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Gary Clark Jr. Lights Up Jazz Fest Stage

Gary Clark Jr.
Even though the temperatures at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’s opening day hovered around 70 degrees – much less oppressive than those of a year ago – it was still impressive that Austin, Texas, native Gary Clark Jr. barely broke a sweat after a 70-minute set.Then again, perhaps it’s because Clark channels all his energy and emotion through the sturdy wooden bodies of his guitars and the booming power of his amps. Preferring to stand in front of the mic almost entirely still, Clark remained stoic, save for a few grins and a little banter with the audience.On Friday, the tall, lanky bluesman seemed more like a shaman at peace with his world and less like a frantic rock star wanting to whip the crowd into a whirling dervish with unnecessary antics.

GclarkDrawing on gems from his 2012 album Blak and Blu, in addition to a few choice cuts from his 2010 self-titled debut, Clark had a massive crowd at the Gentilly Stage in near shock from the first notes of his opener “When My Train Pulls In.”

The railway-ready riff lulls the listener into a sense of submission, simply nodding one’s head in agreement when he sings, “Every day, nothing’s changed / Everywhere I go, I keep seeing the same old thing / And I can’t take it no more.”

Clark strengthened the spell with the swamp –boogie of “Don’t Owe You a Thang” next, lambasting a former lover by noting, “Just me and this guitar, baby / That’s all you get.”

Of course, Clark changed his tune in the next offering, crooning in a sweet falsetto on “Please Come Home.”

He followed that up with what might have been his set highlight, the epic Jimi Hendrix-tease of “Third Stone from the Sun” into “If You Love Me Like You Say” from Blak and Blu. During the intro, Clark actually stalked the stage from left to right, and was that a wry smile he flashed as the throbbing bassline kicked in?

It was, and even though the lyrics of “Like You Say,” are heartbreaking – “If you love me like you say / Why do you stay out late?” – it is an incredible compilation when one considers the turntable-like scratches he unleashes on his strings to break up each part.

Clark finished with what might be his biggest single, “Bright Lights,” which had everyone watching throwing their shoulders back and forth as he told the masses, “You’re gonna know my name.”

Indeed, if not before seeing Clark’s live performance at Jazz Fest, those in attendance will know of this tall, lanky shaman now.

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