Review and Photography By Michael Bradley
The Blues…it’s an art form that has been around since the turn of the century…or when Robert Johnson took that mysterious midnight walk to the infamous “crossroads” (if you believe that myth). Making a name for yourself is very difficult, let alone emerging on a national scale as a blues-based musician. What sets those that succeed apart from the rest is not so much what they play or sing, but how they play or sing. Every now and then an artist will come along and turn the whole thing on its ear a bit, introducing a different angle or perspective. Gary Clark Jr. is that new perspective.
Gary Clark Jr. is a talented singer, guitarist and songwriter who has one foot in the Texas and Delta blues roots of the past, and the other foot in the R&B and Soul of today. His most recent album Blak and Blu showcases his eclectic vision, and he and his band arrived at The Tabernacle Atlanta on Oct. 16 to share that vision with the Atlanta blues fans.
After casually emerging from the shadows, the band got the night started off right by jumping into the uptempo “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” from Blak and Blu, with Clark’s Telecaster sting filling the room during the instrumental breakdown. The house-rocking Texas boogie of “Travis County” followed before the band settled into the slow blues of B.B. King’s “3 O’Clock Blues” with Clark channeling much of the sparse, single note phrasing of the song’s writer.
The dark & distorted “When My Train Pulls In” had Clark pushing his wah-drenched Gibson to the max, bringing much of the audience to their feet. The 50s do-wop of “Please Come Home” revealed one of Clark’s secret weapons: his sugary-sweet falsetto, which had many of the ladies in the audience howling in orgasmic delight, one going as far as shouting “take off your shirt!”
“You Saved Me” from Blak and Blu was quite possibly was the performance of the night. Clark, rhythm guitarist King Zapata, bassist Johnny Bradley and drummer Johnny Radelat built a slow-burning, tension-filled R&B groove that moved and grew, perfectly framing Clark’s echoing, reverb-drenched solo. Once again, the crowd was on their feet.
A nod to Mr. Hendrix is always in order for any blues guitarist, as Gary Clark and band bookended “If You Love Me Like You Say” with the memorable hook of Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun.” “Things Are Changin’,” “Catfish Blues,” “Blak and Blu” and set closer “Bright Lights” followed before Clark returned to the stage (sans band) to perform a fingerpicked version of the blues standard “When The Sun Goes Down.”
Not quite ready to call it a night, the band members returned to the stage for a hypnotic version of “Numb,” in which Clark once again squeezed every distorted ounce out of his amps to the wild appreciation of the crowd.
Opening the show was the Atlanta-based Ruby Velle and The Soulphonics, who offered up a finely crafted set of rhythm and blues, mostly pulled from their debut album It’s About Time.
Full Gallery of Gary Clark Jr.