Shed 6, Wellington
Sunday, March 29
Gary Clark Jr. has an impressive set of blues influences but he used them to release the frankly horrific major-label studio debut, Blak and Blu. The idea of seeing the American blues protégé live has to be the decider. He’s been called a saviour, compared to Hendrix (casual racism?) and most recently he’s received more column inches for his celebrity relationship (with model Nicole Trunfio) than for his electrifying concert album, Live.
Maybe it was an off-night for Clark Jr. He seemed tired. There was an immediate dearth of energy. The lacklustre rhythm section no doubt cunningly assembled to allow Clark’s star to truly shine. However, there was no star-time for this outing. Nonchalant wandering and spiritually bankrupt guitar solos were the order of the day. During a version of Albert Collins’ If Trouble Was Money Clark managed, somehow, to build a series of solos that were both interminable and completely hollow. That might have been his greatest trick all evening – building nothing out of something.
When he donned a slick falsetto voice – and delivered half a dozen Lenny Kravitz ballads in the space of just one song – it was clear, as has been hinted at throughout his career to date, that he just doesn’t have the tunes. There’s nothing happening, no spark, let alone fire, in Gary Clark Jr’s own songwriting. And though it might seem, on paper, and occasionally in live clips (and across the double concert album released last year) that he has got the goods he is also trying to serve two audiences. There are those that feel, for some odd reason, they must have a new blues hero. Then there are those that want to light up around the campfire and have a good time man.
Currently Clark is making that party-vibe crowd sit through some blues filler and giving the think-they-might-be-purists some hackneyed songs and stock rock-as-blues guitar voicings to grumble at. The type of songs The Black Keys and Kings of Leon might even be embarrassed to release.
This review appeared in The Dominion Post – I’ve reposted it here on Off The Tracks due to requests from people wanting to view it online