“I don’t believe in competition, ain’t nobody else like me around”
The first words of the first song off Gary Clark Jr.’s debut album certainly doesn’t pull any punches, as he makes it clear that there’s no one like him. After seeing him for the second time last night, this time at Central Park SummerStage, it’s becoming obvious to realize that no, there isn’t anyone like Gary. Not many musicians can step on the fuzz pedal and bring out a dirty, grungy bluesman only to transform into a smooth, sexy soul and jazz performer the very next song. What’s even more impressive is being able to cover a range of styles and musical diversity in a set and still being able to keep a strong identity. As some music fans might get frustrated if their favorite guitarist kept bouncing around different styles and genres, but Gary does it so effortlessly and with such precision and talent, that as a music fan I understand that it’s okay to just sit back and enjoy a musician as diverse and trained as Gary.
As the full harvest moon shone down on a cooler New York City night last night, Gary was a man on fire, heating things up with his bluesy licks, killer smooth voice, and ability to keep a cool demeanor while letting his guitar do all the work. He started out somewhat slow and relaxed bringing out his inner Robert Johnson/BB King, opening with ‘Catfish Blues’ and ‘Nextdoor Neighboor Blues’, only to floor it transitioning right into ‘Ain’t Messin Round’ and ‘Travis County’.
“I feel like letting loose man”, he said. Having a fair amount to time to warm up and get a feel for the crowd, he then blew the doors off with his epic bluesy rock jam ‘When My Train Pulls In’ – my favorite song of his. That cool Joe Perry-esque riff in the key of E takes off like a rocket fueled by Gary’s guitar mastery.
After coming back down to earth with the soulful version of ‘Please Come Home’, he came out with an encore featuring G Love of G Love & Special Sauce on the harmonica, the two covered Jimmy Reed’s ‘Shame Shame Shame’ and a slowed down version of ‘Blak & Blu’ together before Gary closed out with his powerful hip-hop based New York City rock tune ‘Bright Lights’. Not a bad way to spend a Monday night right?
You’re quite right Gary, there really is no one like you around. On a night with a huge full moon as the spotlight, and countless musicians attempting to spark their own bright light, it was Gary who showed he can shine the brightest.
Article by: Tom Shackleford