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Gary Clark Jr. at First Avenue (Minneapolis), 11/20/13

November 25, 2013

Gary Clark JR FA

There are certain artists that I want to love, but for some reason the spark is just not quite there.  Gary Clark Jr. is one of those artists.  I am guessing I first became aware of Gary Clark Jr. in 2010 as I have his EP Gary Clark Jr. from that year (and I recall getting it when if first came out).  He seems to have it all: guitar hero, sex appeal, Austin Texas pedigree, and soulful voice.

When Blak and Blu came out in 2012 I was so stoked until I heard it.  First I was put off by the fact that 8 of the 13 tracks had appeared in some form on his previous LPs and EPs (I was so annoyed at the time I actually created a spreadsheet with song titles as rows and LPs/EPs as columns to prove to myself the sins of redundancy).  Second I was a bit put off by his is uncertainty as to whether he wanted to be a hip hop artist, John Mayer or a blues god.  Finally there was tentativeness to the album’s performance.  I really wanted to love this album – there was smoke, but no fire.

Clark Jr’s performance recently at First Avenue was his first in my town and I snapped up a ticket as soon as they went on sale – hopefully live he would deliver on the hype.  The night I saw him he was focused on being the blues god – which let’s face is what any mid-50s music-head is going to want.  Clark Jr. lived up to the hype.  Reviews in City Pages and StarTribune do the show more justice than I can – read the pros.

Here are my impressions:

  • Clark Jr. has a wonderfully unassuming and relaxed stage presence – he has no need to prove anything to anyone – he looks very comfortable in his skin
  • Clark Jr. is slinky rock star sexy
  • Clark Jr. needs a different band, they were not bad, just anonymous – a star that shines as bright Clark Jr. can afford to have a little flash behind him
  • Clark Jr. needs his next album to be a live album – a good 120 minutes on a double CD – what Clark Jr. does is best done in a packed sweaty booze soaked club and not in a studio
  • Once the live album is under his belt he can escape the yoke of being the next big blues thing and he can record his Inspiration Information/Electric Ladyland – which I am confident he has in him – he has not yet painted his masterpiece

After seeing Clark Jr. live I feel like my emotional investment in him has been worth it and there is the potential of greatness to come.  I kind of like it that he is just hitting his stride at nearly 30 years old (and thank god there were more people under 30 than over 40 at his show, but not by much).

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