Austin’s red hot Gary Clark, Jr. is having the BEST YEAR EVER! The singer/songwriter released a critically-acclaimed album, “This Land,” celebrated his 35th birthday, played Saturday Night Live (subsequently disrupting the Twitterverse), and finally came home for an Austin City Limits taping on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
The packed house welcomed him with appropriate excitement and respect, and Clark lived up to every expectation. The Austin-based musician brought his talent, love, anger, gratitude, and humility to the ACL stage. The Moody Theater at ACL Live is such a phenomenal venue, with perfect sound and nary a bad seat in the house. This, and the reverent crowd eager to experience Gary Clark, Jr. live, made for a dreamy evening.
Clark made his guitar gently weep, fiercely wail, and mesmerizingly hum. His set list leaned heavily on songs from “This Land,” with a few favorites from earlier albums, like “Blak and Blu” and “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.” Clark’s virtuoso guitar-playing underscored his profound lyrics about life, love, restlessness, racism, and the ins and outs of a successful music career.
Stunning Vocals on Display
Clark’s vocal range is as astonishing as his guitar licks, though. He seems to shift effortlessly back and forth between falsetto and gruff growls, managing to evoke tenderness one minute and emit rage the next. One of the songs off “This Land,” his SNL stunner “Pearl Cadillac,” is garnering comparisons to the late, great Purple One, Prince.
The single “This Land” is a tough pill to swallow, as it chronicles Clark’s personal experiences with bigotry. The artist describes the difference between the way he is treated by his audiences, full of love, and the way some of his neighbors and random strangers on the street treat him.
Rolling Stone Magazine calls the track Clark’s “Anti-Racist Anthem.” Along with anger, there is a deep sadness to the song, reflecting the sadness of the reality. “Some people just aren’t right,” Clark told the Austin City Limits audience.
While he does embody the blues-rock genre on many tunes, Clark also moves in and out of gospel, reggae, and punk with adeptness. The appreciative crowd at the taping for KLRU sat in silent wonder at this local musician who is knocking it out of the park at every turn.
Gary Clark, Jr. Left Us Wanting More
After a good hour or so, he started playing some of his biggest hits, signaling the taping was coming to a close. First he played a slower, softer version of “Blak and Blu,” then ripped into the powerhouse “Bright Lights,” both off of his “Blak and Blu” album. Clark then moved into the showstoppers (how apt) that Twitter users simply could not get over after his SNL performance, “This Land” and “Pearl Cadillac,” both from the new album.
Because we couldn’t stop applauding and desperately wanted to hear more, Clark came out with an encore of the Beatles’ “Come Together.” It’s a bold move to cover such a beloved song, but Clark is bold and outrageously talented.
Welcome home, Gary Clark, Jr. Oh, how we’ve missed having you here!
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