Title: Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2013
HTS Overall Score:69
Eric Clapton requires little introduction. His fame and place in history as one of most important and talented guitarists of all time is inarguably well deserved. Throughout his glorified career Clapton has embraced roots, blues, and rock on his way to becoming the only musician inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three different times. He’s the stuff of legend and after 40 years of several band and solo ventures, he’s still going strong. It hasn’t been all roses though. There’s a dark side to Clapton’s decades long career: a battle with addictions to heroine and alcohol. Despite some tough years, Clapton beat those addictions. In 1998, almost 11 years after establishing his own sobriety, he opened the Crossroads Centre on the island of Antigua to provide rehab care to some of the poorest people of the Caribbean. He provided initial funding for the centre by auctioning one hundred of his own guitars (for a profit of nearly $5 million dollars). Several years later (2004) he gathered some of the world’s greatest guitarists to participate in the first Crossroads Guitar Festival. The festival was reunited in 2007, again in 2010, and now in 2013; each one benefiting the Crossroads Centre.
The 2013 iteration of the Crossroads Guitar Festival took place several months ago at the “World’s Most Famous Arena,” New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was a gathering of both iconic guitarists and a few up and comers (including some teenage talent) and a raucous celebration of blues, roots, country and rock. The festival was captured on film and produced into an epic two disc Blu-ray set spanning over four hours in length. The discs contain more than music; interview snippets peppered throughout the release elevate the performances and Clapton’s image to great heights. Artists gush about Clapton’s down-to-earth demeanor and his remarkable ability to work the neck of a guitar, while providing insights about their careers and how they arrived to be included in Clapton’s stable of guitar heros. Visually, the gritty feel of the festival is established from the get-go with shots of New York’s Manhattan skyline, lazy side streets, and other uniquely random images of buildings and urban features.
The disc set, itself, is rather limited. The menus have simple Play, Song, and Audio (which allows viewers to select between 2.0 Stereo and 5.1 Surround) selections. There are no official extras or special features included. However, as mentioned, the concert is tastefully interrupted by interviews of artists and interesting behind the scenes shots of roadies tuning guitars, the giant rotating stage being prepped for a new act, stage hands getting on service elevators, and stars of the show being interviewed and photographed by the press. All of these behind the scenes peeks are integrated into the presentation and paired with audio matching what you would assume you would hear in those locations: distant and echoey sounds of the crowd and guitars being played. This sets the mood and helps to a establish a feeling of being there, but it also helps to strip away the mystery of the show’s production by making the artists seem more real and less star-like. Great stuff.
Variety is the name of the game when it comes to Crossroads 2013. As you’ll see in the set list (included at the end of this review), the festival’s vibe draws from multiple genres with heavy emphasis on the blues. The interplay and improvisation between artists is absolutely masterful. Of course the magic doesn’t (and shouldn’t) begin until the event’s organizer, Clapton, pleases an adoring crowd with a few of his classics. The first song on Disc One belongs to Clapton, solo, and he delivers a rendition of “Tears in Heaven” that doesn’t disappoint. He’s then joined by Andy Fairweather Low for Low’s “Spider Jiving” and Vince Gill for a pace quickening version of “Lay Down Sally.” With Clapton removed from the stage, the other stars of the show get a chance to jam and impress. Booker T. and Steve Cropper ignite the night with the hammond organ rich “Time is Tight.” Later, Booker T. with Steve Cropper, Keb Mo , Blake Mills, Matt Guitar Murphy & Albert Lee lead a bluesy song called “Green Onion” that turns into a full-blown jam in which the musicians enjoyably strut their stuff. Other notable performances include BB King, Citizen Cope, John Mayer, Keith Urban, and the Allman Brothers Band. The youthful Gary Clark Jr, however, steals the first act with a mesmerizing and bass pounding performance of “Next Door Neighbor Blues” in which he single handedly plays a high-hat, kick drum, and resonator guitar while belting the blues. This moment is nearly out done by a jaw dropping guitar solo thrown down by 14 year old Quinn Sullivan during a song with the confidently flamboyant Buddy Guy. The excited expression painted on Buddy Guy’s face as Sullivan works his axe speaks volumes.
Disc two picks-up with the second day of the festival. More images of New York and shots within Madison Square Garden paired with ambient city sounds and an improv bluesy guitar solo re-establish the gritty urban edge of the festival. Several artists have particularly fine moments on Disc Two. Greg Allman, Derek Trucks, and Warren Haynes stir the crowd with the lonely and haunting sound of “The Needle and the Damage Done,” followed by an acoustic rendition of Midnight Rider that is simply fantastic. Later in the set Keith Urban delivers loads of energy on “Tumbling Dice,” Gary Clark, Jr. re-emerges to lay down a hard hitting performance of “When My Train Pulls In,” and Keb’ Mo’ and Taj Mahal rollout some wonderfully soulful acoustic blues. Clapton eventually comes back on stage to play a few more classics and is met with roaring applause. The show ends with an ensemble (every guest with guitar in hand) rendition of “High Time We Went” that culminates in a sonic blast of strumming harmony.
Both days of the festival provide us with 55 songs spanning over an epic 250 minutes. The camera work is excellent, with a great mixture of angles and close-ups of the artists’ fingers strumming, feet tapping, and facial expressions that help to enhance the energy of the music. At times the camera is a bit jiggly, but not to a point of annoyance. Overall, the production value of the two disc set is extremely high. Fans of Clapton and his gang of fellow guitarists will revel in festival’s presentation.
