November 16, 2012 4:00pm PT by Steve Baltin
Believe the Hype: Gary Clark Jr.'s Star-Making Turn at the Troubadour
Although his major label debut Blak And Blu came out just a week ago, Austin native and guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr. has maintained a steady presence on the 2012 music landscape as the only artist to play every major U.S. festival. Now, with his album charting at No. 6 on the Billboard 200, the hype has officially reached a fevered pitch. His three shows at L.A.'s famed Troubadour sold out in minutes as industry demand prompted top dollar prices for scalped tickets.
Would Clark deliver? It was the question on everybody's minds on Thursday night. Maybe in the fingers of a lesser player, such an artist would have to win the crowd over, but that question proved anticlimactic in the opening jam. Within the first five minutes, Clark and his three-piece backing band delivered the first of what seemed like dozens of jaw-dropping, how-did-he-do-that moments.
What makes Clark’s prowess as a guitar god so amazing is the effortlessness with which he plays his solos. Like the best painters, auteurs and athletes, the 28-year-old Clark has that same naturalness about him. To that end, his diversity throughout the two-hour performance also impressed, showcasing hard-edged blues tunes (like the powerful opener, “When My Train Comes In”), boogie woogie-style sounds and soft ballads such as the gorgeous “Things Are Changing,” a superb vehicle for his vocals.
Speculation as to whether Clark can sustain this popularity or if it’s just a case of new industry buzz is a warranted one, but looking at the packed crowd on the floor from the club’s upstairs balcony you could see a wide cross-section of people -- three college-age girls dancing in front of the stage feet away from a couple white haired gents -- all equally mesmerized, and it's clear that Clark's audience gets it, while he has the goods to transcend the typical generational divides.
Some might argue that Clark seems of another time, but great guitar playing has never gone out of style, be it the blues greats, Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Not to compare Clark, because to connect any young artist to legends and forefathers is unfair. Indeed, Clark is his own artist, and one who has the potential reach icon status in his own right.