Gary Clark, Jr. last played Detroit two years ago. For the fortunate few, who were able to score tickets to his sold-out gig at Saint Andrews Hall, chances are their lives haven't been the same since. The southern-style, blues-infused sermon left the congregation weak in their knees and staring into the eyes of an ordained prophet.
A darling of the international music festival circuit and receiver of high praise from the likes of rock luminaries Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and Dave Grohl, Gary Clark, Jr. isn't a rising star. The baton's already been passed: he's this generation's Great One.
That hot breeze you’re feeling today is a wake up. It’s a call to arms. It’s an opportunity not to be passed up. Tomorrow is Friday and the weekend starts tonight (Thursday, July 21, 2016) at Detroit’s Fillmore. Get there early enough and you just might score a pair of treasured tickets to the Gary Clark, Jr. gig before they sell out.
The best experiences in life are typically derived from spontaneity. Don’t overthink this one—just act. For those needing facts, let me break down what transpired two years ago:
Touring in support of his exceptional album, Blak and Blu, Clark and his band immediately established two things, from the opening chords of "Ain't Messing 'Round": 1) all the growing hype would quickly be confirmed and 2) these guys clearly ain't messing 'round. "Travis County" evolved into an all-out, back woods stomper: decadent, celebratory, and full of the-man-will-never-crush-my-buzz spirit. "When My Train Comes In" and "Numb" were explosive, showcasing the dueling guitar slinging of Clark and out-of-this world rhythm guitarist, Eric Zapata. While many reference the heavy Jimi Hendrix influence on Gary Clark, Jr.'s style and sound, it makes sense to explore a common denominator rarely mentioned: The Band of Gypsies. Together with Zapata, bassist Johnny Bradley, and drummer Johnny Radelat, Gary Clark, Jr. occupies a mystic, shamanistic space on stage and truly transports audiences to different dimensions through bent notes, distortion, and a balance of timing and structure. The band rolls in with the fog and nightfall; mesmerizes you with age-old stories, steeped in tradition, yet rendered fresh and relevant for these times; and then packs up their gear and proceeds onto the next city to preach their faith, indoctrinate the newbies, and build their congregation—one brick at a time.
When it comes to exploring what makes blues-based musicians tick, one needs to look no further than source-related inspiration. Gary Clark, Jr. is a proven historian, at once reinterpreting, and thru transformation, paying respects to iconic standards "Catfish Blues" (Robert Petway), "If Trouble Was Money" (Albert Collins), and "3 O'Clock Blues" (B.B. King). One doesn’t merely play the blues, they convey the blues, transmitting waves as an offering of experience. Few play the blues as convincing as Gary Clark, Jr.; for him and his band, this is not some trendy roots-based novelty—it’s the genuine real deal.
A staple in the set list is “Bright Lights,” a blazing, original composition that offers a glimpse into how our lives can be quickly impacted by rapid succession of events. Ever prolific with his phrasing, Clark declares a truth no one seeing him live can dispute: “You gonna know my name by the end of the night.”
What exactly is Detroit in for this time around? A master-craft demonstration encompassing exploration, contemplation, and proclamation. Clark's latest release, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, is exceptional. Do yourself a favor: pull the trigger and punch your ticket to The Fillmore for this special Thursday serving of church. Minds are gonna melt and souls are gonna soar. Like a wicked storm that tears through town and leaves wreckage in it's wake, Gary Clark, Jr. and his top-flight band sear an indelible mark into the hearts, minds, and souls of all who bear witness.
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