REVIEW: Gary Clark Jr. at the Fillmore

Like the headline says, this post is a review of the Gary Clark Jr. show at the Fillmore last night. But before we get to the reviewing, two things must be stated:

1. The Fillmore is absolutely gorgeous. Last night was my first time there, and I was absolutely in awe. It’s B-E-A-utiful. There are bars everywhere, you can actually order decent food, the beer selection is above average, it’s not too difficult to get to (parking is everywhere and it’s less than a 5-minute walk from the Girard el station and Frankford Avenue trolley stop) and the revamped factory vibe provides a magnificent industrial aesthetic. Very rock-and-roll. Would highly recommend. Two thumbs up.

2. I don’t usually mention the opening band in reviews, but this time an exception is necessary. Black Pistol Fire was killer. They reek of old school blues — probably even more so than Gary Clark Jr. himself. They even did a cover of Son House. And a cover of a Led Zeppelin song that was basically a cover of a Howlin’ Wolf song (long story). Anyway, they’re playing Ortlieb’s on December 12th. Go. It’s $10, and it’s on the weekend. You have no excuse. I’m telling you, you should go.

Photo by Tom Beck

Photo by Tom Beck

OK, right. Gary Clark Jr. The reason we’re here in the first place. He was pretty good, as well. Clark kicked off the show with his three best songs: “Bright Lights,” “Ain’t Messin’ Around” and “When My Train Pulls In.” Here’s why that’s good: the show was off to a great start. I had chills shivering down my spine, and I’m sure most of the audience did as well. Why is it bad? The show had nowhere to go but downward after that. I’m not saying it plummeted, but the chills never really came back.

Throughout the rest of the night, good songs were sprinkled throughout the set list, including new stuff like “Church,” and more old stuff like “Numb.” What you didn’t hear? Anything that wasn’t bluesy. Clark is known for reaching outside the blues spectrum from time to time, and especially in to hip-hop. But none of that was present at last night’s concert at the Fillmore, save maybe for “Please Come Home,” a swingy, jazzy soul track from the first album. If you’re a blues purist, you probably liked this setlist. If you wanted to see Clark branch out a little more, and you dig songs like “Black and Blu” and “The Life,” you may have left disappointed.

As far as stage presence goes, Clark very much had a ‘no bells, no whistles, no bullshit’ approach to being a frontman. He didn’t move much and seldom talked to the crowd, but he did look cool. Think Slash positioned in the power stance smoking a cigarette, or Julian Casablancas cradling a microphone stand while wearing a leather jacket and a pair of Ray-Bans even when it’s dark out. Like that.

Young or old, black or white, hipster or non-hipster, just about every demographic was represented. And this makes sense when you think about it. After all, isn’t everybody a sucker for the blues?

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