He has a radio program on WXOU out of Oakland University
Wild At Heart
Back From The Crossroads
Just returned from a weekend in Chicago where I was able to experience one of the best concerts celebrating the best of guitar rock. The Crossroads Guitar Festival is a music festival/benefit concert that was first held in 2004 in Dallas before it moved to Chicago in 2007 and now in 2010. The festivals benefits the Crossroads Centre founded by Eric Clapton, a drug treatment center located in Antigua. Clapton himself is a recovering addict and alcoholic and has found that Antiqua is a "a safe place, a serene place where one can begin the process of healing from even the most devastating events and life situations" and somewhere around 1993 started the process which would eventually become the treatment center in 1998. Within this serene atmosphere individuals participate in a month long 12 step based program to put people on the road to recovery. By being in Antigua, the center allows increased confidentiality, provides a relaxing atmosphere and is able to keep costs low. The center also boasts that it's treatment is client-driven instead of "managed care-driven" so the clients can regulate their stay. For more information on the center or to seek treatment for an addiction, go to www.crossroadsantigua.org for more info on the center.
Despite the seriousness of the cause, the concerts are also a showcase for a variety of guitarists and varied style of play. All of the performers are hand-picked by Eric Clapton himself and most, if not all, have performed with Clapton at some time, either on stage or on various recordings. The event started on Saturday around 10AM with guitar clinics in the Guitar Village by various performers such as Bert Jansch, Stefan Grossman and a rockin' blues set by The Ryan McGarvey Band (winner of the "Ernie Ball Play Crossroads" contest for unsigned musicians). Their was also a Guitar Center display of its infamous Legends Collection including Clapton's awe-inspiring "Blackie" Fender Stratocaster and Stevie Ray Vaughn's iconic Strat "Lenny". A number of guitar manufacturers also had their new wares on display which kept me entertained before the main stage got a rockin at noon.
Things started off with emcee Bill Murray who introduced every segment of the show with some witty banter and rock n roll impersonations such as Buddy Holly, Elvis and Jimi. Murray is from the Chicago area and also was part of the 2007 event where he came out dressed as Clapton in the various eras of his career. He provided a nice intro to the various bands that played throughout the day and started the day playing an out-of-tune version of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” though Eric Clapton soon comes onstage to help him out. Things started off strong with a solid performance by Sonny Landreth, a bluesy slide guitar player from southwest Louisiana. Clapton has stated that Landreth is "probably the most underestimated musician on the planet and also probably one of the most advanced" which is high praise from one of the best guiatrists on the planet. This is Landreth's thrid appearance at Crossroads and one of the highlights was Clapton coming out during his set to perform “The Promise Land” with him. For those who are interested, keep track of the Callahan's website since Landreth has performed their many times over the past couple of years (last Wednesday most recently for a nice build up for the Festival) and will most likely be back soon again.
Things were kept rocking during the next 2 sets which saw the gospel, funk and soul band Robert Randolph and the Family Band who were joined joined by Joe Bonamassa and Pino Daniele. Frontman Robert Randolph was trained as a pedal steel guitarist in the House of God Church and makes prominent use of the instrument in the band's music which is referred to in many African American Pentecostal churches as Sacred Steel and that was evident during the show as he played his heart out for the audience. Joe Bonamassa proved to be one of the highlights of the show for me as his guitar was smoking and I wish he had more main stage time to show his skills. Joe received his first guitar from his father at the age of 4 and by age 7 he was playing Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix tunes note for note and he had the privaledge of opening for BB King at 12 years of age. Pino Daniele brought a unique style of guitar to the show as this Italian guiarist bring a mixture of blues, jazz, Italian and Middle eastern music to his playing. On the way to Chicago, we were listening to Randolph's new album "We Walk This Road" which includes a nice array of songs with jam-band flair such as a cover of "Jesus is Just Alright" featuring Eric Clapton, the funky "Diane" and touches of Philly soul on “Angels”. A very nice album for those looking for blues inspiration (I give the CD a B+).
