Gary Clark Jr. and his band played a blistering set for a packed house in Nashville a few hours after playing a matinee at something called Bonnaroo in nearby Manchester, TN, which I'm told is one of the largest music festivals in the United States. It's been many years since headliners did two-a-days but there wasn't an ounce of evidence to suggest Clark and his band weren't up to the double duty.
The set opened with a pair from the Bright Lights EP. "When My Train Pulls In" got an blistering full-band treatment as opposed to the solo version on the EP. "Don't Owe You A Thang" has a stomp and swagger on record and was played harder and faster than its studio counterpart.
He slowed things briefly after two sweat-soaked, shred-heavy numbers with relentless, precise jamming, playing a tender, soulful ballad from his independent, self-titled release. "Please Come Home" was more than just a changeup for the show but a showcase of what a prodigious talent Clark is. The vocal was delivered in plaintive falsetto and the guitar solos were tasteful and smooth.
He demonstrated his versatility further on Albert Collins' "If You Love Me Like You Say." The band hammered the main riff of the song before Clark summoned a little Jimi Hendrix magic, taking the "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" effect just a little further; he was suddenly a DJ scratching vinyl with his guitar and Albert Collins' blues was now a funk-soaked rocker.
He rounded out the main set with B.B. King's a searing version of "Three O' Clock Blues" and a snarling, jagged take on Muddy Waters' "Catfish Blues." He played some wicked slide on a hard-charging rocker called "Numb," whose monster riff has shades of The Beatles' classic "Come Together" before his hit "Bright Lights" brought the house down.
He returned for an encore, first by himself for a gorgeous performance of "(In The Evening) When The Sun Goes Down." His bandmates joined him for a version of "Good Rockin' Tonight" that would make Chuck Berry proud. It's that versatility that makes him special in a world filled with guitar gods who have technical prowess but no imagination or vision. Clark has that and more. He channels the great bluesman and rockers, the soulful crooners and pioneers of funk without ever losing himself or his own voice- an ability and gift so rare I can only think of one other artist who possess it: Prince. Tennessee got two great shows and the promise of a full-length record in October according to the Lightning 100 DJ who hosted the evening's event (but I have it on good authority a Sept. 11 release date is a strong possibility), all in one incredible day.
Gary Clark Jr.
Nashville, TN 3rd and Lindsley
June 10, 2012
- When My Train Pulls In
- Don't Owe You A Thang
- Please Come Home
- If You Love Me Like You Say
- Things Are Changing
- Three O' Clock Blues
- Catfish Blues
- Bright Lights
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- (In The Evening) When The Sun Goes Down
- Good Rockin' Tonight