John's Ultimate Rock Concert Experience
I had the good fortune to go to Eric Clapton's 2nd "Crossroads Guitar Festival" and I decided to create this website to share the experience while it's still fresh in my mind.
This is going to take awhile, as it was a long day, so go get yourself a cold beverage.
I am 50 years old now. It's been around 10 years since my last concert, but back in the day, I went to a lot of shows. I think that ticket prices, middle age and children had a lot to do with my absence from rock shows over the last 20 years. When this opportunity came up, I knew it was a chance of a lifetime.
I am very fortunate to have several "best friends". First of all there is Carlo. We've been best friends since we were toddlers and remain very close. Then there is Dave, Kurt & Smitty. In Junior High and High school the four of us were inseparable. We've remained close even though we're spread out around the country, and now that we're hitting 50 we're going to convene on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon for a rafting trip this fall. To see my web page on this adventure, go to http://www.netexpress.net/~jkorn/grandcanyon/index.htm
Then I have my great friend Paul. We met while in Engineering school at the University of Iowa in the late 1970's. We discovered that we both liked technical stuff (Paul ran circles around me in Engineering classes) and both were musicians with very similar tastes. This is always exciting, when you meet someone like that and can share things that the other has not heard. I had only been playing guitar for about 3 or 4 years, whereas Paul started at an early age and was already playing really well.
Paul and I have stayed in touch since graduating in 1982. He has been more active with concerts than I have, treating himself to several big concerts each year.
I can't remember who called who but as the date for Crossroads tickets approached, we got in touch. I think it was partly inspired because Clapton was here (The Mark, Moline) last fall and Paul went but I didn't. We decided to go for it. Many good acts, 11 hours of live music, for $90. What's not to like?
Paul was vacationing with his family somewhere when tickets went on sale. The plan was for him to get the tickets because he's a member of every worthwhile fan club and is a veteran at getting difficult tickets. Disaster struck when the town he was in had some sort of internet blackout just prior to tickets going on sale. Undeterred, Paul quickly figured out where to drive to get on the internet and was able to get two tickets.
Preparing for this show was interesting. An outdoor show, from noon to 11 PM. Could be blisteringly hot in the day and cool at night. It could rain, too. As the show date approached, I kept checking the National Weather Service. Remember back in the old days when a weather forecast was something that might happen? Today, these guys are good. Anything within the next 72 hours or so, they are pretty good at nailing it. They were calling for high around 79 and partly cloudy, with a low temp around 62 Saturday night. Sounded good to me! I think it got a bit warmer in the sun but it was pretty accurate.
So Saturday, July 28 finally rolls around. Big day - in addition to this dream concert, it was Bix weekend and the big Bix 7 race goes through my neighborhood. (see http://www.bix7.com/2007/) My band, Identity Crisis, was booked to play from 11 to 1 at the Main Street Wells Fargo stage, our third year in a row participating. (see http://www.identitycrisisqca.com I hated to miss the gig, but we lined up a substitute piano player.) And to top it off, the Central High School Blue Devils baseball team was playing in the finals that night in Des Moines for the Iowa 4A championship. Big day indeed. (The Blue Devils lost to Urbandale - wah.)
I detoured around the race route and met Paul at a little after 8:00 am near I-74 in Bettendorf and we took my car and were on our way. We each had a backpack with the vital stuff - sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, binoculars, ponchos in case of rain, cameras, etc.
We listened to the Bix race on the radio until it ended and switched to Sirius radio. Paul wanted to take I-88 to 294 but I vetoed this in favor of I-80 to I-57. I knew that the venue was real close to Midway Airport and I had just driven there about 6 weeks ago. Also, I was behind the wheel. My plan worked - we arrived in the parking lot at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois at about 11:05 AM. There was a lot of excitement in the parking lot - awesome concert ahead of us, and it was looking to be a beautiful day. A number of people were tailgating with BBQ grills, etc. The park would not allow any food or drink to be brought in. They did let Paul bring in his bottle of water, but they insisted on taking away the cap!!! We still can't figure out exactly why a water bottle with the cap off is safe, but a cap on the bottle is a threat to mankind. We went through a brief security search, backpack check and we were in.
