One of the Most Electrifying Live Performers in Music
Gary Clark Jr. won’t be going anywhere for a while, at least, and he remains the great living link between Hubert Sumlin and Childish Gambino.
As for his most recent album, Live/North America 2016, released in March 2016, that was not just a stopgap between his last studio release, 2015’s The Story of Sonny Boy Slim, and whatever comes next. “Some of my favorite albums of all time are live albums,” he points out. “Songs can take a different direction based on how the audience responds and how the band is feeling. They might switch things up, and it keeps it exciting. That walking the tightrope is something I’ve always respected in jazz, too — how somebody like Coltrane or Miles Davis or Billy Morgan can just take it out and then reel it back in, even though you’re gone.”
Maybe that’s as good a way as any to describe the appeal of Clark’s own playing, and the “danger” he says he looks for — taking a solo out until it’s gone, daddy, gone, only to let the music return to sender with the reassuring sound of his honey-thick vocals. Or, as John Lennon might’ve put it: “He roller-coaster.” In Clark’s dynamic musical world, combustible tension and exquisite release are the things that truly come together.