Gary Clark, Jr, the Austin-based, Grammy-winning, Southern blues guitar slinger, and his crack band of top-notch players (guitarist and vocalist King Zapata, keyboardist, and vocalist Jon Deas, bassist and vocalist, Elijah Ford, and drummer JJ Johnson) delivered one of the 2021’s most memorable shows last Saturday night. He reaffirmed the vital importance of and the magic of live music.
Clad in a stocking cap, boots (worn outside his black jeans), and a cool, tight-fitting acid-washed jean jacket, an electrified and animated Clark hit the stage as the strains of Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s song “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights” played over the PA and dissipated. Clark and the band’s entrance was met with thunderous applause, chants of “Gary,” and screams from adoring women. Then, the band launched into the opener, “Bright Lights,” from Clark’s self-titled 2010 EP. The rowdy, excited audience of over 2,000 fans immediately sprung to their feet, and most never touched their seats again. Blue and white lights and a light fog enveloped the stage as Clark dug into the riff and stalked the stage.
Gary Clark Jr. acknowledged the St. Louis audience and his last memorable appearance in the Gateway to The West. “Man, it feels so good to back,” Clark said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been on the road. I didn’t know how much I missed that (performing live).” From the screams, yells, and applause, it was evident that the hometown crowd felt the same.
Clark hadn’t played St. Louis since his live, pre-game outdoor show outside the Enterprise Center during Game Four Of the Stanley Cup Finals way back on June 3rd, 2019. “The last time I was here, you guys were all celebrating,” Clark laughed.
There were so many highlights during Clark’s two-hour-plus show; it’s hard to list them all. However, honorable mention would have to include the thick, fat, distorted guitar tones of “You Saved Me,” the roots reggae dub skank, and echo-laden breaks of “Feelin’ Like A Million,” and the classic Motown groove and soulful vocal croonings of “When I Get Home.”
Clark repeatedly demonstrated why he’s more than just a blazing guitar hero; he also showcased his stellar and stunning vocal range. From a blues growl to a punky snarl, to a velvety-smooth falsetto ala Curtis Mayfield’s masterpiece track, “Freddie’s Dead,” Clark showed that he has it all—guitar shredder, gifted vocalist with an impressive and versatile vocal range, and engaging entertainer, and a superstar with the “it” factor.
“Gotta Get Into Something,” the night’s tenth number, featured an almost Ramones/Clash-like punk rock riff with the Velcro vocal refrain of “Wow, wooh!” refrain and blazing Chuck Berry-styled licks really energized the audience and reminded them all of the power of four chords and the truth. Even after the track was over, the crowd continued to shout, “wooh!”
Jon Dea’s synth freak out during “Low Down Rolling Stone” was an ELP/Rick Wakeman psychedelic 1970’s stadium spectacle, but not at all out of place sitting next to Clark’s diverse catalog and grab bag of sounds and riffs.
The night’s opener, guitarist-singer/songwriter, Suzanne Santo joined Clark and his band on stage for the night’s
Clark left the stage after delivering his amazing, sultry falsetto vocals and searing guitar lines in the Prince-like “Pearl Cadillac” to a nearly satiated crowd of grateful real music fans. The faithful knew they had viewed one of rock’s finest “new” talents, a true guitar god, and an artist that is just getting started. So stay tuned for more big things from Mr. Clark, and if he’s coming to your town, don’t miss him.
Gary Clark Jr. Stiefel Theatre, November 13th, 2021, Setlist:
“Got to Get Up”
“Next Door Neighbor Blues”
“What About Us”
“When I’m Gone”
“Feed the Babies”
“You Saved Me”
“Feelin’ Like a Million”
“Gotta Get Into Something”
“Low Down Rolling Stone”
Unknown Song (Bassist Elijah Ford on lead vocals and guitar, Clark on bass.)
“I Got My Eyes on You (Locked & Loaded)”
“When My Train Pulls In”
“Fall For That” (with guest vocalist and show opener Suzanne Santo)