Toyota Park is deceptively large. It's a soccer stadium, so even though it looks like a football stadium, it's considerably larger. Here are Paul and John in separate photos right after we got in.
Our seats were to the left of Paul in the above photo, in the 6th row. It was a good spot to be because we had individual seats rather than benches and we had a good view of the whole stage. The bad part was that the live performers were pretty far away (looked like ants) but the good part was the Jumbo-Tron displays were really good and the sound was very balanced for us where we sat.
Before we went to our seats, though, we could hear music going on directly behind whoever was the photographer (get it? Not behind us in the photos above, but in the direction we were facing, outside of the stadium). We ventured down that way and found that they had set up a "Guitar Village". Pretty cool thing to check out before the show. The first thing we found was the stage where the music was coming from. See photo below:
The band was playing and after about 10 seconds I thought I knew who one of the players was. I spotted the guitarist on the right, perched on a chair, with a big Fu-Man-Chu mustache, and the playing style jumped right out at me. "Paul - I think that's Skunk Baxter there on the right, on the chair-stool". Paul smiled and said he thought I was right. A few minutes later, when they finished the song, the dude on the left in the purple shirt with the Telecaster introduced his band, and it was indeed Jeff "Skunk" Baxter. Skunk is one of Paul's and my favorite guitarists - he played on many early Steely Dan records and was with the Doobie Brothers for a long time. Skunk is the guy on the right with a black shirt, hat, yellow guitar strap, facing left and talking with an aging rock star in a green beret.
So that was a nice way to start the day - Skunk was not even on the list of people to be there. And he is a legend himself, one of the true greats.
Paul and I then ventured on down to the ground level where the festival had set up the "Guitar Village". They had displays from Gibson, Fender, and others. Guitar Center sponsored the whole thing - they had several kiosks with different guitars hanging up there. You could pick up any one of them and sit down with headphones on and play the guitar. It was all very cool and mellow and in spite of the buzz of excitement, people were very much behaving themselves.
I had heard on Sirius radio earlier in the week about some guitars that would be on display at this show. They only mentioned two but there were three:
1. Eric Clapton's Gibson ES335. This is a cherry-red 335 that Clapton used in his performances for much of his first 30 years of performing. They had a video of him performing in the earlier days, playing that guitar, running on top of the glass case in which was the hallowed instrument and original case. A placard below said that Guitar Center paid roughly $525,500 for the instrument. Photo of Paul with said instrument below. We looked closely at it - they must have really cleaned it up because on the front it looked beautiful, not like an axe with a lot of miles on it. I looked around back and could see a lot of wear on the surface where his belt buckle had worn away the finish. I suppose that they figured after paying more than half a million dollars for the guitar, they could clean it up a bit.
(Before I forget, Paul's shirt drew some comments from other fans who had been at the same festival in Memphis a few years earlier. I now wonder how hard it was for Paul to choose his shirt for this show - he must have a million-dollar collection.....)
Back to the glass-encased guitars:
2. They had "Lenny", the Strat with SRV emblazoned on it that Stevie Ray Vaughan played so much. I don't remember the price on this.
3. They had "Blackie", the black Strat that Clapton was photographed and filmed playing so many times, often with a burning cigarette tucked into the strings on the headstock. Paul told me that "Blackie" is a real abomination, and close examination confirmed that. A bolt-on neck, finish worn off in many places, missing even the cover for the springs in back. Still, this is the axe I remember seeing Clapton with the most. Here's the real kicker - this beat-up piece of junk which would not fetch more than $50 in a local pawn shop was purchased for about $950,000 by Guitar Center. Just goes to show you that you can take a great player with junker gear and still do great things. (I.e. if Tiger Woods and I traded golf bags, neither of our scores would change much. I also thought of the guitar that Willie Nelson plays. More about that later.)
