30 Jun 19
Twenty years ago, on 30 June 1999, Eric Clapton hosted the first major fundraising concert for Crossroads Centre, one week after selling 100 guitars at a Christies auction for the same cause. Dubbed “Eric Clapton & Friends In Concert: A Benefit For The Crossroads Centre at Antigua” the event raised more than $1 million. It also the stage for EC’s Crossroads Guitar Festivals and their calvacade of guitar gods.
Eric founded Crossroads Centre Antigua, a residential treatment centre for alcohol and chemical dependencies as he saw a great need for such a facility in the Caribbean and around the world. It opened its doors with 36 beds in October 1998. Today, Crossroads Centre, Antigua also operates a 16 bed halfway house in Antigua called Bevon House and facilitates various ongoing recovery initiatives on the island of Antigua and the Caribbean.
A broadly smiling Eric walked out on the Madison Square Garden stage on June 30, 1999 and told the audience, “There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of interviews, a lot of TV, a lot of promotion for the centre and for getting and staying sober. The talking is done. I’ll just play for you.” Over the next three-plus hours, he alternated between fronting his six piece band and acting as the “house band” for guests Sheryl Crow, Mary J. Blige, and Bob Dylan. David Sanborn joined the band throughout the night on saxophone.
Eric’s opening set featured sparse arrangements of several tracks from his then year-old album, “Pilgrim”. The first indication this was going to be a night to remember came during the second song when Eric laid down a hard and heavy solo in “Hoochie Coochie Man” and followed it up with a great “Reconsider Baby.”
Twenty years ago, the evening’s first guest, Sheryl Crow, was still a relative new comer compared to the host and Bob Dylan. Her six song set featured great versions of “Run Baby Run” and “Leaving Las Vegas” from her debut album and “My Favorite Mistake” and “The Difficult Kind” from “The Globe Sessions.” But, the undoubted highlight of her set was when Eric stepped forward and hit the power chords to launch a blistering “Little Wing.”
In retrospect, the most underrated set was Mary J. Blige’s soulful hip-hop set. Her inclusion proved once again that Eric was far ahead of his audience’s musical tastes. Today, Mary is the reigning Queen of R&B/ Hip Hop with more than 80 million albums sold. But in 1999, due to her unfamiliarity, the audience began streaming up the aisles in search of beverages and bathrooms. Despite this, she scatted and rapped and gave it her all. By the end of her set, which featured “Love No Limit” from her breakthrough record “What’s The 411?” and her number one, “Not Gon’ Cry”, she won new fans amongst the Clapton cognoscenti along with affirming applause.
After a brief acoustic set of “Tears In Heaven” and “Change The World,” Eric plugged back in for “Old Love” and “Badge” but truly raised the energy level with a plugged in “Layla.” The entire Garden was on its feet as Eric presented the song in it’s original format with the extended piano coda. David Sanborn provided harmony on saxophone to make the night’s rendition unique.
Eric’s final guest was Bob Dylan, who was in a playful mood and had a small smile as he strode onstage. He kicked off his set by dueting with Eric on a countrified “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” Typical of Bob, he changed arrangements, tempos and phrasing on the spot and the audience struggled to sing along or even recognize some songs until the chorus. Eric and the band had the same difficulty trying to follow Bob on “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” “Born In Time” (which Eric had covered on 1998’s “Pilgrim”), “Leopard-Skin Pillbox Hat,” and the then-new “Not Dark Yet.” Bob’s set ended with “Crossroads” and this is the number where they truly connected musically perhaps because Eric was influenced by Robert Johnson’s guitar playing and Bob by his storytelling.
As the evening drew to a close, Eric and his band were back on stage first for the encore, “Sunshine of Your Love.” Sheryl, Bob and David then joined in on the closing song, “Bright Lights, Big City.”
The one drawback was the filming for television broadcast and home video release. Twenty years ago, the cameras were large and mounted on large booms that moved over the audience. It proved a distraction to the band and audience, especially during the first third of the show. On July 17, a pared down version debuted on VH-1 and had numerous re-broadcasts in the following weeks. In October, “Eric Clapton & Friends In Concert: A Benefit For The Crossroads Centre At Antigua” was released on VHS and became a best-seller. At 108 minutes, many of the best moments were not included. Likewise, an audio recording of the event has never been released.
Eric Clapton – guitar / vocals
Andy Fairweather Low – guitar
Tim Carmon – keyboards
David Delhomme – keyboards
Nathan East – bass
Steve Gadd – drums
Katie Kissoon – backing vocals
Tessa Niles – backing vocals
David Sanborn – saxophone
Sheryl Crow – vocals / bass
Mary J. Blige – vocals
Bob Dylan – guitar / vocals
Eric Clapton & Friends In Concert: A Benefit For The Crossroads Centre at Antigua Set List
01. My Father’s Eyes – Eric Clapton & His Band
02. Hoochie Coochie Man – Eric Clapton & His Band
03. Reconsider Baby – Eric Clapton & His Band
04. Pilgrim – Eric Clapton & His Band
05. River Of Tears – Eric Clapton & His Band
06. Going Down Slow – Eric Clapton & His Band, David Sanborn
07. My Favorite Mistake – Eric Clapton & His Band, Sheryl Crow
08. If It Makes You Happy – Eric Clapton & His Band, Sheryl Crow
09. Run Baby Run – Eric Clapton & His Band, Sheryl Crow
10. Leaving Las Vegas – Eric Clapton & His Band, Sheryl Crow
11. The Difficult Kind – Eric Clapton & His Band, Sheryl Crow
12. Little Wing – Eric Clapton & His Band, Sheryl Crow, David Sanborn
13. Do Right Woman – Eric Clapton & His Band, Mary J. Blige
14. Be Happy / You Bring Me Joy (Medley) – Eric Clapton & His Band, Mary J. Blige
15. Love No Limit – Eric Clapton & His Band, Mary J. Blige
16. My Life – Eric Clapton & His Band, Mary J. Blige
17. Everything – Eric Clapton & His Band, Mary J. Blige
18. Not Gon’ Cry – Eric Clapton & His Band, Mary J. Blige
19. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton & His Band
20. Change The World – Eric Clapton & His Band, David Sanborn
21. Old Love – Eric Clapton & His Band
22. Badge – Eric Clapton & His Band, David Sanborn
23. Wonderful Tonight – Eric Clapton & His Band
24. Layla – Eric Clapton & His Band, David Sanborn
25. Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right – Eric Clapton & His Band, Bob Dylan
26. It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry – Eric Clapton & His Band, Bob Dylan
27. Born In Time – Eric Clapton & His Band, Bob Dylan
28. Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat – Eric Clapton & His Band, Bob Dylan
29. It’s Not Dark Yet – Eric Clapton & His Band, Bob Dylan
30. Crossroads – Eric Clapton & His Band, Bob Dylan
31. Sunshine Of Your Love (encore) – Eric Clapton & His Band
32. Bright Lights, Big City (encore) – Eric Clapton & His Band , Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan, David Sanborn
The Crossroads Centre, Antigua
Founded in 1998 by Eric Clapton, Crossroads Centre, Antigua was created to provide treatment and education to chemically and alcohol dependent persons, their families and their significant others. Treatment is provided through residential care, family and aftercare programs. The pathway to recovery is founded on the 12 steps and a change in lifestyle. Crossroads Centre, Antigua also operates a 16 bed halfway house in Antigua called the Bevon House and facilitates various ongoing recovery initiatives on the island of Antigua and the Caribbean.