Gary Clark Jr. At The Roxy Theatre

  • Gary Clark Jr.
    Photo: The Recording Academy

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By Crystal Larsen
West Hollywood, Calif.

If you've been paying any attention to music over the last few years, it's been hard to escape the name Gary Clark Jr. Alicia Keys has compared him to Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye. Eric Clapton recruited him for a return performance at his recent 2013 Crossroads Guitar Festival. And in 2012 he joined Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, and B.B. King for a performance at the White House for President Barack Obama.

So, who is Gary Clark Jr.? The simple answer is: a brilliant guitarist out of Austin, Texas, who will no doubt be credited as a pioneer of the new generation of blues musicians.

As the doors to the intimate Roxy Theatre opened just shortly after 8 p.m., I entered hoping to score a prime spot in front of the stage. The only act to precede Clark was a DJ, who was spinning a fitting mix of rock, soul, hip-hop, and R&B, preparing the sold-out crowd, which included GRAMMY winners Kelly Rowland, The-Dream and actors Lisa Bonet and Marlon Wayans, for the eclectic set they were about to enjoy. The curtains finally lifted at approximately 10:15 p.m. to a sea of blue stage lights that dimly lit Clark. Beginning with a few solemn notes on electric guitar, Clark and his energetic three-piece band cranked out the opener "When My Train Pulls In," off 2012's Blak And Blu. There were two stand-out guitar solos on this song, both of which simultaneously evoked Hendrix-style rock and roll and tricks and techniques worthy of Tom Morello.

While making comparisons to Hendrix is something that should be done with caution, Clark is unmistakably working toward such an association, evidenced by his stirring performance of Hendrix's "Third Stone From The Sun" mixed with Little Johnny Taylor's "If You Love Me Like You Say," a mashup that was borne out of a technical problem during a concert in Austin, Texas, years ago. This was followed by a contemporary Stevie Ray Vaughan-infused take on the blues classic "Three O'Clock Blues," which was written by Lowell Fulson and later associated with King.

Two of the night's highlights for me were performances of Clark's own Southern rock/R&B tune "Travis County" and "Numb," which marries thick grunge-rock guitar with blues sentiments. Clark's talent for fusing so many different genres into a perfectly packaged sound is what makes him one of today's most unique new artists.

Clark ended his set with a performance of the crowd-favorite "Bright Lights," and plenty of attitude as he repeated the chorus with a snarl: "You gonna know my name/You gonna know my name." After leaving the stage temporarily, the band came back to end their nearly two-hour set with an encore featuring "Ain't Messin 'Round" and "You Saved Me."

After last night, I don't think anyone is ever going to forget Gary Clark Jr.'s name.

Set List:
"When My Train Pulls In"
"Don't Owe You A Thang"
"Please Come Home"
"Travis County"
"Things Are Changin'"
"Third Stone From The Sun/If You Love Me Like You Say" (Jimi Hendrix/Little Johnny Taylor covers)
"Three O'Clock Blues" (Lowell Fulson cover)
"Catfish Blues" (Robert Petway cover)
"Blak And Blu"
"Bright Lights"
"Ain't Messin 'Round"
"You Saved Me"

To catch Gary Clark Jr. in a city near you, click here for tour dates.