On March 14, guitar god Eric Clapton begins a tour of the United States with a concert in Phoenix, Arizona. The 17-show, 15-city jaunt concludes April 12 and 13 in New York City when he hosts and performs at his Crossroads Guitar Festival. The event is scheduled to take place at Madison Square Garden.
This will be Slowhand’s fourth Crossroads Festival. The concert gathers guitar greats from several generations and genres. Artists slated to appear include Brad Paisley, John Mayer, and Robert Cray.
Clapton’s festival is a heartwarming event as it raises money for a facility that helps those suffering from chemical addiction.
However, if we put the altruism aside—as well as the opportunity to say you’ve seen Eric Clapton, Earl Klugh, and Jeff Beck live—Crossroads will most assuredly be a rather obnoxious affair.
Well, the event is billed as a chance for 30 or so great guitarists/guitar bands to “let their hair down.” That means attendees will be subjected to the scourge of live music, the jam. The phrase “let their hair down” is code for “jamming.”
If I spend good money on Eric Clapton tickets, or Crossroads tickets for that matter, I want a nice tight show with songs I’ve heard before and as many as possible. I want structure and discipline. I don’t need a 15-minute solo in the middle of “Layla” or “Wonderful Tonight.”
I don’t want to spend my hard earned money, and waste my precious time, on a concert that’s nothing more than a guy screwing around on his guitar for a couple of hours—even if that guy is one of the best guitarists in the world or a living legend like B.B. King, Buddy Guy, or Taj Mahal (all scheduled to appeared at the Crossroads Festival).
I’m not the only one who feels this way. Yes, the Grateful Dead did well at the box office, and so does Phish, but the concert tours that really do well are by artists that keep things tight: The Rolling Stones, U2, Madonna, AC/DC, Roger Waters, and The Police.
It’s not a bad thing that the crossroads festival is occurring. In fact, it should be recorded for prosperity sake, for future generations of guitar players. Of course, you can say the same thing for every instrument. And just as I have no interest in attending a concert by the world’s greatest oboe players, I have no interest in attending the upcoming Crossroads Festival.
Instead, I’m looking forward to Eric Clapton’s upcoming tour of the United States especially since he’s bringing along the resurgent Wallflowers to warm up audiences.
His 2013 U.S. tour keeps him confined to the East Coast and the South. Houston welcomes Eric Clapton to the Toyota Center on March 16. On March 22, Nashville hosts Eric Clapton at the Bridgestone Arena. Then on March 29 and 30, Eric Clapton will be in Hollywood, Florida to perform at the Hard Rock Live. On April 6, Pittsburgh sets Eric Clapton up at the Consol Energy Center.
I know that the guitarists appearing at the Crossroads Festival are extremely talented but don’t be swayed just because a musician can solo for a half an hour. Putting on a good concert takes more than a virtuoso (or in the case of the Crossroads Festival, 30 of them). It takes planning and a good setlist too.