So after viewing the legendary instruments which Nigel Tuffnel would tell us to not even look at, let alone touch, we went to a vendor tent to get a tee shirt. Nice shirts, $35. The lady selling them must have been on work release from Joliet or something. It wasn't even noon, and when you got up to the table she would bark out "WHAT'DYA NEED????" "I'd like a tee shirt, extra large, please." "THIRTY FIVE DOLLARS!!!!!" So we got our tee shirts and left. They had a really cool poster, but $85 seemed a bit much. We wondered how much more they might have sold with someone who didn't seem to be on the edge of killing everyone in line. Probably didn't matter. It's the south side of Chicago, and it's Saturday, and she's working.
This would be a good time to point out that Paul and I noticed as soon as we entered the park that it appeared that EVERYONE had a big cold glass of beer. This was at 11:00 AM. Mind you, this gig would go on until 11:00 PM. I started to think about all the wasted people I'd have to deal with later in the day and wondered about driving home in the midst of them. I like a cold beer or three, but on a hot day in the sun, alcohol is not a great idea.
OK, so we worked our way back through the masses of humanity, as Karen and I like to say, and towards our seats.
So far, other than the man I saw on the way in with his shirt off to show that his ENTIRE UPPER BODY was tattooed (his parents must be so proud), I didn't see the element of society that I was accustomed to from many years of concert-going. Back in the day, I was the odd man out - way too clean-cut and proper. The long-haired hippies and others who felt that they owned that sub-culture mocked and ridiculed me for being what I guessed was too "normal". Funny, because I don't remember laughing and pointing at them at the grocery store or at the mall, or at a business I would visit. Wait a minute - that's probably because I NEVER SAW PEOPLE like that other than at rock concerts!! I remember wondering, "where are all these people when they're not at rock concerts?" It's a little different with Harley Davidson people. It seems to be accepted that the Harley culture is a mixture of redneck good-ol-boys who scrape by and are happy as long as their hog is running, and doctors, attorneys and business owners who are as rich as can be but love to escape that life and put on a bandanna and ride a Harley. And of course there are those in-between. But anyway, 30 years ago I was the outcast. At this concert, it was 99% people like me. When people needed to have us stand up so that they could walk past to get to the aisle for beer, food, toilet, etc., they were polite. No confrontations, no issues, which was fortunate, because we had to stand up for people A LOT. Paul and I made new friends during the day and it was funny that many of the people around us were from Iowa - some from Cedar Rapids, which is where Paul lives and grew up, and a group from Des Moines. (We did see several aging hippies, including one gray-haired dancing woman we named "Tie-Dye".)
Shortly after reaching our seats, we learned of our first and immediate neighbors to the south (stageside), the female component of which was from Spencer, Iowa. She and her husband met at Iowa State, and now live in Chicago. When she learned that Paul and I were both Iowa Engineering grads, she mocked us for going there and bashed U of I endlessly. Her husband concurred. I think I remember back when I used to bash rival schools.
And then I turned 19.
This was still pretty early in the afternoon. We had just found our seats, and Ms. Iowa State, who at first was nice and friendly, was quickly turning into Ms. Drunk Obnoxious Idiot, and this was when the clock was approaching 12:30 PM. The first band was still playing. She didn't seem to notice that we were not engaging in the Iowa vs. ISU thing.
Then Ms. Iowa State said something which indicated that she assumed that Paul and I were a "couple" because we were there together. Paul laughed politely and said, No, we're both married with children, we're not gay. I winked and said, "Yes, but we're willing to learn!" (Bill Murray, Stripes, 1981, recruiter's office scene). Ms. ISU didn't get it.
The first band was Sonny Landreth. I had not heard of him, but a web search indicated that he's played with Michael Doucet, Jerry Douglas, John Hiatt, John Mayall, Dolly Parton, Muddy Waters, and Junior Wells. His group played really well, and they brought Clapton in to play a couple of songs. At this point it was just after noon, temps were mild, nice breeze, and we were in the shade of the east side of the pavilion.
