LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Gary Clark Jr. in Boston, MA (06.07.24)

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LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Gary Clark Jr. in Boston, MA (06.07.24)

Hot off the heels of his new album JPEG RAW, released in March of this year, Gary Clark Jr. took his tour through MGM Fenway in Boston melting minds with his usual distortion heavy soul blues. With a setlist that seamlessly blended blues, rock, and soul, Clark Jr. captivated the audience from the moment he stepped onto the stage. This is, I believe the fifth time seeing him perform live since catching his performance back in 2012 at Bonnaroo in Tennessee. Back then, he had me mesmerized with his calm as a bomb mentality – sporting his tell-tale brown fedora, slate grey distressed jacket, characteristic facial hair, and game face on like he was ready to blow minds. Back then, his big single was a song called “Numb”, which had all the bravado of a heavy weight fighter slugging out the blues as best as one could. Pure grunge blues power rock. Right then and there, I was forever hooked.

Straight out of Austin, Texas – this is a performer not to be missed. Having picked up a guitar at age 12, he’s certainly been on Eric Clapton’s radar selecting him to be a part of his Crossroads Guitar Fest as early as 2010. The evening began with his newest album’s opening track “Maktub,” setting a mellow yet anticipatory tone as Clark Jr.’s soulful voice filled the venue, accompanied by his masterful guitar riffs. As the lyrics of this song rally “We gotta move, yeah!” And move he does. The crowd heightened their attention as he transitioned into one of the more powerful tracks I’ve heard in modern music about dying, with his song “When My Train Pulls In”. As he slips into a familiar groove, he wails “I know my time ain’t long, and I…I can’t live this life again.” As the fuzz amps up, and the passion enthralls, we as his audience can’t help but feel every word, every note with the heaviness it demands.

Transitioning into the more experimental realm, “Hyperwave” demonstrated Gary’s versatility, combining modern rock elements with his signature blues style. Next up, “What About Us” from 2019’s This Land, delivering infectious grooves carrying a poignant message, delivered with raw emotion. Following that song he launched into “JPEG RAW”. As the title track of his newest album and probably the jazziest, it was self-described as an acronym for “Jealousy, Pride, Envy, Greed, Rules, Alter Ego, Worlds”. This song, as the albums itself delves into traditional African music, jazz, rock, R&B, hip-hop, and obviously blues. In my opinion, his edgiest and most forthright homemade stew of modern music he’s created to date.

His latest album is really worth giving a listen, perhaps repeated listens if you are a fan. Not only does his chops get an updated sound, but he invites some star power to attract attention. “What About The Children” is a standout track for me as it features Stevie Wonder and was equally a standout song on this tour. It has that Stevie funk and a palpable easy groove you can reach out and feel. Gary did an excellent job at replicating the feel of that song in a live setting, even without Wonder. Another highlight that was memorable for this show was the standout track from 2012’s Blak and Blu – “Bright Lights”, a fan favorite that certainly had the audience singing along to and bobbing their heads. “You gonna know my name”, a lyric from that song, was hopefully not wrong for anyone there this night just checking his set out on a hunch or with friends. Gary Clark Jr.’s concert at the MGM Fenway was a masterclass in musical artistry and a testament to the enduring power of live music.

I’m such a fan of Gary – his shows never disappoint. It’s like he harnesses every distortion heavy quality of 90’s rock and channels it through every racial hardship growing up in Texas, amplifying it through the lens of all the great predecessors who put his state on the map (Stevie Ray Vaughan, T-Bone Walker, Billy Gibbons, Blind Willie Johnson to name a few). His ability to blend genres and evoke emotion through his music solidifies his place as one of the most compelling artists of our time. If you are only vaguely familiar with his music, I promise you – it’s time for a deep dive into his album catalogue.

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