Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival: 11 of our favourite performances from past years

John Mayer and Keith Urban onstage in 2013
(Image credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Make a list of the best blues-rock (and beyond) guitar talent on the planet right now and the chances are they are playing Eric Clapton's Crossroads Festival in September. 

Are you ready for the 2023 lineup? 

John Mayer (with his trio), Joe Bonamassa, Billy Gibbons with ZZ Top, Eric Gales, Samantha Fish, Santana, Keb' Mo', Molly Tuttle, Marcus King, H.E.R, Vince Gill, Gary Clark Jr, John McLaughlin, Robbie Robertson, Robert Randolph, Sheryl Crow, Christone 'Kingfish' Ingram, Albert Lee, Stephen Stills, Roger McGuinn, Taj Mahal, Jimmie Vaughan, Jerry Douglas, Ariel Posen, Sierra Hull, Kurt Rosenwinkel, The War On Drugs, Joey Landreth, Andy Fairweather Low, Jakob Dylan…

We told you it was good. Oh, and Eric Clapton is playing two sets as well. It's all taking in place on September 23 and 24  at the Arena in Los Angeles in aid of Clapton's Crossroads recovery centre in Antiqua. 

So we thought now was an ideal time to celebrate the kind of special guitar performances this festival creates. Here's 11 of our favourites from past years… 

1. Gary Clark Jr - Bright Lights, 2010

Gary Clark Jr arrives for his breakthrough. Thirteen years ago and with years of gigs under his belt in his home city of Austin where he was a well-kept secret, a new star is born. And with songs like this it was impossible to deny. What nobody could predict was just how wide his artistic reach would go on future releases. 

2. Jeff Beck – Nessun Dorma, 2010

Would he have played this year? The late guitar legend's absence will be felt keenly by his disciples. Because everyone looked up to Jeff Beck. This maverick display proves it again – who else could even attempt this? 

3. Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton – Don't Think Twice (It's Alright), 1999

Crossroads creates iconic combinations you won't see anywhere else. And somehow Clapton' presence got Bob Dylan to stay fairly close the a recorded version… well, by Dylan live standards anyway. They're both clearly loving it, especially on a duet of Crossroads with black Strats (despite Clapton once claiming he doesn't enjoy playing the song). 

Let's hear it for the supporting band too – including Steve Gadd on drums and Andy Fairweather Low on guitar. 

4. John Mayer and Keith Urban - Don't Let Me Down, 2013

Two big forces in songwriting and guitar playing here, and the chemistry works very well on this Dylan classic. So well we'd like to hear more of these two together. Now just watch the guitar playing in the second half. Pure class. 

5. Vince Neil, Keb' Mo', Albert Lee, James Burton and Earl Klugh – Mystery Train, 2010 

Some serious session kings here – Burton was Elvis's guitarist, no less. So who better than to take the lead on one of the King's early classics? In lieu of Scotty Moore anyway. Plenty of chicken picking goodness here and a reminder of what an immense talent Gill is. He's also got an incredible guitar collection.  

6. Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Warren Hayes, David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas and Chris Stainton – Space Captain, 2016

This combination is a powerhouse that elevates this underrated Joe Cocker gem to wonderful places. Trucks is, as ever, a tonemaster – always playing the perfect parts for the song.  

7. JJ Cale and Eric Clapton – After Midnight / Call Me The Breeze, 2004 

Another iconic musician no longer with us, and one intertwined with Clapton's legacy. Here's a two-song showcase of JJ Cale's effortless cool, with his biggest fan. The smile that keeps appearing on Clapton's face says a lot here. 

8. Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton – While My Guitar Weeps, 2019

Ah this is lovely stuff – just listen to that solo duet! 

9. Sheryl Crow and Bonnie Raitt - Everything Is Broken, 2009

Another golden Crossroads moment; Crow introduces her teenage guitar hero Raitt as the musician that "changed her life" ahead of this superb rendition of Dylan's song. 

10. John Mayer Trio - Ain't No Sunshine, 2010

How many people have covered this on TV talent show? Yes, we're sick of hearing other peoples' versions too. But then Mayer goes and puts this spin on it and it feels new again. This is a musician in the zone, with Pino Palladino and Steve Jordan in the pocket. It'll be a treat to see the Trio again at the 2023 Crossroads. 

11. Lianne La Havas – I Say A Little Prayer, 2019

Clapton celebrates established talent at Crossroads, but he also showcases emerging stars. La Havas was already a fully-formed talent when she appeared in 2019 with this stunning solo rendition. Guitar and voice beautifully aligned in front of an attentive audience. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.