With the announcement that Eric Clapton is again firing up the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2019, it’s worth taking a look back at some of his previous Crossroads performances. 2019 will bring the fifth incarnation of Clapton’s festival, which benefits the Crossroads Centre, a substance-abuse treatment facility he founded in the late 90s. Earlier Crossroads Festivals were held in 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013. The festival always includes a variety of top-notch guitar talent, of course, but I’m choosing to focus on Clapton himself in the link selections below.
Here’s a thought I’ve been having for a while about Clapton’s live performances:
Every reasonable Clapton fan knows that peaks of his career have been high and his live performance have often been great. In the early 90s, he connected with audiences on the strength of two live albums: 24 Nights, recorded during a run at the Royal Albert Hall, and MTV Unplugged, which is one of the most notable entries in the network’s acoustic series, from the days when it actually cared about music. But, to my sensibility, something solidified in Clapton’s live performances around the time of the first Crossroads Guitar Festival, in 2004. By that time, it seems to me that he achieved a comfort and ease onstage that deepened the pocket of his rhythm, both as a soloist and as an accompanist. With decades of experience behind him, he seems comfortable in every onstage formation.
I make no claim that what follows are the ultimate Clapton performances, but there is a lot to dig throughout!