About halfway through this set, Paul and I were thinking the same thing, that this woman directly to his left was going to become a real problem. She wanted to talk. She had obviously been hitting the sauce early and often, and she was obnoxious to boot. If this went on all day, it could really wreck an otherwise great situation. She was trying in her own way to be nice, but Paul and I were there to listen to the bands, not hear about her bartending career in Okoboji. So Paul, ever the strategist, "went to the binoculars". When he sensed that she would try to engage him in further mindless banter, he had the glasses firmly planted in his eye sockets, paused upon being questioned, and responded with "HUH???" and made her repeat her question.
This went on for five or ten minutes, during all of which I was praying for Paul to be spared from this atrocity. Ms. ISU left to go potty and thankfully did not spend any more time in her seat for the rest of the day. Instead, a very nice woman from Cedar Rapids sat there and only near the end of the day did she and Paul have a short and friendly conversation during a break. She and her boyfriend were very nice and Paul and I felt like we really lucked out.
Sonny Landreth finished up. Great power trio set, with Clapton helping out on a couple of songs. Very good players, and it left us wondering what was in store if this was the first of so many acts.
Billy Murray came out to introduce the second act. Bill had probably been there to introduce Sonny but we were still in the "Guitar Village". He is SO funny - I just love this guy - he pointed out that the next guitarist played on Miles Davis' album "Bitches Brew" (a true landmark album) and Paul and I knew he was introducing John McLaughlin. He went on to say that John had played for many years with the "Mahi-Mahi Orchestra" (referring to the Mavishnu Orchestra which McLaughlin is famous for).
McLaughlin played his set. It was pure electric jazz fusion - furiously fast and powerful. It was an interestingly poignant moment for Paul and for me, even though we didn't talk about it until the drive home. We were both thinking the same thing. McLaughlin was very much the same guy we remembered. Way back in 1983, my first year in Chicago, and Paul lived there too, in Schaumberg, we would get together every week or two, when we could. It was strange - not as far apart as back in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, but now it took way more effort to get together to play songs. In 1983, John McLaughlin had a hot LP out with Al DiMeola and Paco DeLucia, called "Friday Night In San Francisco". It was a live performance recording of the three of them playing acoustic guitars, and to this day it's a great standard for that kind of music. They recorded a second album together and did a tour to promote it. Paul and I saw their show in a big theater in the Loop. Steve Morse, of the Dixie Dregs, was the opening, solo acoustic act. Morse is a monster in his own right, and joined them after their killer, fantastic set. The whole concert was awesome, and having Morse be a part of it was icing on the cake.
Contributed photo by David Owen
One thing I remember, and I am a "flaming heterosexual", i.e. NOT GAY, is that John McLaughlin was such a strikingly handsome man, with his beret and big smile. At Crossroads 2007, it was fun to see the same man 25 years later, with longish gray hair - still terribly handsome and charming as an older man. And his guitar playing seems not to have suffered over the years.
McLaughlin's set , being the second of the day, was interesting. I could not help but wonder what it would be like for Eric Clapton and his team to choose 12 or so "master" guitarists - first of all, how could you weed out the other 30 or 40 who are REALLY GOOD and not hurt their feelings.....then when you select your top 12 or so, who goes first, second, third???? How hard would it be to know that you're one of the true masters of the field and have to go play when the place is less than one third full? (Paul and I were surprised by all the empty seats in the early afternoon....)
McLaughlin played, and he played brilliantly - it was a thrill for me and for Paul to see him play live. But I knew right away that his music would go right over the heads of 99% of the people in attendance. It was pure fusion, a direct link back to the late '70s era of electric fusion with Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Al Dimeola, etc. All the people McLaughlin played with back then would have probably said that he played even better at Crossroads. I just knew that very few fans would understand or appreciate it. Too bad - one of the really great masters of the instrument. Oh yeah - his drummer was none other than Vinnie Colaiuta, who played with The Mothers of Invention in the '80s and on albums including "Joe's Garage". In his autobiography, Frank Zappa cited a valuable trait for his band members to have, that being the innate ability to spontaneously sense what Frank wanted to do in the middle of a song and do it at precisely the right moment. Frank gave the "all-time best" award for this to Vinnie. I would imagine that that ability would work well when playing with John McLaughlin in his style of music.
This is a shot of the stadium from our seats:
Following McLaughlin was Doyle Bramhall II.
