The rock and roll ballroom of the Royale Boston swelled with a sold out crowd as the shadowy figure of Gary Clark, Jr. took the darkened stage. With the first struck chord, Clark Jr. unleashed a blazing and awe inspiring mastery of guitar and smooth vocals that have catapulted this Austin virtuoso into the company of legends. From his Run-The-House tour of the 2012 festival circuit to his collaborations with Alicia Keys, The Roots and Eric Clapton, GCJ’s incendiary talent and smooth blues-rock charisma promises a dynamic and explosive career.
He oozed effortless cool with opening song, “Ain’t Messin Around.” Next came the old time rock and roll tune “Travis County,” full of catchy hooks and electric guitar outpours. The lusty soulful croons of “my baby” in the B.B. King cover of blues classic “3 O’Clock Blues” transported the Boston crowd to a dim dive bar in Memphis. Shaking his head with eyes closed, Clark Jr. glistened with sweat while a flurry of fingers danced over his red guitar in the crescendo. The gravely and melodious drawl and slow power chords of Robert Petway cover “Catfish Blues” had the whole audience grooving along with the reinvigorated blues classic. Picking up speed with the runaway tune “Don’t Owe You a Thing,” the crowd clapped along, riding the quick dance rhythm through peaks of masterful solos and valleys of southern flavored jam sessions, including rhythm guitarist King Zapata’s ripping solo on a double neck guitar.
A soft cymbal cadence built slowly into the face-melting electric guitar jam of Hendrix-like “When My Train Pulls In” that had the crowd going nuts. Taking a deep breath into the mic, GCJ smiled as deafening whistles and cheers carried into the beginning of “Please Come Home.” The magnificent scope of vocal talent expanded further with the unexpected falsetto croon of this old time blues ballad. Dripping with honest emotion and dazzling with controlled finger plucking, the soulful slow dance fused blues and classic rock with yet another mind blowing electric guitar jam.
Albert King cover “Oh, Pretty Woman” returned to the jazzy blues inspiration of his roots. In the ten minute fusion of Johnny Taylor and Jimi Hendrix in “Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say,” Clark Jr expanded his range further with the psychedelic and funky jams, even incorporating a metallic scratching riff with a hip-hop sound, inspiring awe at the sheer range of talents and sounds of his guitar sorcery. With a blaring note bend, Clark Jr. slammed into the familiar riff and the crowd went wild. A melodious ripple intro to “Things Are Changin’,” returned to bluesy hooks that had hands clapping along. Next came the psychedelic and hypnotizing slow guitar intro of “You Saved Me.” Finishing the set with flavorful and hypnotizing hit “Bright Lights,” Clark Jr. built into a cacophony of percussion and guitar as red, white and blue lights shuttered wildly for the Texan musician in yet another face melting electric guitar solo.
The expansive ballroom filled with deafening applause and chants of “Gary! Gary!” brought the artist and his wingmen back onto the stage for a whiskey-slamming dance grooving encore. Clark Jr. made the guitar sing with a smokey blues Albert Collins cover of “If Trouble Was Money” and concluded the awesome performance with psych-blues fusion of “Numb,” delighting the crowd with a final dynamic and ear splitting electric guitar solo of magnificent precision and soulful groove. The medley of inspirations and undeniable genius of Clark Jr. on display at the Royale gave a glimpse of this rising star on his path to glory as one of the greatest musicians of our age.
Ain’t Messin Around
3 O’Clock Blues (B.B. King Cover)
Catfish Blues (Robert Petway Cover)
Don’t Owe You a Thing
When My Train Pulls In
Please Come Home
Oh, Pretty Woman (Albert King Cover)
Third Stone from the Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say (Johnny Taylor/Jimi Hendrix Tribute)
Things Are Changin’
You Saved Me
If Trouble Was Money