The next set featured the blues guitar of Robert Cray along with Jimmy Vaughn and blues legend Hubert Sumlin who is best known for as guitarist in Howlin' Wolf's band. His legacy comes from the fact that many English guitarists who were deeply influenced by the blues (including Clapton, Page, Richards and Beck) covered many of Howlin' Wolf songs and imitated Sumlin's guitar lines (such examples include Clapton's covers of "Goin' Down Slow", The Rolling Stones' version of "Little Red Rooster" and the Yardbirds' version of "Smokestack Lightnin'"). This set was wonderful for guitar lovers of that sweet blues sound. Sumlin really showed his touch on a version of Wolf's “Sittin’ on Top of the World" which was the purest blues moment of the night as he just belted out this song oxygen tank in tow.
Things quieted down a bit for sets by acoustic Scottish folk musician Bert Jansch (a founding member of the band Pentangle) and Stefan Grossman joined by Keb' Mo'. Neil Young once said of Jansch that "As much of a great guitar player as Jimi [Hendrix] was, Bert Jansch is the same thing for acoustic guitar...and my favourite". Once again high praise from an icon and for a musician that not a lot of American fans are familiar with. His set might have felt better at the Ark but it was nice seeing him get the exposure to the 30,000 fans in attendence. It was so quiet during his set, you could hear the wind rustle which is amazing for such a loud venue. I often complain at shows where idiots keep talking during performers to the point you need to "shhh" them multiple times before they get the hint. This audience was both receptive and appreciative of the music being performed for them. Grossman is also another acoustic legend who almost was in a band with Janis Joplin and Taj Mahal but Janis just started with Big Brother and the band never happened though he did play with a band called the Even Dozen Jug Band. which included Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat & Tears), John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful) and Maria Muldaur. He was joined by the stunning vocals of Keb' Mo' who I have always heard good things about and three Grammys are not to be sneezed at. His blues style really energized me and makes me wish I had listened to my friend in Toledo earlier about how good he was. He was another musician who needed more time to showcase their talents in front of this crowd. For trivia buffs, he portrayed Robert Johnson in a documentary film, "Can't You Hear the Wind Howl?".
At this time, I wandered a bit and missed ZZ Top for Ryan McGarvey Band. I had seen ZZ twice in the past 4 years and my buddy Saad said he was incredible which he was. That kid has some amazing blues guitar talent and I hope to see more of him in the future. Doyle Bramhall II and Faded Boogie joined by Gary Clark Jr and Sheryl Crow were part of a set that had some interference by some technical glitches but Gary Clark Jr plays a mean guitar and should be a name that we will hopefully hear more of down the road.
Keb' Mo' did come back out for an incredible set by Vince Gill who showed that country music can belong with the greats of guitar rock as he was also joined by Albert Lee and James Burton. Lee (not to be confused with Ten Year After lead man Alvin Lee) is known within the music industry for his speed of playing and his technical virtuosity which has heard Clapton call him "the greatest guitarist in the world" though he is better known to country fans which he hightlighted during his post-Crossroads set at Callahna's last night. Like Lee, Burtonis also known as a session musician having played with Ricky Nelson, Elvis presley and John Denver and is considered the master of the telecaster. He is best known for writing the music and creating the main riff and solo for "Suzy Q" (originally by Dale wakins but also CCR).
Things slowed down for Citizen Cope who was given his own set but seemed out of place. He is a great singer/songwriter who feels great at the Royal Oak or Rothbury but out of place at a guitar festival. He should have been in a group effort instead of by himself. Detroit was represented by jazz guitarist Earl Klugh who was then followed by a bluesy set by the John Mayer Trio.
The best set of the night in my opinion was the pairing of blues legend Buddy Guy, rising star Jonny Lang (soon to be in Detroit at the Royal Oak Music Theatre) and surprise guest Ronnie Wood (of Rolling Stones fame). This set was the highwater mark that just cut through the arena as a wave of pure blues goodness. They even did an instrumental version of "Miss You" that had some people thinking Jagger would come out. If this was the only set I had seen at Crossroads, I feel that I would've gotten my money's worth.