(Set changes went really fast - less than 10 minutes between bands. The stage was really two stages on a rotating platform, so while one band was playing, the next one was being set up on the other side.)
Doyle is part of Clapton's current touring band. He sat down and (he's a lefty), played with a power trio. Very nice electric rock and blues.
Billy Murray then introduced Derek Trucks. I've been aware of Mr. Trucks for some time, thanks to Sirius Radio. He's the son of Butch Trucks, one of the long-time drummers for the Allman Brothers Band. And the amazing thing is that Derek LOOKS like part of the Allman Brothers Band. Long blonde hair in a ponytail, plaid flannel shirt, low-key, monster player... Derek is a young man, probably about 25. He and Bramhall are a boost to our faith that the younguns will continue in the trade....
Derek played a couple of songs before bringing out his wife, Susan Tedeschi. Susan played at the River Roots Live in 2006 in Davenport, and was a big hit. She is a so-so guitarist, but a killer singer with a voice and style that reminds me of Bonnie Raitt. Susan added a great deal to Derek's set, and it was cool to see them working together as husband and wife.
It was especially cool to me to watch via the Jumbo-Tron the way that Derek interacts with his bandmates. He doesn't smile much - he's very intent on what he's doing, and he does not use a flat pick - it's a style I can only call "flying finger style" picking. It's amazing to me but he is 100% natural with it, and his playing is awesome. He also can indicate a song transition with the most subtle glance - his eyes move from the fretboard to a bandmate and the song changes. I wish I could do that.
Derek must be a busy young man - in addition to his own band, he plays in the Allman Brothers Band and Eric Clapton's touring band.
After Derek Trucks and Susan, Alison Krauss and Union Station had to follow them, although this was not a problem as AK and her band were fantastic. Billy Murray, in his introduction, said that Allison Krauss had the voice of "a songbird". So true - she has a pure, fantastic voice in the same category as Emmy Lou Harris and few others.... Allison Krauss played a great set and that was that.
I may be wrong but I think that the next group was Robert Randolph and the Family Band. I was SO cranked up to hear them, and they did not disappoint. The guy can really play the pedal steel guitar in a way I've never heard before. Clapton told him about 6 months ago, "Pursue your own style - whatever it is....". And that meant a lot to Randolph per a recent interview.
His set was good - he's a monster player - but he did not do "The Thrill Of It", which is a great song of his that I think he should have done.
Somewhere around this time the sun worked it's way from behind us, where the pavilion roof shaded us, to directly overhead. The clouds helped but when they parted for awhile, it got pretty hot. I applied lots of sunscreen and drank lots of water.
Next up was Robert Cray and his band. He was introduced by an older black woman who was introduced as a blues legend herself but I didn't catch her name. Cray looks and sounds just like he did 25 years ago. Cray did a song and brought out Albert Lee to join the band, and then added Jimmie Vaughan, then added Hubert Sumlin. See Jimmie below:
Contributed photo by David Owen
If you're not familiar with these three players, in this case Albert Lee is not a small town in southern Minnesota. Lee played with EmmyLou Harris' Hot Band and then with Eric Clapton for many years. Jimmie Vaughan is the brother of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the guitarist for the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Hubert Sumlin is around 80 years old and a life-long blues player. A nice surprise was when they brought Johnny Winter out to join them. Winter looked awful - he's had health issues and he remained seated, but he played and sang really well. He played "Highway 61". It was great to have him there, and the crowd loved it. Then Cray said, "It's time to bring out the King.....B.B. King!!" So The King held court, sitting down, playing a few songs including "The Thrill Is Gone". He made a number of jokes about his age (82) and heaped lavish praise onto Clapton who was onstage at the time. The crowd loved BB, and he loved them. And even at age 82, he still plays around 200 shows a year.
