Most people were convinced that nothing could match Friday’s Crossroads Guitar Festival at American Airlines Center. Most people were wrong. In this case, it turned out great that they were. Bill Murray continued his character of Richie Lanz and introduced Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Randolph, sitting in front of the pedal steel, cut loose with hot licks on some rockin’ blues to start his six-song set. The band engaged the crowd on every song, whether a ballad, gospel blues or an upbeat rocker. His playing style on the lap steel and slide guitar with his left hand inverted earned them a standing ovation to begin the second day.
Fan favorite Doyle Bramhall came out next and the left-hander proceeded to rock. Bill Murray sang and played guitar, along with Jim Keltner, and the blues turned into rock when Derek Trucks and the horn section from his band blew off the roof. The standing ovation continued when Susan Tedeschi and the rest of Trucks’ band joined in and her beautiful voice was like gasoline on a fire. People were dancing in the aisles as the venue exploded with great vibes. The jazzy beat by Tom Minch on a side stage while the roadies changed out the rotating main stages fascinated the audience and really perked up when John Mayer joined the group. Mayer, vastly underrated as a guitarist, provided an excellent addition to the four-song set.
Introduced as perhaps the greatest percussionist in the world, Pedrito Martinez from Cuba got the crowd hopping with a Latin beat. Eric Clapton joined his band of horns and keyboards while Martinez was a blur playing the congas on his much-too-short setlist. A lot of distortion on guitar was a glaring contrast to the soulful voice of James Bay. The crowd jumped as an easy beat turned into rock and roll, especially with the British Blues twist on “Proud Mary.” His stage presence pulled in the crowd and his retro feel was uncommon for such a young performer. He and his tight band made the most of their four songs and earned many more admirers along the way.
A set by Los Lobos would have been great by itself, but Susan Tedeschi and Clapton joined them to form a supergroup for the first song. After that, the band played old school country rock and Spanish rock that got the ladies up and dancing away. Guitars, keys, drums and horns made this a rocking set that received a well-deserved standing ovation from the appreciative audience. Blues master Keb’ Mo’ was out next and played his finger-picking style alone on the acoustic guitar. The extended notes on his blues beat got the crowd clapping and joining in the fun. Wearing the slide on his little finger, he produced great tones that added so much to the lyrics on his easy-listening songs. His blues songs prompted the fans to stand and cheer.
The R&B Rock by Robert Cray kept the audience moving and grooving. An Al Green influence on one song and a hint of a reggae beat on another added to the rockers he played. A laid-back blues turned into a slow jam before a funky rocker ended his time with a standing O after a strong jam session by his band.
The crowd roared when Buddy Guy came out joined by Jonny Lang. Cameras came out to record the blues legend and he didn’t disappoint. The “oldest man on the show” showed why he has been considered a great entertainer. The self-proclaimed dirty old man sang “the woman I love is big and fat” and the fans ate it up. Buddy and Jonny have been touring together for several years and the pair complement each other as well as any duo. Their time on stage was over much too soon. John Mayer, who began his career as a blues artist, played the side stage for two outstanding songs. A slow love song made the ladies swoon before Mayer played a lyrical number on acoustic. It turned into a thumb-picking, fast-fretting solo that made the fans cheer and want more.
The fans gave the 12-piece Tedeschi Trucks Band thunderous applause as soon as they were announced. Susan Tedeschi was in great voice and the tight band thrilled the cheering crowd. Trucks nailed slide solos and led extended jams, especially in their tribute to BB King. Everyone in the band shined as the two drummers pounded a hard beat to lead the way. Susan’s angelic voice and stage presence combined with Derek’s virtuoso finger picking again excited the crowd who replied in kind with love and adoration for the unbelievable performance.
On a side stage, Lianne La Havas soloed three songs with her electric guitar. Fans responded well to her beautiful voice in “I Say A Little Prayer For You.” She pulled in the audience when she taught them the refrain for a song and turned her last song into a singalong. Lanz came out and said there weren’t enough Lone Stars playing and introduced the well-dressed Gary Clark, Jr. Playing hard notes to go along with a hard drum backbeat was a hot start to his set. The incredible talent was a speed on the fret at times and very laid back at other times. The crowd sang along as he put a funky twist on “Come Together” to close his portion of the show.
Representing country music was Vince Gill as cameras came out to record the newest member of THE EAGLES. He sang some Merle Haggard, then brought out Bradley Walker, a paraplegic who sang “Tulsa Time” and a bluegrass song. Albert Lee came out to sing some rockabilly and the crowd roared when Joe Walsh came onstage to sing “Rocky Mountain Way” and “Life In the Fast Lane.” As always, Joe Walsh thrilled the fans by simply being Joe Walsh.
To end the night and the Crossroads Festival, Clapton brought out a cake as the crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Bill Murray. Every camera was on Clapton while he sang “Pretending” with Bramhall on guitar. Playing hard and soft blues was so effortless to Clapton, which is why he is considered to be one of the best guitarists of all time. He continued with “Badge” and then John Mayer joined in the fun for “Layla.” It turned into an extended jam with everyone shining on solos to end the set.
The fans weren’t about to let that be the end, so they cheered until the band came back for an encore. The crowd waved as Eric sang “Purple Rain” and then everyone came out for a 20-minute version of “High Time We Went.” All the stars got solos as the audience members jumped, danced and joined in on the singing to end the two-day event. It was a testament to Eric Clapton’s friendships over the years as so many superstars appeared with him to raise money for the Crossroads Centre. After several hours, the fans were spent with exhaustion. They raised a lot of money for a worthy cause and enjoyed every minute of one of the best concerts ever put on. It was a great weekend for everyone involved.
LIVE IMAGES: JOE GUZMAN/GUZPIX
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS