for the tune. Robert Randolph rocks the house with his great pedal steel work on "Nobodysoul," followed by Robert Cray's fantastic group performing by itself and with Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, and, most impressively, B.B. King, who glides effortlessly through "Paying the Cost to be the Boss" and "Rock Me Baby." The concert then takes a seeming right turn when country star Vince Gill takes the stage and acquits himself quite nicely on a great shuffle "Sweet Thing" with punchy brass, followed by a unique duet between Gill and Albert Lee on "Country Boy," which has a little of the manic energy of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown." Sheryl Crow then joins them and slows thing down for a soulful "If It Makes You Happy," followed by a boogie-wonderlandish "Tulsa Time." The first DVD wraps up (at well over two hours) with Willie Nelson performing "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and his trademark "On the Road Again."
DVD 2 starts with baby-faced John Mayer proving that Clapton's influence is continuing on for another generation (though Mayer dedicates his set to B.B. King), as Mayer fairly rips into his guitar on the blistering "Belief" and more mellow "Gravity." Los Lobos bring their usual exuberance to "Don't Worry Baby" and "Mas Y Mas," showing that the blues know no cultural or political borderlines. If time travel were possible, George Harrison may well have been thinking of Jeff Beck's eloquent, almost human voice sounding, guitar work on "Cause We've Ended as Lovers" when he wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Beck's young female bassist Tal Wilkenfeld also contributes an impressive solo. Beck ramps up the energy quotient next with "Big Block," which serves as a fitting introduction for Clapton, who finally takes the stage to perform "Tell the Truth," "Isn't It a Pity," and "Little Queen of Spades," before joining Robbie Robertson and Steve Winwood in a series of impressive duets, highlighted by Winwood's "Can't Find My Way Home." Blues legend Buddy Guy then closes out this second half with "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Damn Right I've Got the Blues," before he is joined by Clapton, Cray, Mayer, Sumlin, Vaughan and Winter for an apt concert closer, "Sweet Home Chicago," a rockin' tour-de-force with some superb soloing.
Overview: This 2 DVD set provides such a surfeit of pleasures in so many different genres and grooves that it's hard to absorb it all on the first, or even the second or third, viewing. Clapton is to be commended not only for his good works with regard to his substance abuse center, but for bringing so much good music to our ears.