Gary Clark Jr.: passionately demure

Gary Clark Jr. stays hidden in the deep red shadows like Dr. Frankenstein’s beautiful monster. Dark grays and husky purples illuminate his silhouette only slightly. His face is turned to the side in musical meditation and humility, his eyes never quite finding the audience. A smooth, buttery falsetto rings through the crowd, parting the masses with rippling chills. I feel a cold drip of sweat on the small of my back, oddly out of place in the otherwise musky heat of the Vic Theatre. I look up. Not three feet from me stands a man that seems more fiction than reality, separated only by a microphone and his slick, red guitar. I could reach over and grab his boot…should I be gutsy enough to try. My breath catches, I feel the crowd surge behind me, and an emotional realness grips my throat tightly. A bright flash of backlight catches his shoulder and bounces off his eye. For a moment, I can almost imagine he looked right into my soul, carrying me swiftly on.

Clark, neither flashy nor showy, was comfortable in his confines, never taking more of the stage than need be. Without physically commanding the whole space, every eye was focused, every ear tuned. To be standing in the shadow of a man who had met, and performed alongside, some of the most important members of society was monumentally groundbreaking for someone of humble Chicago livings. He’s played with the likes of Mick Jagger and B.B. King, for the Obama’s in the White House and he’s collaborated with Nas, Alicia Keys, The Roots, and Eric Clapton. Gary Clark Jr. is no stranger to the finer things in life. He has bathed in the musical musings of the generations. Most impressive, is his ability to smoothly and serenely blend his own voice into that fold. Unwavering, unfading, and solid in its foundation, Clark has rightfully carved his own notch into this list of legends.

With a recent Grammy nomination under his belt, it’s easy to see how his fusion of rock, pop, R&B, and blues makes its way to mainstream media. Not surprising, is Clark’s fluid adaptability. His full length studio album Blak and Blu bleeds across the musical spectrum. Top 40 flair makes it clear that Clark knows exactly what he’s doing. He dips into each genre and, honestly, the effect couldn’t be more perfect. “The Life” and “The Breakdown,” are equipped with easy pop hooks and a hum-ability rivaling the pop queens of the aught’s, while “When My Train Pulls In” and “Bright Lights,” lend urban rock grit. The songs are blended in such unsynchronised contrast, the result is perfect syncopation. Having an album produced by chameleon mastermind, Mike Elizondo (purveyor of musical talents Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple, and Josh Hutchinson) and Warner Brothers has put Gary Clark Jr. on an eclectic rocket-ship of perfect destruction. Speaking to his Texas hometown newspaper, he describes his influences as stretching from Otis Redding, Nina Simone, and Jimi Hendrix, to Green Day, Outkast, and Marvin Gaye. This man is the holy grail of melting pots.

Looking like the unabashed lovechild of Jimi Hendricks and Lenny Kravitz, Clark has found his home amongst the stars. His path could not have been laid out for him any clearer. Psychedelic and modern, yet classic. Gary Clark Jr. is here to stay and thrive. And, thrive he shall. A final bubble of giddiness rises in my stomach, I feel my smile stretch, tears threaten the brims of my eyelids, and the chill in my arm intensifies. One day, when I’m old and gray, I’ll be able to tell the story (to anyone that will listen) of the time I stood at his feet, basking in the shadow of a legend. Pay attention to this man and one day you’ll look back, as well, and remember the moment that Gary Clark Jr. became the voice that could endure long after the others buckled under a fad.

-Cole Scott, junior editor, On Tour Magazine

Gary Clark Jr. will resume touring in February. For an advance listing of tour dates and towns please browse here. His show is leaps and bounds over the rest.