review & photos: Lucas Packett @lucas_packett_photography
“…it’s his adherence and homage to the blues that feels like its sits most comfortably and authentically with Clark Jr.”
It is always a pleasure to walk into the beautiful sculptured surroundings of Melbourne’s iconic Forum theatre, but it is particularly wonderful to be part of a sold-out crowd anticipating what is to come tonight. Texas native, Gary Clark Jr, is promoting his fifth studio album ‘This Land’ and is hot off the Byron Bay Bluesfest stage where he performed twice this year.
Show opener and Melbourne born, Hamish Anderson, delivers his own brand of blues-rock and moves effortlessly through a bunch of original tunes. No slouch on the guitar, the three-piece highlight Anderson’s ability not only to sing and write, but to crank out extended guitar solos in each tune. As a side note, Anderson had the somewhat somber honour of being the last artist to open a show for the late BB King before his passing. On a more upbeat note, Gary Clark Jr has cited Anderson as being the ‘young act under 30 to watch out for’.
After a short pause, Gary Clark Jr and band take to the stage, a traditional blues refrain rings out and punters cheer in expectation. Clark Jr is known for his fusion of rock, soul and blues, mixed up with elements of reggae and hip-hop. But it’s his adherence and homage to the blues that feels like its sits most comfortably and authentically with Clark Jr. This is particularly evident with set opener ‘Bright Lights’, ‘When My Train Pulls In’ and ‘Low Down Rolling Stone’.
King Zapata, who shares rhythm and lead guitar duties with Clark Jr, offers an extra layer of swagger on stage (if this is possible with Clark Jr exuding more than enough vibe) and nails the guitar parts effortlessly.
Clark Jr’s extended guitar solos are perfect in every song, reinforced by a solid drum/bass/keyboard backline and are embraced by an enthusiastic crowd wanting more.
The clincher of the blues homage and highlight is Clark Jr’s rendition of BB King’s ‘My Baby’s Gone’ in the encore, where he’s joined by Anderson and they both leave nothing behind.
Close to two and a half hours after gracing the stage, Clark Jr leaves us wanting more. I’m rapt that the blues is alive and well through Clark Jr, and that he’ll continue to pepper his sets with his rock/soul infused brand of writing. Long may you run!