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Chicago Blues - Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival Concert - Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine Article - history and non-fiction

Chicago Blues - Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival Concert

by Lisa Mallen

The thrill was not gone. The thrill was there and it was there in a huge, huge way. In fact, it was so big that by the end, as concert goers exited Chicago's Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL, many said it was a once in a lifetime experience they would never, ever forget. Some wondered if it compared to Woodstock, while others who had been to Woodstock, said it surpassed it. I came with childlike wonder - only having seen Buddy Guy and Steve Winwood (separately) in concerts and recently Derek Trucks at Buddy Guy's Legends. I left mesmerized, having seen so many incredibly talented and famous musicians at one time. It was mind boggling.

Saturday, July 28 began with cloudy skies, a gentle breeze and approximately 28,000 multi-generational people entering the sold out venue with invigorating anticipation. They had come to see and hear the ultimate Eric Clapton collaboration of 22 musicians and friends. The roster of artists spanned the old and new. They included Sonny Landreth, John McLaughlin, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Doyle Bramhall II, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter, Robert Randolph, Robert Cray, Hubert Sumlin, B.B. King, Jimmie Vaughan, John Mayer, Albert Lee, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Willie Nelson, Los Lobos, Jeff Beck, Robbie Robertson, Steve Winwood, Buddy Guy and of course the all mighty Eric Clapton.

The rock, country and blues musicians came to perform for the benefit of Eric Clapton's Crossroads Centre in Anitigua, a treatment and education facility founded by Clapton for chemically dependent persons. Since its inception, Clapton's vision for the Crossroads Guitar Festival has been to create an event where his friends and contemporaries can have fun and jam together for a good cause.

Comedian Bill Murray was a perfect host for the 11 hour festival. He wasn't What About Bob - He was all about Eric. Murray donned costume after costume of vintage Eric Clapton looks through the decades of his musical career. Opening the event, Murray made the predictions that "This is gonna be the greatest day in the history of Bridgeview" and that "The Cubs will win the World Series." He then said, "This is the only song I can play on guitar" and began playing and singing Van Morrison's "Gloria." He was quickly bailed out by Eric Clapton, who was definitely enjoying the funny man's antics himself.

As the sun came came out, Clapton thanked the concertgoers for coming and hinted that there could be one more Crossroads in the future. (The first Crossroads Guitar Festival, in June 2004 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, was an unprecedented collection of guitar icons from blues, rock and contemporary music. The sold out show was chronicled in a 2-disc DVD that has since gone on to become one of the world's top selling music DVD's, recently achieving the 8x platinum mark in the U.S. alone.) Clapton then introduced slide guitarist Sonny Landreth. He joined Landreth for a rousing duet of Jerry Lee Lewis's "Hell at Home."

Next came leading jazz fusion guitarist John McLaughlin and his quartet who began with a blues instrumental followed by the fusion jazz scales for which he is known.

Specializing in modern bluegrass, fiddle player Alison Krauss and Union Station - a five piece acoustic band, performed an enticing "Far Side Bank of Jordan" then closed with Bad Company's "Oh, Atlanta."

Texas bluesman and part time member of Eric Clapton's band, Doyle Bramhall II thanked Clapton for the event then performed his set with great technique.

Bill Murray introduced the Derek Trucks band as an "American success story." Trucks was joined by his wife, guitarist and singer Susan Tedeschi. They flew through a riveting Junior Wells' "Little by Little," and then an outstanding number with Mike Mattison on Derek and the Dominoes "Anyday."

Looking frail, a black hatted Johnny Winter joined Trucks and Tedeschi as the trio were on fire as they blazed through Bob Dylan's "Highway 61." They were amazing together.

Next was Robert Randolph and The Family Band. He said, "This is for love, for freedom, for Crossroads. We're all here to support a great cause." His fingers were like magic as they slid effortlessly across his pedal steel guitar. And the crowd loved it.

Smooth blues man Robert Cray mixed some soul into his set and also performed the protest song "Twenty." Cray then brought on Jimmie Vaughan, brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and they performed a little rock and roll blues, before Hubert Sumlin strolled onto the stage. Looking dapper in his black fedora, Sumlin paid tribute to the late Howlin' Wolf with "Killing Fields" and "Sitting on Top of the World."

