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Concert review: Gary Clark, Jr. at Red Butte Garden

by on July 28, 2014


Well, damn.

That’s pretty much my instant reaction to seeing Gary Clark, Jr. for the first time, at his Sunday night show at Red Butte Garden.

You can definitely call me a skeptic when it comes to hearing about new blues “legends” coming along. I can’t think of another genre where every name you hear is a “legend” of some sort or another–one would think anyone who stepped on a Chicago or Memphis stage at some point in their musical life is an equal of Buddy Guy or B.B. King.

Gary Clark, Jr. arrives in my listening sphere with a couple years’ worth of critical buzz and the stamp of approval of the Austin, Texas, music scene, so all signs before the show were positive. And suffice to say, the man delivered in a big way, ripping through some amazing blues-rock Sunday night to an adoring crowd that was definitely into everything Clark and his three backing musicians were offering.

After a rousing opening set by Austin-based guitar-drums duo Black Pistol Fire (watch for those guys–they absolutely killed it in front of an unfamiliar crowd), Clark and his co-conspirators (rhythm guitarist King Zapata, drummer Johnny Radelet and bassist Johnny Bradley) ripped through an oft-sprawling 16-song set drawn primarily from Clark’s Blak and Blu album, in addition to some covers and other selections.

The slow and slinky “Catfish Blues,” an old blues number covered by Jimi Hendrix way back when, opened the show in a mellow groove before Clark opened things up with “Ain’t Messin’ Around.” That song was the first indication that fellow guitarist Zapata is nearly the equal of bandleader Clark, tearing into a tasty solo that was one of the night’s highlights.

“Next Door Neighbor Blues,” “Travis County” and “When My Train Pulls In” were all early highlights, with “Train” building to a raucous, cacophonous conclusion as Clark and his band expanded the song into a sprawling instrumental workout. “Please Come Home” led into the utterly Zeppelin-esque “Numb,” a song that started out with gargantuan riffs and stayed monster-sized throughout in terms of the think guitar riffs.

Clark’s “Don’t Owe You a Thing” led into a well-chosen cover of B.B. King’s “3 O’Clock Blues,” and “Things Are Changing” led into a bombastic mash-up of “Blak and Blu” and “Bright Lights” to close down the main set.

It’s pretty special to see an artist truly earn a standing ovation, and Clark and Co. goaded the crowd to its collective feet throughout Sunday’s show with a series of increasingly fine performances of his songs. By set’s end, the crowd was fully engaged and mostly standing, and Clark and his non-stop series of stunning guitars had totally convinced the crowd to agree to anywhere he wanted to go, musically.

For the encore, that place included excellent versions of “In The Evening (When the Sun Goes Down),” a cover of Albert King’s “Oh Pretty Woman” and the show-closing killer “You Saved Me.” It was a brilliant conclusion to a show by a guy deserving of all the accolades that have come his way.



One Comment
  1. 3rd time seeing him and it keeps getting better every time! I was a bit worried about how he might sound in an outside venue, but it was superb. I would absolutely travel to see him again. Oh, and you’re right, Black Pistol Fire crushed it… you don’t see many standing ovations for openers.

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