Eric Clapton’s fourth Crossroads Guitar Festival is now in the books, and Keith Richards added his name to one of the chapters with a surprise appearance.
Spread over two nights -- Friday and Saturday -- at Madison Square Garden in New York -- the shows raised money for Clapton's Crossroads Centre rehab facility on the Caribbean island of Antigua, where he also has a home.
This year’s line-up included The Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck, B.B. King, Robbie Robertson, Robert Cray, Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Buddy Guy, Gary Clark Junior, Jimmie Vaughan, John Mayer, Keith Urban, Los Lobos and Robert Randolph.
Friday’s show saw Clapton get things going with a 20-minute acoustic set that included "Tears in Heaven" with a slight reggae beat and country singer-guitarist Vince Gill joining in on "Lay Down Sally" and "Wonderful Tonight."
Clapton then played special guest as he sat in with Robert Cray, Jimmie Vaughan and B.B. King for "Everyday I Have the Blues." He also did a couple of standards with jazz guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and jammed with the Allman Brothers Band on the Derek and the Dominos classic "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?"
The Allmans also performed "Statesboro Blues" with David Hildago and Cesar Rosas from Los Lobos and the legendary blues singer Taj Mahal.
John Mayer was in rough voice during his firs tNew York performance in almost three years, but made up for it with a stellar solo on "Queen of California." He was joined by country star and American Idol judge Keith Urban on a cover of The Beatles' "Don't Let Me Down."
Other collaborations during the evening included Doyle Bramhall with Gary Clark Junior and Citizen Cope, Keb Mo with the evening's announcer, Dan Aykroyd, on vocals and harmonica; and Booker T with his MGs' bandmate Steve Cropper and Blues Brothers guitarist Matt "Guitar" Murphy.
Saturday was slightly different, no doubt due in part to Keith Richards making a surprise appearance at the end of the night as he came out with Clapton to play "Key to the Highway” and “Sweet Little Rock N' Roller." Clapton did his full band set Saturday, which also featured “Crossroads" and "Little Queen of Spades."
Robbie Robertson flew out from his home in L.A. to make a rare concert appearance. He did three songs, including Bob Dylan’s "I Shall Be Released," which he recorded as a member of The Band. Robertson told the sold-out crowd that he was a privilege to be at the Garden “in honor of Crossroads and Eric Clapton."
Clapton also made the rounds on Saturday, sitting in again with Robert Cray as well as Los Lobos.
Allman Brothers Band guitarists Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks did an acoustic blues set and were joined by Gregg Allman, Keb' Mo' and Taj Mahal.
There was another special guest in the house, Clapton's longtime friend Roger Waters, but he did not take the stage. He just sat in the audience where he seemed to be having a good time.
And of course at the end of the night, all the artists came out with Clapton for a little jamming before Clapton told the sold-out crowd that he’ll see them in three years, meaning he hopes to do another benefit.
Clapton staged his first Crossroads concert at the Garden in 1999 with Bob Dylan and Sheryl Crow. The Crossroads Guitar Festival followed in 2004 in Dallas, and Chicago in 2007 and 2010.