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Chicago, IL (June 27, 2010) -- Eric Clapton's third Crossroads Guitar Festival took place under the Chicago sun yesterday, delivering more than 12 hours of blues-rock greatness from an incredible lineup of legends to those lucky enough to score tickets. We were on hand to see all of the interesting pairings, compelling covers, surprise guests, and general festivities. We'll be bringing you in-depth coverage in an upcoming issue of Premier Guitar, but until then, here are some highlights.
Guitar Center Village
Guitar Center Village got hopping at 10 a.m. sharp. The Ernie Ball side stage hosted clinics from 10:15 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., giving festival-goers plenty of options for the first half of the day -- more on that in a bit. Also in the Guitar Center Village were booths for gear companies from Ernie Ball, Fender, Vox, Marshall, Taylor, Martin, Fishman, Ovation, Ibanez, Takamine, Egnater, and more. The booths were equipped with playable instruments and the crowd took full advantage, emanating blues licks from every corner of Guitar Center Village. The booths gave fans a rare chance to interact with companies directly. Ernie Ball had a bean-bag game to win free strings that proved popular throughout the morning, and Bruce Egnater himself was on hand to talk amps at his booth.
Also in the Guitar Center Village was a temperature-controlled, highly secured building housing Guitar Center's Legends Collection. Stevie Ray Vaughan's Lenny and Eric Clapton's Blackie and Cream-era ES-335 were on display. There was always a line to get inside and pay reverence to these iconic instruments (and enjoy a moment of air conditioning). It was pretty unbelievable to see the instruments in person, and everyone was appreciative of Guitar Center's efforts to bring these pieces of history to the fans.
Robert Randolph plays during his clinic on the Ernie Ball Stage in Guitar Center Village. Photo: Chris Kies
Ernie Ball Stage
The first half of the day featured performances on the main stage and clinics on the side stage, making for some tough decision making. The Ernie Ball stage kicked off with clinics from Bert Jansch, Stefan Grossman, and Pete Huttlinger. Albert Lee, Sonny Landreth, and Robert Randolph followed, interviewed by Ernie Ball's Brian Ball about their influences and playing style. Each played a tune or two as well.
At 2:45, Ryan McGarvey, the winner of Ernie Ball's Play Crossroads contest (co-sponsored by Premier Guitar) took the stage with his band. The trio of guys in their early-20s rocked the stage, and looked like they were having the time of their lives. Ryan definitely won over some new fans in the sizable crowd with his great playing, switching between an Ernie Ball John Petrucci BFR model and his own Gibson Les Paul '59 Heritage. We talked with Ryan after the performance, and he's quite the gearhead. Look out for an interview in a future issue of the magazine.
Ryan McGarvey. Photo: Adam Moore
After Ryan rocked the stage, the final two clinicians followed suit. Joe Bonamassa took the stage with an acoustic guitar and laid down some licks for the appreciative crowd. The clinic stage closed out with 94-year-old blues pioneer HoneyBoy Edwards.
As a special bonus for those in the Guitar Center Village, Joe Bonamassa and Albert Lee both signed autographs in the Ernie Ball booth following their clinics. Major kudos to both serving massive lines of fans in the sweltering heat.
The Main Stage
First up on the Main Stage was 2009 Guitar Center King of the Blues winner Kirby Kelley, who warmed up the crowd as they filtered in for the day. It wasn't long before blankets were laid down and General Admission began to look like a crowded beach.
Just before noon, with temperatures in the mid-80s and sun beating down, Sonny Landreth, took the stage with a loud set full of the slide licks he's known for. It only took three songs before Eric Clapton made his first appearance, treating the half-full stadium to a rendition of "Promised Land."
Bill Murray reprised as emcee, and introduced Robert Randolph and the Family Band, who performed a couple of high-energy, funky tunes, before being joined by Joe Bonamassa for their last two songs of the set. Italian guitarist Pino Daniele sat in for the fourth and final song of the set. Joe was playing a sunburst Les Paul, while Pino had a white Suhr.
It was clear early on that the festival was working as a finely-tuned machine. The stage was actually a dual-sided, rotatable stage. As one act played, the gear for the next act was set up on the other side, making for fast, easy changes as it just turned around for the next performer. There was little more than five minutes of downtime between any acts, which kept the energy high. Short, three-to-four-song sets also kept things moving along quickly.
Jimmie Vaughan and Robert Cray jam before being joined by Hubert Sumlin. Photo: Chris Kies
Robert Cray with Jimmie Vaughan and Hubert Sumlin were up next for a cross-generational set that showcased the blues lineage that would be at the forefront all night. The setlist included "Killing Floor," and "Sittin' On Top of the World."