Contributed photo by David Owen
Cray's set ran for a long time. Following Cray was a guy not on the set list. I can't remember his name, but the reason he was there was he was the winner of Guitar Center's national contest to find a hot new guitar player. Sort of "American Idol" for guitarists, and this was his prize and hopefully for him, his big break. (My friend Alan Morrison, who is in my band, competed in this at the Davenport Guitar Center and made it to the second round. Alan should have gone on to the next round because he was way better than the other guys....). This contest was sponsored by Gibson. He was pretty good, and the audience was polite, but we could have done without his set. It was short.
A side note - this huge show was a testament to the popularity of the Fender Stratocaster. Almost all of the many guitars we saw during the day and night were Strats.
After the set change, a man came to the stage with a big white suit and a black and white Strat and spikey black hair. He looked just like Jeff Beck on the cover of "Wired", although that Strat is white. He began speaking in a thick English accent - "Many people think it's not possible for a lad like myself to come from England to America and learn to play the blues, but it is possible......it is possible....." It took about 30 seconds and a close camera shot to make me realize that it was Bill Murray. Hilarious. He spoke slowly and carefully as he introduced a young man from Connecticut - John Mayer.
Mayer, in his short time on the music scene, has done something rare. He has built an appeal to several groups of music fans. First it was the teeny-boppers who like his boyish good looks and his voice and his songs about young love. Next it was a broader group of listeners because of the depth of his songwriting. Most recently he has gone in a blues direction and we've come to see what a brilliant guitarist he is - he's really amazing. He opened with "Waiting On The World To Change". He only did three or four songs and did not bring any guests to the stage. I'm a big John Mayer fan and I'm glad I got to see him perform live.
Contributed photo by David Owen
Murray came out in cowboy attire to introduce Vince Gill. I was not too familiar with Gill, but Paul told me he's a fantastic guitar player, which turned out to be true. The beginning of Gill's set was the only major technical glitch of the show - no sound from the PA for about 30 seconds. Other than that and an occasional pop during Alison Krauss, the sound guys did a real good job. Gill's set also ran for a pretty long time. Gill's band was really good; great sound and a very good horn section. He included Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Krauss, and then played backup band for Willie Nelson. Willie looks and sounds the same as he did 30 years ago, which means he looked really old back then, too. He seemed great, sang really well, and had a great rapport with the audience, who gave him a huge ovation when he entered and when he left.
I alluded earlier to Nelson's guitar. I guess that a long time ago it became a part of his iconic personality and he now can't play anything else. Historically it's priceless while physically it's so bad that you could never sell it to even the most desperate pawn broker if it was just coming in off the street. It actually has a big oblong hole in the top board of the body, about where a pickguard should be, and it sounds as if the strings have never been changed. But, it's a major part of Willie's sound, and I must say I take my hat off to the guitar tech who is told to keep that thing playable. He did a few songs including "On The Road Again", which he asked Crow to join him in singing. It was getting late in the afternoon, the weather was getting even better, and the crowd loved all of it.
The next set was for me and for Paul also, the highlight of the day. In a big festival where you know they're going to have a lot of stars playing together at the end, you sort of expect that to be the big payoff, but this next set was one of the best performances I've ever seen.
Bill Murray introduced Jeff Beck, who came out to the stage quietly and gave a simple wave to the audience. He had a four-piece band - himself, bass, drums, and keys. The drummer was great, the keys guy was great. Beck's music requires a really tight, hot drummer, and this guy was it. The keys guy sounded very much like Jan Hammer, who played on "Wired" and "Blow By Blow" with Beck in the late '70s, or at least he sounded like Hammer when he needed to. The biggest stunner of all, though, was the bassist. She was a VERY CUTE LITTLE GIRL. I'm not kidding. By no stretch of the imagination could you call her a "woman" - she honestly looked like she was around 17 or 18 TOPS. And she played like Stanley Clarke. It was amazing, and she was having the time of her life. During the break after this set, everyone was talking about "THE GIRL".
Contributed photo by David Owen
The Beck group played a couple of their songs from the very popular albums mentioned above - "Led Boots" and the intro to "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" (Wired, Epic Records, 1976) and I think "Thelonius" (Blow By Blow, Epic Records, 1975). They also did some songs I didn't know, and one I'd never have expected. On "Blow By Blow", Beck covers Paul McCartney's song "She's A Woman" in a light funky style. In this concert, I think he surprised everyone by playing John Lennon's "A Day In The Life". The way they played it was so beautiful, soft, gentle, haunting.... that was the quietest that audience was all day. It was awesome.