B.B. King was the next to appear on stage with Cray, Vaughan, and Sumlin. The master musician thrilled the jubilant audience as he talked to his guitar, Lucille, and then filled the stadium with "Rock Me Baby." Prior to performing "The Thrill is Gone" King raised a cup of water and praised Eric Clapton, who was standing in the wings. Full of emotion and genuine sincerity, he said, "Here's a toast to the boss. . . I've been to more than 90 countries. I've met kings and queens, but I've never met a more gracious man, than my friend Eric Clapton. And I say to all of you, may I live forever, but may you live forever and a day. When they lay me out to rest, may the last voices I hear by yours."

Bill Murray took the stage dressed as an old rock star with a British accent to introduce John Mayer. He said, "How can this big haired guy from Greenwich, CT have the blues? Well, I met this man last night and let me tell you the guy is miserable." Mayer performed his hit "Waiting for the World To Change" and then said, "Every note that's coming out of my guitar today is dedicated to B. B. King." He cut loose with Ray Charles "I Don't Need no Doctor."

Wearing a cowboy hat Murray came back on stage and said, "Oh, enough of the blues. Let's turn this into a NASCAR moment and welcome Vince Gill." He was great and his horn section added flair to his set. Albert Lee joined Gill with some rockabilly before Gill introduced Sheryl Crow. She cut loose with "If It Makes You Happy." A couple songs later Crow was joined by Clapton for the Don Williams hit "Tulsa Time." Willie Nelson was next to join Vince Gill with his signature tunes "Funny How Time Slips Away," "Crazy," and "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."

Nelson told the crowd "It's a pleasure to be here with all these great pickers." Then Sheryl Crow joined the gifted Nelson for "On The Road Again."

Next up as afternoon became evening was the famed Los Lobos rock and roll band. They combined a four song set that included and assortment of blues, rock, Mexican folk and R & B.

I kept wondering how the concert could get any better. But, it did. Jeff Beck was incredible. Looking like a 70's British rock star, with his rooster hair and vest, he seemed timeless. His brillliant guitar playing awed the audience. Beck's jazz fusion quartet included a very young female bassist, Tal Wilkenfeld, who was equally as amazing. Beck closed his set with an outstanding recreation of the Beatles "A Day in the Life."

With the setting sun, Bill Murray came out dressed in Cream era Clapton clothes and said, "As usual, the guy who's in charge saves the best set for himself. I mean, sunset in Bridgeview, come on!" Clapton performed several of his Derek and Dominos classics including "Key to the Highway," Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?" and "Tell the Truth." Along with his band members Doyle Bramhall and Derek Trucks backed Clapton up on their guitars. Clapton thanked the audience for coming and then said, "This is for someone who couldn't be here tonight, but I know he's here anyway," a touching tribute to George Harrison "Isn't It A Pity." Clapton was sensational. He did Robert Johnson's "Little Queen of Spades" and then former Band guitarist Robbie Robertson joined Clapton for a rare concert appearance. Together they honored Bo Didley's "Who Do You Love?" followed by "Further On Up The Road." And still I wondered, how can it get any better than all that preceded up to this point. Well it did.

Clapton said, "Now I'm going to bring on someone I've been dying to play with for the past 25 years and it's finally come to pass." Steve Winwood joined his former Blind Faith member at the organ and filled the stadium with that band's "Had To Cry Today," and "Presence of the Lord." He switched to the guitar, and did an incredible Traffic tune, "Dear Mr. Fantasy." Winwood was superior -singing, playing the organ and guitar. Clapton, Winwood and the band then did "Cocaine" and "Crossroads."

The very best was yet to come. It was like the cherry on the ice cream sundae. Bill Murray came out on stage wearing a Blues Brothers T-shirt to introduce Buddy Guy. He said, "As my friend Joliet Jake once said, buy as many albums as you can. Well, we're in pretty sad shape tonight, aren't we? I think it's time to turn it over to the local authorities. The water tower and pumping station of the city of Chicago, Mr. Buddy Guy."

As everybody knows, to watch Buddy Guy perform is a real treat. He is one of the most entertaining musicians of our time and a thrill to see and hear every time. His classic arrangement and first tune, "Mary Had A Little Lamb," is one of my favorites. He then went right into "Damn Right I've Got The Blues," his classic Grammy award winning song. Guy took took to the mic and said, "Can I get Mr. Eric Clapton to come out? I want to say that we got to thank Eric . . for what a wonderful job this man has done. It's all about helping somebody." A very happy Clapton came back out and together they entertained the concert goers with Muddy Waters' "Hoochie Coochie Man." Then John Mayer, Robert Cray, Johnny Winters, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin joined Buddy and Eric for "Sweet Home Chicago." The finale was Muddy Water's "She's Nineteen Years Old." Chicagoland (Bridgeview) was more than sweet that day. It was delicious.

