Sunday saw the return to Salt Lake of blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. in a show that had the Red Butte crowd on their feet from the moment he took the stage
Salt Lake based classic-rock aficionados The Weekenders had kicked things off earlier in the evening with a solid 35-minute set that was well received by the sold out crowd.
Clark strolled on at 8:10 p.m., looking seriously cool. And as he began proceedings with a blistering version of “Bright Lights” it was clear he meant business. The exciting opener was followed by some impressive finger styling on “Next Door Neighbor Blues,” some rather lovely falsetto vocals on “Our Lady,” and an enjoyable mid tempo minor blues “When My Train Pulls In.”
Midway through the show, a brief unplanned interlude occurred when Clark’s amplifier “blew up.” The Fender Vibro King amp in question was acquired from Who guitarist Pete Townshend during a European tour. It’s testament to how hard Gary plays that he managed to blow up an amp that once belonged to the loudest man in the history of rock.
The attention to detail with his choice of onstage equipment really helps Clark achieve a gorgeous tone from his rig. Using beautiful guitars such as modern custom shop reissues of 1963 Fender Strat, 1961 Gibson SG, and an Epiphone Casino, Gary is able play his own brand of blues that tips its hat to legends that include BB King, T-Bone Walker, John Lee Hooker, JJ Cale, and Frank Zappa.
But there’s more to Gary Clark Jr than shredding on the guitar and melting down amps. His soft ballads that were carefully positioned throughout the set were reminiscent of Dylan and Neil Young, particularly on the encore number “Church.” Like any good show, his setlist was a roller coaster and took the audience on a musical journey of highs and lows, fast and slow—but always nicely balanced.
At a June Red Butte concert, Buddy Guy spoke his concerns that blues music is dying out. Alongside Joe Bonnamassa and Derek Trucks (who plays Red Butte amphitheater with Susan Tedeschi, Aug. 7), Gary Clark Jr. is one of the most talented blues guitarists under the age of 40 playing today. If Sunday evening was anything to go by, Buddy can rest assured that the blues is alive and well and in very talented hands. At least one more generation will get to enjoy the blues.