Jeff must have a sense of humor. He had a big thing of talcum powder on his amp so that he could keep his hands and his strings dry. At the end of one song, he stepped towards the front of the stage, raised one arm up high and, with a mischievious grin, shook a bunch of talcum powder into his armpit.
Another friend who is on my email list (thank you, Greg....) sent this link with info about the child prodigy bassist....
New info, thanks to friends I sent this to.... Here is a link to MSN's offering of some samples from the concert, and this one is Beck's performance of "Angel", where you'll see the "way up there" slide work...
Look for the Beck song, but you can also see samples from the rest of the show.
Look at this if you can. This kid is really amazing......
Beck also did some things I've never seen before with his slide up on the strings, above the pickups. I didn't think it was possible to play that way.
At the end of Beck's set, he took off his Strat and held it high above his head to say thank you to the crowd, and then gently laid it down on the stage. His bandmates gathered 'round and the four of them had a group hug and then put their arms around each other and gave a big formal bow together. They left the stage to huge applause, not having uttered one word into a microphone the entire set. They were the only performers who completed a set this way. It reminded me of Weather Report, who would do an entire show without talking to the audience. Something about that made the show even more special.
After they left the stage, I looked at Paul and said, "I'm drained". He later told me that was the perfect description for how he felt at that moment. It was amazing and I'll never forget it.
By now we were getting into late afternoon / early evening. The sun graciously dipped behind the roof over the west stands, giving us blessed relief from a long afternoon of on and off sunshine and heat. I had been watching the shadow line work its way across the field towards us and had guessed it would hit us at 6:30, which I only missed by 10 minutes. It sure felt good when we were out of the sun again and a gentle breeze made it feel even better.
Murray came out to introduce the next act, which was Los Lobos, from East L.A. I have always loved this band - such energy, raw energy, and their recordings always sound like they're done really well on a simple system, i.e. not "over-produced". They just have a great sound. Lefty Cesar Rosas looked just the same as 20 years ago. Front man David Hidalgo has aged a bit of course and put on some weight but he's still a monster guitarist and his voice sounded better than ever. This is David in the photo below. They played a really great set and I was grateful for the chance to see them playing live for the first time.
Finally it was time for Eric Clapton's band to take the stage. I was in the concourse getting a Mai Tai, only because it was the only line that would take less than 15 minutes to get something. ($9 for a "Jumbo", which meant a 12 oz glass filled with as much ice as possible, then topped off with a mixture of Mai Tai mix and a dash of cheap rum) Paul told me that Bill Murray's introduction of Clapton's band was hilarious - he came out in an outfit to represent Clapton's psychedelic days in Cream - all tie-dye and big hair. And he said something to the effect of "How about this guy? He invites all of his friends to this big jamming party, and he saves the best set for himself!!!!!"
Clapton's touring band is fantastic. I heard a DJ on Sirius radio a few months ago say that Eric had recently watched a video of one of his performances from 1995 and that he was "shocked" to see how much his vocal and guitar skills had slipped. Well, Eric, you sure fooled me with the way you played at Crossroads 2007. His band and playing were the best I've seen (I've seen him play two other times over the years). It was really great. Doyle Bramhall II and Derek Trucks were with him (both played early in the day with their own groups) because they are part of Clapton's current touring band. It's easy to see why Eric includes them - both incredible young guitarists.
Contributed photo by David Owen
After doing three or four songs, Eric said he was going to bring out an old friend he'd been wanting to play with again for 25 years. I knew who this was because he had hinted a couple of weeks ago that he and Steve Winwood had some "unfinished business". Winwood joined them on the stage and they played a Blind Faith song, "In The Presence Of The Lord". Winwood played the Hammond B3 for this song, one of my favorites, and it was beautiful. I remember wondering how much rehearsal went into this. Back in the '70s, John Lennon and friends reunited for some gigs and never rehearsed, just talked on the plane about what songs they should do and wound up doing standards because they all knew them. I would love to know if Steve and Eric & band rehearsed or not. It sure sounded well-rehearsed. I've always thought of Winwood as a keyboard guy, but after "Presence" he went to the guitar and played "Dear Mr. Fantasy". He's equally talented on the guitar.
