We already knew from the insane lineup for Crossroads 2023 that the event was going to play host to some unique collaborations, but fusion legend John McLaughlin sharing the stage with blues-rock kingpin Joe Bonamassa? That one we did not see coming.
The two guitarists united with a common purpose at Crossroads on Friday (September 23): to pay tribute to Jeff Beck with a rousing cover of the late electric guitar icon’s standard Cause We’ve Ended as Lovers.
John McLaughlin might not be the first name you think of when it comes to JoBo’s guitar influences (that honor, as Bonamassa has previously stated, goes to Eric Johnson).
However, McLaughin – renowned for his time as Miles Davis’ guitarist and, later, his role in melding jazz and Indian classical music in pioneering fusion group Mahavishnu Orchestra – played a formative role in shaping the mind of the young Bonamassa.
Indeed, fan footage shows the blues great saying as much in his introduction to the performance.
“If you’d said to a six year-old Joe Bonamassa,” begins the guitarist, “that 40 years later, after he was having his mind blown by record[s] called Bitches Brew [and] Friday Night in San Francisco, that he would ever be able to say the words: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome John McLaughlin…’”
Bonamassa trails off amid the applause, clearly so overawed by the situation that he forgets to finish his point, but let’s assume it would have been very surprising to junior JoBo.
The subsequent performance is something of a masterclass, particularly from Bonamassa, who does an incredible job of emulating the late Beck’s incredible touch (most notably nailing that signature trick of bending and manipulating the volume dial simultaneously).
McLaughlin’s best moment is a solo run that comes around 2.47 in the clip above. His tone – coming via his new PRS Private Stock signature model – is noticeably more searing than Bonamassa’s comparatively louder, cleaner sound. He drops some notes later on in the performance, but his touch remains phenomenal.
Bonamassa, meanwhile, is having the time of his life and peppers the track with incredible lead moments (sometimes to the expense of his sparring partner, it seems, but hey, he’s fulfilling a boyhood fantasy).
This isn’t the first time McLaughlin has paid tribute to Beck. The guitarist also appeared at the Jeff Beck tribute shows earlier this year, which like Crossroads, were organized by Eric Clapton.