Things mellowed out a bit for the next two sets with the acoustic work of Bert Jansch and Stefan Grossman, before ZZ Top took the stage for the hardest rocking set of the day. Donning their classic suits and all of the signature moves, the bearded ones drove the crowd crazy with their rendition of "Foxy Lady" (one of many Hendrix covers of the day) before delving into "La Grange." Gibbons played his Gretsch "Billy-Bo" Jupiter Thunderbird.
Up next was Doyle Bramhall II with Gary Clark and Sheryl Crow. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi joined them onstage for a tune, and Eric Clapton made his second appearance sitting in with this group.
Vince Gill brought some country flavor next with Albert Lee, James Burton, and Keb Mo. Burton and Gill played "Mystery Train," before Earl Klugh and Sheryl Crow joined them onstage for a rendition of "Lay Down Sally" that got the crowd going.
After a few packed stages and energetic sets, things cooled down for a couple of solo acts. The least-known act on the bill, Citizen Cope, was introduced by Sheryl Crow as "one of my favorite singer-songwriters." She sat in with him for his song, "These Feelings Won't Go Away." Earl Klugh followed as the jazz representative in the group.
The John Mayer Trio took the stage next, introduced by Bill Murray in an Elvis suit. The four-song set included a rocking version of Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and Jimi Hendrix's "Wait Until Tomorrow." Mayer played a different guitar for all four songs, including his heavily worn black Strat, an ES-335 and a Fender Custom Shop Jimi Hendrix Monterey Pop Strat. The ever-controversial Mayer let his Dumble and Two Rock heads, and his tight band anchored by phenomenal drummer Steve Jordan, do the talking.
Ronnie Wood, Buddy Guy, and Jonny Lang having a blast. Photo: Chris Kies
The biggest surprise of the evening came with the next set, which was slated to be Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang, when Ronnie Wood came out. The three looked to be having the most fun of the evening so far. The trio powered through a Buddy Guy broken string during "Five Long Years," which provided one of the day's funniest moments when Wood took off his Strat to jokingly hand it to Buddy, and buddy improved singing about the broken string while his tech brought out his classic polka dot Strat to finish the set. The three got a huge crowd reaction as they walked off stage smiling with their arms around each others' shoulders.
The most packed stage of the night, aside from the finale, came next with the Derek Trucks band, Susan Tedeschi, Warren Haynes, Sheryl Crow, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rojas, and Johnny Winter. This spot was supposed to be the Allman Brothers Band, but due to Greg Allman's last-minute liver transplant, plans were tweaked. The stage was packed with mouth-watering amps, including some original paisley PRS Dallas models, and Soldano, Marshall, and Diaz heads. Trucks played his red SG, and was simply phenomenal. Highlights included "Three Hundred Pounds of Joy."
Jeff Beck hit the stage next with his all-white Strat and some rockstar-approved white boots. Beck's band was incredible, and his bassist Rhonda Smith really stood out. Beck played a killer set that included a beautiful rendition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with Smith on electric upright bass and "Higher," with crowd participation. Beck left the stage to a standing ovation.
Clapton and Beck come together for "Shake Your Money Maker." Photo: Chris Kies
With that, it was time for the man of the night, Eric Clapton. Clearly, this was what the crowd was waiting for and he didn't disappoint with a 12-song, hour-and-a-half set that included covers, classics, and standards. Clapton opened with "Crossroad" before inviting Citizen Cope out for a song. He played "I Shot the Sheriff," then invited Jeff Beck to come back out for "Shake Your Money Maker," which was great fun. Beck played a blackguard Tele that, like a true rockstar, he tossed offstage after the song, caught by his tech.
Steve Winwood joined Clapton on both guitar and piano for the second half of Clapton's set, running through tunes like "Low Down Dirty Shame," "Cocaine," and a great rendition of "Voodoo Child." Clapton alternated between a mint-green Strat and a dark gray Strat for the set. At the end, Clapton said of the festival, "This was supposed to be the last one, but somehow I don't think it will be."
With that, staging for the finale began, and the rotatable stage was filled with an unreal collection of amps for each performer. But before everyone hit the stage, there was one more act: the legendary B.B. King. King came out with Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Cray, and Eric Clapton, who he made sit on chairs to play with him. B.B. was a riot, telling stories and jokes between licks. The group played "The Thrill is Gone," before the rest of the performers filtered out for the finale.
The whole gang closes out the night. Photo: Chris Kies.
Missing from the finale were ZZ Top, who actually played Summerfest in Milwaukee that same night, Jeff Beck, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Earl Klugh. The rest of the performers jammed to "Sweet Home Chicago" to close the night with Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Susan Tedeschi, and Jimmie Vaughan trading vocals for the blues standard.
Also check out Premier Guitar's Photo Gallery from the event!