Gary Clark Jr Show Review

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Venue: Ogden Theatre

Location: Denver, Colorado

Date: 10/11/13

Inebriation Level: Mini-Bottle Fueled Buzz

There is hope for the Blues and Gary Clark Jr just may be the answer. Let me back up a bit.

Gary Clark Jr is the Austin based guitar slinger making waves in the popular music realm with a smooth mix of many different genres. He’s not just a Blues guitarist, but he pays homage to the R&B greats of the past, still with a contemporary sound. Being a fan of the Austin scene, the Blues, and you know, music, I made sure to get tickets to his Denver show well in advance.

It didn’t take much convincing to get the special lady to go with me, thanks to the awesomeness of Gary Clark Jr. Of course we rolled up the concert late, I couldn’t even tell you who opened the show. We didn’t drive there, so we did some pre-concert sidewalk drinking instead of my usual pre-concert car drinking. I’m talking about loitering on a stoop right on Colfax straight hobo-style. It was a pretty wild way to start the night.

We got in right after he started the show, and fought our way through the sold-out crowd. Once we got a descent spot in the nosebleeds (of course we inched closer as the night went on), I looked around to survey the crowd. It was partly middle-aged, some old farts, a spattering of hipsters of course, and then regular boring younger folk like us. I’d never seen such a wide demographic for a Blues show. Hell, I’ve never seen a sold-out Blues show. To me, this was a mark of hope for the Blues, which in my opinion, is the oldest and most important ancestor of modern music.

I feel like Gary Clark Jr goes for a contemporary R&B sound on his albums, so I was looking forward to seeing him shred out on guitar in the show. He definitely had stage presence, obviously from years of cutting his teeth in the Austin music scene, but was overall quite subdued. His drummer had a nice kick-back R&B sound, and played a cool Motown solo later in the show. He also played on a small drum kit, which many would agree is the mark of a good drummer. His rhythm guitarist was dressed like a Blues Brother, definitely fitting, and he had a really nerdy looking dude on bass. Music fact: nerds shred out on bass, and this dude was no exception.

Gary waltzed across the stage calmly and cooly. He played his signature Epiphone guitar (usually a Jazz guitarist’s choice) and played through a Fender Vibro-King (a super tiny, 60W amp). How this setup and his cool persona led to such a killer, monstrous sound, I have no idea. He has his own sound, but I just loved hearing all of his influences that came out in droves. The rhythmic syncopation of John Lee Hooker, the stinging licks of Albert Collins, the psychedelic “Third Stone From The Sun,” and the cool sounds of none other than BB King. He played a total of six covers, which is normal for a Bluesman, especially since many are basically traditional songs, like his killer rendition of “Catfish Blues.” He brought out the slide, had quiet solo numbers, and even rocked some crazy fretboard scratches like Tom Morello. Dude was all over the place, and his band was right behind him, keeping a tight, steady backbeat throughout.

The show came to a close with a really cool solo working of the title track from his new album, “Blak and Blu.” Then one note launched loud and proud with the whole band behind him into his biggest hit, “Bright Lights.” The crowd finally got going, but were almost as subdued and cool as him throughout the show. I came expecting to dance my ass off, but a guess head-bobbing is acceptable too.

Then came the encore with a solo working of a Blues traditional, and the highlight of the night, ending on “Numb,” probably his dirtiest, garage rocking track. After he exited the stage, I was surprised to see they had played for two and a half hours. Time flies when you’re rocking out I guess.

I left the concert feeling hopeful for the Blues and happy to see a crowd fill a show that ended up being much more about traditional Blues than contemporary R&B. I’d highly recommend a Gary Clark Jr show as an opening into the world of some of these great, hopefully never forgotten Bluesmen. My day dreaming was then quickly interrupted because we had just walked out onto Colfax on a Friday night, and there was a crazy hobo yelling next to me, flailing around a bucket and a stick. That was just the beginning of all the weirdness we’d see outside of the safe confines of the Ogden Theatre, but that’s a story for another day.

4/5: Awesome

4 Records

Set List: 

Ain’t Messin’  ‘Round
Travis County
3 O’Clock Blues (BB King cover)
Don’t Owe You A Thang
When My Train Pulls In
Things Are Changing
You Saved Me
If Trouble Was Money (Albert Collins cover)
Catfish Blues (Robert Petway cover)
Third Stone From The Sun (Jimi Hendrix cover)
If You Love Me Like You Say (Albert Collins cover)
Blak and Blu
Bright Lights

Encore:

In the Evening (Leroy Carr cover)
Numb

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