Gary Clark Jr. at Terminal 5 / Afterword
David Burke, Contributing Writer, Foreword / Afterword, October 29, 2015
Gary Clark Jr. is a man of the people. Add that to the guitar hero’s long list of accolades. Last night he played to a sold out house at Terminal 5. Road ready after touring extensively with Foo Fighters, and making key stops at Austin City Limits and Neil Young’s venerable Bridge School Benefit, Gary Clark Jr. brought it hard Wednesday night to an eclectic crowd of 3,000, and stood back as a crowd of 2,999 watched one zealous fan ascend into the lights, don Gary’s Gibson, and play lead on “Numb.” In one of the rarest and most authentic rock and roll moments I’ve ever witnessed, what began as a guy in the front row holding up a handmade paper sign during song breaks, thickened as the band met mid stage some six songs into their set and put their heads together for a moment. Sauntering back to his mic stage right, Clark Jr. said, “Okay, you wanna do this?” to the fan, then gestured to security, get him up here, and the guy, who was no slouch, gave it hell and had his six-ish minutes of fame thanks to a gracious host and whatever chance cosmic alignment had his stars in order. Pretty cool.
Apart from “Numb,”Gary Clark Jr. played all of his own songs, and he was pretty good, too. He opened his set with the heavily played “Bright Lights,” its reverb wash and staid, decisive percussion the counterpoint to the song’s aggressive assertion, “you gonna know my name by the end of the night.” A hell of a way to open a show, as the crowd favorite also nods to Clark Jr.’s NYC experience. He sang, “woke up in New York City lying on the floor,” and the crowd cheered for its home and, perhaps in acknowledgment of some shared experience. From here, Clark Jr. and Co. tore through a few more and established a pace and energy not to diminish. In keeping with the Gary Clark Jr. live experience, the show was guitar-centric, and some of the more production heavy studio tracks fell by the wayside to make space for more guitars. Bummer. He played a balanced mix of songs from both LPs, and as guitars supplanted studio production elements, the show felt like a seamless guitar workout, the continuity of which standing as a good omen for things to come from Gary Clark Jr.
Highlights for me were “You Saved Me” from Blak and Blu and “Our Love” from The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, both sweet, sweet love songs carried effortlessly by Clark Jr.’s light fingers and his earnest, soulful croon, respectively. “Church,” another offering from the 2015 LP, knocked me over as Clark Jr. played its simple rhythm with harmonica accompaniment and only the drums behind him. Driven entirely by Clark’s earnest and plaintive wail, “Lord, my lord, I need your, helping hand,” “Church” is an old spiritual wrapped in a bit of blues and it’s damn fine. “When My Train Pulls In” stood for me as the best example of what Gary Clark Jr. can do; a powerful singer, an effortless player, and a mesmerizing soloist. As for the ecstatic guitar heroics, Gary Clark Jr. offered up a tasty buffet of licks, but watching him mimic the jump and hustle of his own guitar work on “Don’t Owe You a Thang” miming “bap bap bap bap” into the microphone as he poured it on and sweat dripped from the fret board was the moment of the night. Rock and roll, boys and girls.
Clark Jr. ended his set with a two-song encore, which included “The Healing,” an anthemic mission statement from his 2015 LP, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. “This music is my healing,” he sang, “lord knows I need some healing, ‘cause when this world upsets me, this music sets me free.” Amen.
Foreword / Afterword
October 29, 2015