For the past decade, singer-guitarist Eric Clapton has hosted a Blues Crossroads concert every three years. For the concerts, he brings together many of the genre's biggest stars on the same stage. This year, the fourth festival was held at New York's Madison Square Garden. Not exactly known as a blues mecca, the city proved aptly suited to the concert. In fact, the city scenes that make up the opening footage in the film, simply dubbed Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013, suggest the city has a gritty and grimy side.
Clapton himself opens the concert film with an acoustic performance of "Tears in Heaven." The song fares well, thanks to the fact that he's accompanied by some stellar sidemen. He's then joined by country great Vince Gill who adds a bit of twang to "Lay Down Sally." The concert veers in a jam band direction as John Mayer teams up with country singer-guitarist Keith Urban for "Don't Let Me Down," but Texas bluesman Gary Clark Jr., a real roots guy, gets things back on track with a raucous performance. And when Gregg Allman heads off into jam band territory, Clapton returns to sing and play lead in the terrific Derek and the Dominoes' tune "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?" An ensemble performance of "Midnight Rider" is another highlight as is the performance of "Key to the Highway" that features Clapton and Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, a surprise guest.
The list of players who appear in the film is a long one and includes Booker T, Los Lobos, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards and Derek Trucks, among many others. It's a testament to Clapton's abilities as a bandleader that he's able to keep all these egos in check. A Fathom Events special screening, the film shows at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 13 at area theaters.