The rule of thumb with live albums is if you weren’t there than don’t bother, and I was at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads benefit at MSG in April for one of the two days and let me tell you, man, all it proves to me is either
1. BB King didn’t sign the release
2. Clapton is a schmuck
Because where is BB and Robert Cray playing “Sweet Little Sixteen”. Indeed, where is Albert King, Cray and Clapton performing “Everyday I Have The Blues” or Buddy Guy’s showstopping “Don’t Let The Doorknob Hit You… not here that’s for sure.
The first record, Friday’s gig, isn’t terrible, the John Mayer and Keith Urban take on “Don’t let Me down” was terrific, it found what was always there, and the Citizen Cope song sounded much better on record than live, but Clapton’s two acoustic songs to start the evening were a drag and the heart of the matter, the meat on the bones: BB King, Buddy Guy, Albert Lee, Robert Cray –given short shrift. That entire hour of music, cut to 20 minutes or so here, would’ve have lifted the entire first record to a different level.
I wasn’t around for Side Two, Saturday night’s gig, highlighted by a king crowning for Gary Clark jr “When My Train Comes In” and a terrific Allman Brothers “The Needle And The Damage Done” , the second side is a keeper but mostly because the song selection was better. Or at least because who doesn’t wanna hear Keith Richards and Eric Clapton on “Keys To The Highway” or, indeed, everybody in the building bringing it all back home with “Sunshine Of My Love”.
The thing here is while seeing it live might be necessary, hearing it here really isn’t. It’s a matter of taste and choice, but seeing BB King reaching back and grasping something time had taken away from him was necessary. Plus, undoubtedly King brought his best stuff with him, as did Buddy Guy, who I caught later that year at BB Kings and who was simply disastrous on every level. This is what we want but we don’t get it. There was no reason to hear Mayer performing “Queen Of California”.
So yeah, the caveat is big but not big enough for me not to recommend it.
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