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Gary Clark Jr. At Amoeba, Wednesday September 23rd 2015


Gary Clark Jr.


Gary Clark Jr. knows the blues, there’s no doubt about it, he builds a big raucous distorted bluesy sound with his guitar and sings with a soft and young voice, a bit gritty at times, there is a sort of Jimi Hendrix wannabe in that scene, although I would not blame him for that, there has been so many Hendrix comparisons and so much hype surrounding the guy for a few years, that I consider him more like a victim than a guitar hero. I am sure he would rather not see Hendrix’s name anywhere … because, how can you hold the comparison?

Gary Clark Jr. was giving an in-store at Amoeba on Wednesday night, and I didn’t do too bad considering that I arrived at the store after 5:30 pm for a performance starting at 6! It was once again a full house and I honestly thought I would not get in, but I did, without even begging some Amoeba employee to let me in. Clark is famous, but there are some limits to his fame and I got a spot in the right aisle of the store, in the world music section.

Clark and his musicians came on stage at least 15 minutes late, but the crowd could not have cared less, everyone around me got very enthusiastic when the band started to play loud songs, the type of songs with long tearing guitar solos, that make people applause several times during the same song. The energy on stage was kept to minimal thought, I know it’s a very small stage, but I have seen more action at this same place… Gary Clark was certainly rocking his blues, doing some great guitar stuff, and I am definitively the wrong person to judge anyone guitar’s technic but he was apparently very good at it, even more than simply good, although he failed to impressed me. However, people around me seemed to be in love with his guitar game and his endless solos. It was not the sad type of blues, rather the Stevie Ray Vaughan or Black Keys type, empowering with some occasional wah-wah pedal, and a pinch of reggae-ish rhythm during one song. Another tune sounded a bit like something from Alabama Shakes, bringing a sort of coolness sung with a falsetto that could have been Brittany Howard’s vocals. There was a slow-tempo love song, much quieter also using Clark’s falsetto, there was a foot-tapping stomping blues-in-the-bayou, and he closed his set with ‘The Healing’ off his new album. The Austin-based artist was actually there to promote his new album ‘The Story of Sonny Boy Slim’ just released on Warner Bros. What can I say, I was expecting to be blown away and I was not, I have never been overly impressed by people doing distorted guitar solos, and I failed to notice something out of the ordinary coming from all this, he was, yes, a very good guitar player, but may be too technical and not very emotional?

Maybe this is a sign, Clark is on tour with the Foo Fighters and he may belong to the same species, draining the same crowd of bros liking to rock hard on the same predictable guitar riffs and rather trite songs. I see a lot of non-famous musicians and local bands, and among them there are quite a lot of very talented people, and I am still looking for the detail that would make Gary Clark Jr so special, so much better than all these people. While looking around me, I saw a rather white crowd visibly enjoying his set very much, why wasn’t it the case for me? I realized that may be Gary Clark Jr. was very safe, too safe? And he was playing a very safe blues for white people.

Pictures of the show here.

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