Next was the replacement set for the Allman Brothers Band since three days earlier Gregg was given the opportunity for surgery for a much needed liver transplant. Bill announced that the operation was a success and he was doing good. Replacing them was a set by Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Band who were joined by Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule). Sheryl Crow, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas (Los Lobos) and Johnny Winter who looked frail and wasn't on top of his game with his one song but still admired and cheered by his fans. Hayes version of “Soul Shine” with Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi was one of the show highlights.
I could've missed the next set by Jeff Beck since it was similar to the set they did last Sunday at the Fillmore but their version of Muddy Water's "Rollin' and Tumblin'" with Rhonda Smith on bass is still infectious no matter how many times you hear it. I wish he could've done a more older blues rock set at the festival or perhaps more with Clapton. He did come back to accompany Clapton on Elmore James’ “Shake Your Moneymaker” though I would have loved to have seen more of this type of playing. Eric Clapton then came out and did a song with Citizen Cope which got some groans from the audience but pretty soon Steve Winwood came out and they did some wonderful work on Blind Faith’s “Had to Cry Today”, a 15-minute version of Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” and my favorite song of the night, Traffic's "Dear Mr fantasy". Clapton and Winwood were tight on this set and makes you wish for them to tour together instead of Clapton with Daltery and Winwood with Santana.
Besides Cope, the low point for me was BB King. For years BB King has been fighting diabetes and this has affected his playing. He is counting on his band to carry the songs for him and then he will go into long stories as they carry the beat. This is what happened here as King starts with about 2 minutes of playing before Cray, Vaughan and Clapton pick up the beat as he sings and King comes back and plays a minute at the end of the songs. BB King can be fun to listen to but it is a shame he can't play guitar as he used to. The audience still oves him as there cheering showed but here King is more of a statesman that a player as shown by the way Sumlin and Guy can still play like the old days. The day ended 13 hours later as most of the artists returned to the stage for a performance of "Sweet Home Chicago" which only makes sense as the rain held off at the warm 90 degree sun faded by midday to make the day very enjoyable. This was a truly great day of music with some of the best and most well-respected guitar plays living. While it is sad to see King and Winter fade, it is nice to see guys like Landreth, Clark Jr and Bonamassa holding down the fort. Clapton has said this will be the last Crossroads but hinted their might be another which is fine by me since he looks like he is having fun on stage with his friends as shown when playing with Landreth, Crow Beck and Winwood among others. I really enjoyed this event which was easy to access and exit unlike so many big shows. The crowd was very well behaved and the show kept moving at a nice pace which led to very little downtime. My thanks toeveryone involved in making this show go off exceptionally well.
While in Chicago, my buddies and I also took in some of the local flair of Chicago starting with a stop at the Cicero American Festival to see 60's icons Jay & the Americans who went through a nice set of thier hits as well as songs like "Along Came Jones" and "Pretty Woman" (the lead singer does a pretty decent Roy impersonation). The festival itself wasn't much but the music was nostalgic and fun. We next tried to go to Legends but the line was around the block so we headed to Navy Pier which was built in 1914 both to handle shipping and as an entertainment. Rebuilt in 1990, the site became a tourist attraction as home of a 150-foot tall Ferris wheel, an IMAX theater, the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Amazing Chicago's Funhouse Maze, the Chicago Children's Museum and the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. As it was close to closing time, I became a man on a mission and walked the entire inside as it was closing down so the only stuff I really got to see inside was the Stained Glass Art which adorned the walls I was walking though. I wish I could've had more time, but you take what is giving you. I also enjoyed standing at the end of the pier looking out over the lake as the dark waters were lit by the glare of the lamps that illuminating the gulls hanging out flying over the water. It was very peaceful and a highlight of the trip. I then walked back to my friends who gave up long ago from trying to keep up and we went back to Legends to just catch the last song of the night though we did get to meet Buddy Guy who didn't have time for a photo but shook our hands. We all thought the club would look a bit more rustic which was a bit of disappointment as it looked almost too glossy but you can't deny the place has a presence. We also met Guy's son who told us that Jeff Beck showed up a couple of night's before and played on stage.