In addition to the photos you see here, I was able to shoot a few short choppy video clips with my camera. I hope you'll be able to see them by going to this link:
Eric's other guest with his band was Robbie Robertson of The Band. Like the rest of us, he looks a little different than he did 30 years ago, but the playing and singing have not changed. Robbie included Eric in "The Last Waltz" (MGM, 1978) so this was a nice turnabout.
Eric's set ended at around 10:10 PM. They said their thank yous and their farewells and they left the stage. The roadies started tearing down, and a LOT of people started to leave. Paul and I agreed that "It ain't over till it's over". Thank you, Yogi Berra.
We watched people leave, grateful that this would ease the funnel of outbound traffic when we left. After about 10 minutes, they rotated the stage and Billy Murray made his final introduction of the evening - Buddy Guy. Buddy is a Chicago icon, and we're guessing that this is why he was saved for last. He played a few songs and then said, "I never do nothing by myself", and brought out Eric Clapton and made a beautiful tribute to Clapton, the final one of the day. I may be wrong but I think Clapton was emotional and teary as this was going on.
Contributed photo by David Owen
Clapton's life has had it's share of ups and downs. Clearly born with God-given talent for music, he rose to stardom early and had so many problems with alcohol and drugs, which is why he started and supports the Crossroads Clinic in Antigua. Clapton has risen above it and continues to be a hard-working musician at an age where he could surely sit back and live on royalties. So God bless him and his energy to give back to the world as he has done for decades.
After Buddy brought Eric onto the stage with more accolades heaped upon him, they were joined by John Mayer, Jimmie Vaughan, Hubert Sumlin, Johnny Winter, Robert Cray, Doyle Bramhall II, and Derek Trucks. They played a couple of songs, ending with "Sweet Home, Chicago". Big group hugs, big waves to the crowd, and then it was over.
From left, Mayer, Cray, Winter (seated), Sumlin, Guy, Clapton, Randoph
Contributed photo by David Owen
Paul and I walked down to the field and across it to exit closer to my car in the west parking lot. As we walked across the beer-bottle-littered-field, I wondered aloud how many gallons of beer and how many tons of food were served during the day. Paul wondered aloud how many MORE concessions they could have sold had they been able to meet the demand. Et tu, I told him. Each time I went up to the concourse for something, I saw lines of people that turned me away. I wonder how many others chose to eat or drink later rather than stand in line and miss a whole set of music that they were waiting for. And I feel really badly for the people who are not like me. I am sort of a goat - I can go all day without eating. It's not very good for me, but I can do it. A lot of my friends and family have to eat within about 90 minutes of 8:00, noon and 6:00 pm or they go nuts. So people like them had to stand in line and miss a lot of music because they would not let you bring in food or drink, and the vendors in the aisles were pretty rare. The only solid food I had all day, other than an early breakfast, was a bag of Peanut M&Ms. I did not want to miss Los Lobos' whole set just to get a pulled pork sandwich.
My early concern about the all-day beer drinkers turned out to be unfounded. Yeah, some people got drunk but I didn't see anyone out of control. Mostly it was responsible middle-aged Baby Boomers having a great time.
We found the car and found our way back to I-55 with no problems, hitting the drive-thru at McDonalds for some much-needed grub. We arrived at my house in Davenport at around 2:00 AM and each had a shower and a beer and looked at the photos and videos from the day. We even watched a bit of "The Last Waltz". Finally we both hit the sack around 3:30 and Paul drove home in the morning.
I just learned today that the DVD release of Crossroads 2007 is currently scheduled for Tuesday, November 6 , 2007. I will be in line to get one of the first copies - the show was really great, and the camera work was the best I've ever seen.
P.S. Hey - Don't forget - http://music.msn.com/crossroads
(Thank you, Alan)