- Tears In Heaven - Eric Clapton
- Spider Jiving - Eric Clapton with Andy Fairweather Low
- Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton with Vince Gill
- Time Is Tight - Booker T. with Steve Cropper
- Born Under A Bad Sign - Booker T. with Steve Cropper, Keb Mo , Blake Mills, Matt Guitar Murphy & Albert Lee
- Green Onions - Booker T. with Steve Cropper, Keb Mo , Blake Mills, Matt Guitar Murphy & Albert Lee
- Great Big Old House - The Robert Cray Band
- Everyday I Have The Blues - The Robert Cray Band with B.B. King, Eric Clapton & Jimmie Vaughan
- Next Of Kindred Spirit - Sonny Landreth
- Cry - Doyle Bramhall II with Alice Smith
- Bullet And A Target - Doyle Bramhall II with Citizen Cope
- She’s Alright - Doyle Bramhall II with Gary Clark Jr.
- This Time - Earl Klugh
- Mirabella - Earl Klugh
- Heavenly Bodies - Kurt Rosenwinkel
- Big Road Blues - Kurt Rosenwinkel with Eric Clapton
- Next Door Neighbor Blues - Gary Clark Jr.
- Queen Of California - John Mayer
- Don’t Let Me Down John Mayer with Keith Urban
- Right, I ve Got The Blues - Buddy Guy with Robert Randolph & Quinn Sullivan
- Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad - The Allman Brothers Band with Eric Clapton
- Whipping Post - The Allman Brothers Band
- Congo Square - Sonny Landreth with Derek Trucks
- Change It - John Mayer with Doyle Bramhall II
- Ooh-Ooh-Ooh - Jimmie Vaughan
- Save The Last Dance For Me - Blake Mills with Derek Trucks
- I Got To Let You Know - Los Lobos with Robert Cray
- Don’t Worry Baby - Los Lobos
- The Needle And The Damage Done - Allman, Haynes, Trucks
- Midnight Rider - Allman, Haynes, Trucks
- I Ain’t Living Long Like This - Vince Gill with Albert Lee
- Tumbling Dice Vince Gill with Keith Urban & Albert Lee
- Walkin Blues - Taj Mahal with Keb Mo
- Diving Duck Blues - Taj Mahal with Keb Mo
- When My Train Pulls In - Gary Clark Jr.
- Please Come Home - Gary Clark Jr.
- Going Down - Jeff Beck with Beth Hart
- Mná Na Héireann - Jeff Beck
- Key To The Highway Eric Clapton with Keith Richards
- I Shall Be Released - Eric Clapton with Robbie Robertson
- Gin House Blues - Andy Fairweather Low with Eric Clapton
- Got To Get Better In A Little While - Eric Clapton
- Crossroads - Eric Clapton
- Sunshine Of Your Love - Eric Clapton
- High Time We Went - Ensemble
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/CEC3.png[/img]Rhino Entertainment’s 1.78:1 MPEG-4 AVC transfer of Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2013 leaves a lot to be desired. Many of the images – especially darker images – presented throughout the festival are full of noise, in many cases it’s borderline distracting. While not always evident, its presence wreaks of poor quality. Adding to the issue is the intermittent presence of faint white banding and soft white flickers in dark colors (approaching black) and the dark shadows behind the artists. These issues are more apparent on Disc One but do appear on Disc Two. Images taken from interviews of the artists are devoid of any issues. Shadow detail is typically quite excellent; crush is not an issue. Underneath the picture’s shortcomings is a fairly detailed high definition image.
It’s surprising that Crossroads suffers from poor image quality, especially considering it’s audio prowess and the level of spectacular high definition transfers that we’ve all become accustomed to viewing. The lack of a crisp image diminishes any kind of “feeling like you’re there” experience and is a hard knock on the overall quality of the release. The noise and banding issues aren’t visible on hi-res pictures of the event, so they aren’t evident in images you’ll see in this review.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//CEC4.jpg[/img]Crossroads features a beautifully tight DTS-HD MA 5.1 sound presentation that is simply delicious. It's a precision recording that is dynamic and rich. Every instrument on stage is reproduced with depth, clarity, and accuracy – one doesn’t over shadow another. The music simply pours through the front three channels creating an extremely wide and lively soundstage. Crowd noise and the arena echos from the stage appear in the rear channels for an enveloping and intimate effect. Bass is on full display with numerous songs that feature a throbbing bass guitar or a pounding kick drum. Many tracks produce bass that can be felt pulsing through the room, never loose and extremely tight.
There are some other nuances, such as the subtle ambient sounds of New York City (a collective rushing sound, car horns, distant sirens, birds, a passing jet), that are very pleasing and well executed. In all, Crossroads delivers an audio experience that is sure to please fans of the artists and collectors looking for a reference recording of the event.
No Extras included
Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2013 is a fantastic musical release. The cross section of musical legends that appear and collaborate on stage is almost unimaginable. The result is an enormous burst of energy that both hardcore and casual fans will undoubtedly appreciate. The double disc Blu-ray release has a high production value that effectively captures the festival’s vibe. The audio quality is simply off the charts; highs are crisp and lows are tight and gut punching. Every instrument and the intricate nuances of their sound are captured in near perfect fashion. The downfall of the release is its video transfer. The picture quality is wrought with with noise, banding, and a faint white flickering in many of the darker parts of images. Rhino Music has a gem on its hands that is slightly tarnished because of these video issues; our overall score certainly isn't indicative of the quality of music contained on the discs. Hopefully most music fans will gladly ignore the video issues and grant themselves access to one extraordinary event.
Starring: Eric Clapton, John Mayer, The Alman Brothers Band, BB King, Keith Urban, Citizen Cope, Keith Richards
Directed by: Marty Atkins
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, LPCM 2.0
Studio: Rhino Music
Runtime: 250 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 19, 2013
Buy Crossroads: Eric Clapton Guitar Festival 2013 on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It