On Sunday, we hit the Shedd Aquarium which is one of the largest in the world. We didn't have a lot of time but we did get to see the whole place. Improving upon its predecessor inland aquarium, the ex-Belle Isle Aquarium in Detroit, extensive use was made of designs by Mary Chase Perry Stratton, incorporating her custom-made Pewabic Pottery tile which gives it a Detroit flavor. While most of the museum had a modern look, I enjoyed the Amazon exhibit which made use of tress and sets to give a more unique feel that some of the other areas and is the home to anacondas, piranhas and electric eels. The Oceanarium immerses you in the vibrant coastal ecosystem of beluga whales (one of my favorite animals), Pacific white-sided dolphins and sea otters (most of which are survivors of the Exxon Valdez oil spill). In the Wild Reef exhibit, you can explore underwater gardens of iridescent corals and garden eels and then visit a fishing village where residents saved their reef from destruction. The waters of the world takes you on a tour of various water ecosystmes where you can meet animals from all over the world including the endangered Grand Cayman blue iguanas (only 30 left in the wild), the elegant Nile knifefish, the Autralian lungfish Granddad (an 80 year old fish claimed to be the oldest in captivity) and a giant Pacific octopus. They have some nice fun areas for the kids where they can drive a submarine, pretned they are penguins and touch real starfish. They can also watch divers feed animlas ion the reef exhibits or watch Fantasea, a show which incorpaorates otters, dolphins and sea lions in action. For more info go to www.sheddaquarium.org though get their early since long lines do form.
After the aquarium, we came home home where my buddies went to Pine Knob to see Kansas and Styx while I went to see what all the fuss about Andre Rieu was about. It was a fun show with the band dressing up in tuxes for theguys and elegant dresses for the ladies. He played a bunch of standards including "The Blue Danube" and "Memories" with some beautiful singers. The band also had a bit of fun messing around to Rieu's direction which reminded me to the Lawrence Welk show which explains why my parents probably love him so much. Afterwards, I caught the end of Albert Lee's country-styled set at Callahan's which rocked out and thus ended a wonderful trip to Chicago. Hope you didn't mind reading all this and now let's get into my concert picks of the week.
Thursday (7/01) - the great Cyndi Lauper @ Sound Board Theater at MotorCity Casino doing her new blues album, Streetlight Manifesto @ Magic Stick, The Verve Pipe @ Brecon Grille (Saline), Iranian rockers Hypernova @ Majestic Cafe, Modest Mouse @ Royal Oak Music Theatre, ABBA The Music @ Meadowbrook Theatre
Friday (7/02) - Modest Mouse @ Royal Oak Music Theatre, Steve Miller Band w/Peter Frampton @ Pine Knob, John Waite w/Rockets and Dirty Americans @ "Stars & Stripes Festival" in Downtown (Mount Clemens), Smokey Robinson @ Detroit Opera House
Saturday (7/03) - for those that missed Crossroads, Eric Clapton w/ Roger Daltrey @ Pine Knob, electronic DJ Deadmau5 @ Fillmore, Vince Neil w/Pistol day parade and Critical Bill @ "Stars & Stripes Festival" in Downtown (Mount Clemens), comic music genius "Weird Al" Yankovic @ Meadowbrook Theatre
Sunday (7/04) - country star John Michael Montgomery w/ Annabelle Road @ "Stars & Stripes Festival" in Downtown (Mount Clemens)
I might have missed a few but I think my fingers are getting tired from all the typing so forgive me if I missed a cool band.
My bands of the week are a tribute to the Crossroads Festival. Since I have already talked about them, let's just pick out a few videos by my favorite artists who performed at the festival. Here are Sonny Landreth, Joe Bonamassa and Gary Clark Jr.
Have a good week and hope to see you all at the Cyndi Lauper concert.
How would you like to have a private screening of Zac Efron’s new movie, "Charlie St Cloud", in your own hometown with the Hollywood star himself, along with a few hundred of your friends? Then be sure to check out www.charliestcloud.com/hometownsweeps and watch a special message from Zac Efron, then register for your chance to win!
Also, learn to cook healthy with the Red Wing's Kirk Maltby and Healthy Living advisor Tina Miller at the new Meijer's in Rochester Hills @ M59 and S Adams Rd. Starting at 4PM, the first 200 people in line will get an wristband for a guaranteed autograph with the Red Wings star.