Gary Clark, Jr.
House Of Blues Anaheim
While the majority of the West Coast sat in awe during the Breaking Bad series finale, a packed House of Blues Anaheim stood in awe for Gary Clark, Jr. Spoiler Alert: He wails.
The 29-year-old guitar player has made a name for himself since the release of his self-titled 2010 debut, showcasing his talents alongside greats like B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and The Rolling Stones in the years that followed (not to mention numerous festival appearances, including Bonnaroo, Outside Lands, and Coachella and even a special White House event, Red, White and Blues, in February of last year). The guy's got a gift, no doubt about it, and though his recordings sound quite reminiscent of another 21st Century blues troubadour (read: Dan Auerbach), Clark, Jr.'s no copycat. In fact he's been doing this since he was 12 years-old, and those 17 years of practice shined last night.
He began his set without a greeting to the crowd, and from the first note he struck it was clear he was in the zone. Backed by a three-piece band consisting of a drummer, rhythm guitarist and bassist, the Austin native's songs sounded as full live as they do on record (if not more so), and he added a guitar solo to every single one of them. Due to this additional flare, his two-hour long set consisted of a mere 13 songs that included one epic jam session in which Clark, Jr. scratched his strings to mimic the sound of turntables, “Catfish Blues,” which he played at the White House, a cover of B.B. King's “Three O'Clock Blues,” a couple songs off his first album, and a handful of songs from his acclaimed Warner Bros. Records debut, Blak and Blu, which dropped last fall.
Though the thought of each song clocking in between seven and ten minutes in length may sound like it would become tiresome, this was not the case with Clark Jr. As the set progressed, his intensity level escalated until it was uncertain if he even realized he was onstage. He closed his eyes and let his fingers do the work as he shredded through solos, contorting his face to correspond with his guitar's sounds and staggering across the stage as if he were possessed. But most astonishing of all was the realization that he did, in fact, have control the whole time. And he proved that to the crowd by flawlessly rolling back on track with his band and executing each song flawlessly. For this, his fans urged on each spastic wailing outbreak as if they hadn't just seen him do it during the prior tune.
It truly was amazing to see a crowd so into the performer, and the performer so into his craft. “I love you!” numerous fans screamed between songs, in which Clark, Jr. would reply, “I love you!” And after the cheering and applause subsided and the curtain dropped, it was clear these words were true.
Critical Bias: Gary Clark, Jr. is a guitar-wielding god.
The Crowd: The brave souls that sacrificed watching the Breaking Bad series finale during its first airing for the sake of music.
Overheard in the Crowd: While everyone was cheering Gary's name, one clever fella yelled “Jerry, Jerry!” You know, like Jerry Springer. Hilarious.
Random Notebook Dump: As soon as the show ended I raced home and watched Breaking Bad. The ending was perfect.