According to Billboard magazine, Eric Clapton's second Crossroads Guitar Festival will be "immortalized" on DVD Nov. 20th via Rhino. The double - DVD set features 38 tracks from the July 28, 2007 show with performances by all of the above musicians named in this article. Among the highlights of "Crossroads" are former Blind Faith pals Clapton and Winwood's first onstage collaboration in 25 years. The DVD showcases some of the world's best guitarists jamming together. It also includes a rare live appearance from the Band's Robbie Robertson with Clapton on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love." The DVD ends with Buddy Guy's "Sweet Home Chicago" featuring Clapton, Robert Cray, John Mayer, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmie Vaughan and Johnny Winter. The four hour - double DVD - showcases the wide range of musicians from blues, jazz. rock to country. If you weren't there, this is something you won't want to miss seeing and hearing. And if you were there, you can relive it again, and again and again. I'm still in awe just thinking about what I experienced that spectacular day in July.

DVD Track Listing:

DVD Track Listing
Disc 1
Introduction – Bill Murray

Uberesso – Sonny Landreth

Hell At Home – Sonny Landreth with Eric Clapton

Maharina – John McLaughlin

Rosie – Doyle Bramhall II

Outside Woman Blues – Doyle Bramhall II

Little By Little – Susan Tedeschi with The Derek Trucks Band

Anyday – The Derek Trucks Band

Highway 61 Revisited - Johnny Winter with The Derek Trucks Band

Nobodysoul – Robert Randolph & The Family Band

Poor Johnny – The Robert Cray Band

Dirty Work At The Crossroads – Jimmie Vaughan with The Robert Cray Band

Sitting On Top Of The World - Hubert Sumlin with The Robert Cray Band & Jimmie Vaughan

Paying The Cost To Be The Boss – B.B. King with The Robert Cray Band with Jimmie Vaughan & Hubert Sumlin

Rock Me Baby - B.B. King with The Robert Cray Band with Jimmie Vaughan & Hubert Sumlin

Sweet Thing – Vince Gill

Country Boy – Albert Lee with Vince Gill

If It Makes You Happy - Sheryl Crow with Vince Gill & Albert Lee

Tulsa Time - Sheryl Crow with Eric Clapton, Vince Gill & Albert Lee

Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain - Willie Nelson with Vince Gill & Albert Lee

On the Road Again - Willie Nelson with Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill & Albert Lee

Disc 2
Belief – John Mayer

Gravity – John Mayer

Don’t Worry Baby – Los Lobos

Mas y Mas – Los Lobos

Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers – Jeff Beck

Big Block – Jeff Beck

Tell the Truth – Eric Clapton

Isn’t It A Pity – Eric Clapton

Little Queen of Spades – Eric Clapton

Who Do You Love – Robbie Robertson with Eric Clapton

Presence Of The Lord – Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton

Can't Find My Way Home – Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton

Had To Cry Today – Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton

Dear Mr. Fantasy – Steve Winwood

Crossroads – Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood

Mary Had A Little Lamb – Buddy Guy

Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues – Buddy Guy

Sweet Home Chicago – Buddy Guy with Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, John Mayer, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmie Vaughan & Johnny Winter

Jeff Beck

Doyle Bramhall II

Eric Clapton

Sheryl Crow

Robert Cray

Vince Gill

Buddy Guy

BB King

Alison Krauss and Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas

Sonny Landreth

Albert Lee

Los Lobos

John Mayer

John McLaughlin

Willie Nelson

Robert Randolph and the Family Band

Robbie Robertson

Hubert Sumlin

The Derek Trucks Band

Jimmie Vaughan

Johnny Winter

Steve Winwood

...and Bill Murray

Elton the Elf

Elton the elf is lost, and has to travel through a year full of holidays before finding his way home. From piglets celebrating Valentine's Day to raccoons decked out for Halloween (no masks needed), Elton travels by taxi, scooter and a host of other vehicles before finally arriving at the North Pole (on skis), just in time to help Santa load the sleigh. Decked out in whimsical, bright-as-a-button acrylics, this tale sports a jolly premise just right for preschoolers (2-6) to learn about the holidays.

*Winner 3rd prize 2001 Alcuin Society Award for Excellence in Book Design, Children’s Category

Stine-Tingling Tales

I've freelanced for 3 newspapers, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, The North Hills News Record also in Pittsburgh, and The Naperville Sun in Naperville, IL.

This particular article was written for The Naperville Sun when scary children's author R.L. Stine made a visit to Anderson's Book Shop in Naperville.