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CONCERT REVIEW: Gary Clark Jr. @ The TLA

Photo by PETE TROSHAK

Smoke and anxiety hung heavy in the air in the Theatre of Living Arts as a capacity crowd waited for Gary Clark Jr. to deliver The Blues. Once a generation this overlooked but deeply American genre produces a shining star whose undeniable brightness reaches the masses and shines a light into the darkest corners of our hearts and souls. With a palpable buzz swirling around him based on jaw-dropping live performances and his excellent Blak and Blu album, Clark just might be The One. Frequent shouts of “Gary, Gary!” rang out through the restless crowd before the show and a throaty roar erupted when Clark and his band took the stage. Arriving dressed in a dark, stylish winter coat and knit hat, Clark exuded a zen-like cool, oblivious to the sweltering conditions of the overloaded venue. Opening with a rumbling “When My Train Pulls in”, Clark struck a match and lit a slow burning fuse that snaked through an hour of the pure essence of the blues – love, loss and leaving. His band thundered and swung while Clark fired off volleys of anguished six-string wails. Midway through the set they paid tribute to some of their influences with a soaring mash up of Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun” and Albert Collins’ “If You Love Me Like You Say,” breathing new life into those classics. Clark saved the best for last though, closing out his main set with an explosive rendition “Bright Lights,” which has become his signature song. During that song he boasts “you gonna know my name by the end of the night.” If his star keeps rising like this everybody’s going to know his name. – PETE TROSHAK

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