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Photos: 5 reasons to see Gary Clark Jr. live

Gary Clark Jr. has been creating a significant buzz since his EP release of 2011. The Austin, Texas native’s live performances have been epic. Eric Clapton selected Clark to perform at his Crossroads Guitar Festival as early as 2010 to play alongside all the guitar legends alive at the time.

Clark is touring this spring in support of his new studio album release, This Land. This is Clark’s first studio release in four years. His appearance at the Rialto Theatre on May 14 was his first Tucson appearance and fans piled into the packed venue that left very little standing room. The multi-generational crowd was bursting with excitement in anticipation to see their favorite guitar hero. AXS was there and here are five reasons to see Clark’s live show.

1) Clark’s guitar playing is a thrilling experience

Clark’s finger picking guitar is nothing short of hypnotic. During the show, Clark demonstrated that he is at the peak of his powers. He wasted no time starting the set with an extended version of his hit ’Bright Lights.” 

The evening was filled with Clark’s pointed and acrobatic guitar solos. Ten of the songs in the set were from his new album. “Gotta Get Into Something” was a pure adrenalin based rock tune that followed a reggae filled “Feelin’ Like a Million.”

His song, “This Land,” represents protest and defiance played with soaring guitar fieriness. That was balanced by the sweet “Pearl Cadillac,” with its lengthy, gorgeous intro, allowing the fury of “This Land” to dissipate.

The crowd at the sold-out venue went wild with every explosive guitar solo.

2) Clark defies being pegged in one genre

Many fans hoped that Clark would fill a deepening void left by aging bluesmen. However, Clark has resisted the habit of being boxed in blues music. That said, his blues guitar is nothing less than stunning. Since early in his career, Clark has delved into R&B, funk, rockabilly, punk, hip-hop and reggae music genres and he continues to explore all genre of music.

Clark’s latest album release proves that point. The variety in Clark’s music keeps everyone engaged during his shows. There is nothing stereotypical about his performances.

3) A Prince-like falsetto vocal style

Clark’s falsetto was best showcased with the songs “Pearl Cadillac” and “Feed the Babies.” “Pearl Cadillac” is a tribute to his mother. His voice emits a gentility in his slower songs. He seems to be a remorseful crooner on “I Walk Alone,” a song about recognizing his role in a relationship’s collapse. His slow songs seem to showcase his vocals the best.

4) Clark has learned to enjoy his performances

One can remember Clark’s performances back in 2012 and he had little communication with the fans. These days, Gary Clark Jr. thrives in a live setting and it shows. He enjoys the immediate feedback he gets from the crowd. He absorbs the cheers, the singing, and the shouting of song requests and he smiles readily.

Clark doesn’t participate in much banter during his performance. However, after finishing two ballads he professed, “I’ve been easy on you. Now I’m going to F**k you up.” He followed with a ripped version of “Low Down Rolling Stone.”

5) A touring band that enhances Clark’s talent

The band includes John Bradley on bass guitar, King Zapata on rhythm guitar, Johnny Radelat on drums, and Jon Deas on keyboards. Each member of the band had an opportunity to show his considerable talent.

The band returned with an encore of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” Clark introduced it by asking the crowd, “Can you help me out?” The crowd sang without restraint. That was one of the best performances of the night.

For a complete set list, click here.