The stars came out for a great cause as Eric Clapton presented his sixth Guitar Festival to benefit the Crossroads Center in Antigua. The always late-arriving Dallas fans didn’t realize it would start on time and came running to their seats in the American Airlines Centre as the celebrity show began with a video from Clapton about the centre. It was followed by a hilarious video by Bill Murray depicting the character that the host would play all weekend.
The people who arrived early gathered to talk about previous concerts of some of the multitude of guitar masters, while others spoke of not knowing a few of the international artists who they would soon see and like. Everyone had a favorite performer they came to see and no one would be disappointed at the end of the night or weekend.
Murray, as legendary promoter Richie Lanz, came through the crowd and introduced Louisiana legend Sonny Landreth for a five-song set. His finger-picking style and slide guitar ignited the crowd as his trio played rocking blues and Zydeco blues. The cameras honed in on the intricate strokes that Lambeth made look so easy and fans could see that clearly on the three screens around the stage.
In a massive understatement, Richie Lanz introduced “a guy and his friends” as Eric Clapton came onstage to play five songs. His effortless playing caused screams as the slow blues songs on acoustic were a crowd-pleaser. The emotion he still shows on “Tears In Heaven” brought a standing ovation, as did the singalong “You Look Wonderful Tonight.” The crowd stayed standing as he finished with a rocking acoustic version of “Lay Down Sally” as The Master ended his set.
While changing sets, Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo came to a side stage to play a blues song. Bonnie, one of the premiere slide players ever, proved that with premium sounds on the slow song. Keb Mo showed why he’s a top draw all over the world. Malia Clapton then talked about www.turnupforrecovery.com and its grassroots campaign to put on gigs in every community to help Crossroads.
Most of the older people didn’t know Citizen Cope when he started, but they did by the time he finished. His songs were a funky R&B blues mix with a heavy drum beat to back up his acoustic guitar. Gary Clark, Jr., a favorite Texas son and blues-master, added his soulful spin on the blues to the last two songs before turning it into rock and roll to finish the short set. A video played onscreen to introduce the audience to Argentinian Gustavo Santaolalla, who appeared on the side stage with his acoustic guitar and was accompanied by an electric guitar, violin and stand-up bass. With his finger-picking style, he led a Latin beat of songs he wrote for movie soundtracks, including one for Clapton. He finished with some Latino rock and roll and earned a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd.
Lanz then introduced Sheryl Crow, who came out to a huge round of applause as the crowd stood. “If It Makes You Happy” turned into a singalong and Doyle Bramhall II joined her for a jam session ending of “Steve McQueen.” Bonnie Raitt then joined with her infamous slide guitar play for “Livewire” as the fans danced. James Bay then joined the fun for a raucous version of “Everyday Is A Winding Road” and the loudest applause yet for her set.
Guitar prodigy Pedro Martins and Daniel Santiago appeared on a side stage for a short set of instrumentals and Brazilian jazz. Again, the crowd was amazed at the international talent that most had never heard play before. Martins then joined Kurt Rosenwinkel for his set of jazz, both slow and upbeat. The rhythm section for this group also shined to make this a beautiful set. Music veterans Albert Lee and James Burton began their short time with “That’s Alright Mama” and their guitar licks were enhanced by the upright bass. Their last song of Rockabilly turned into a jam and was again well-received by the knowledgeable crowd of music lovers.
Richie Lanz then stated, “We need a guitar player from Texas,” led the crowd in “Deep In The Heart Of Texas,” and then brought out Jimmie Vaughan and his Tilt-A-Whirl Band to roaring applause. They were clicking on all cylinders to the funky boogie blues with the hot horn section and then raised the bar when Bonnie Raitt joined the band. The two stars played well off each other and no one thought it could get any better until he introduced Billy Gibbons and the crowd drowned out the stage for “Sharp Dressed Man.” Fans were either dancing or taking pictures of this union of boogie masters, then jumped higher and took more pictures at the first notes of “La Grange” before the well-earned standing ovation.
On a side stage, Bramhall and Clark, Jr., came out for a single song, but it was a good one. “Rock Me All Night Long” continued the mood and set up The Marcus King Band for their quintet of hellacious rock songs. The crowd was moving and grooving when he added lots of distortion to “I Just Want To Make Love To You.” In a side-eye to everyone who can’t keep a beat properly, he added, “Join me in clapping on the 2 and 4 here” and at least the musicians caught the meaning. The thunderous applause turned into a standing ovation for this powerhouse group.
Lanz brought out Sheryl Crow again who was modeling the T-shirt she bought at her first concert at age 13 at the Mid-South Coliseum in 1976 with Peter Frampton (side note, I was also there) to auction off. After a few non-PC remarks that made the non-PC crowd laugh, they brought out the legendary Peter Frampton. The kick-ass version of “Georgia On My Mind” was mind-blowing, then it got better. Playing the guitar he just got back after it being lost for 30 years, he rocked the entire arena with “Do You Feel Like I Do” complete with him having fun on the talk box. In a case of music history, he stated that although they had been friends, they had never played together and out walked Clapton for a duet on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” They soloed, they played together and they played off each other for several minutes that seemed like seconds.
Only one man had the chops to follow that and out came the incredible Jeff Beck. A standing O in appreciation of all his work preceded an instrumental where he made musical sounds that other guitarists just can’t. With drums, bass and a symphonic cellist, Beck played instrumentals with an unbelievable tone. The Greatest continued to highlight as Johnny Depp showed up on stage. With generous use of the whammy bar to generate different sounds, his English Blues sound made dancers dance and screamers scream. A frenetic speed on the fret and vocals from the great Jimmy Hall from Wet Willie turned “Superstition” into a jam session that rocked the house.
The night finished with a generous guitar solo on “Little Wing” that was more than most could handle. All of these musical greats shared their time and talent to help their friend Eric Clapton with donations to the Crossroads Centre. They played 56 songs that enthralled the crowd from start to finish. It was a night to remember for any music fan and there was still another night to go. Stay tuned for Part Two!
LIVE IMAGES: JOE GUZMAN/GUZPIX
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS