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Left Lane: Gary Clark, Jr.

Bright Lights tour blows through Pittsburgh

August 25, 2011
By RICH GIBSON , Times Leader

Seeing is believing.

The Hype-O-Meter has pretty much blown off the chart regarding 27-year-old guitarist/vocalist Gary Clark, Jr.

Which made an invite to his Pittsburgh Hard Rock Cafe gig last weekend impossible to resist.

Taking the stage just ahead of midnight, Clark did not exactly disappoint, making quite good on a promise from his recently released four-song EP, "Bright Lights."

"You gonna know my name by the end of the night," Clark howls on the blistering title track - a scorching blend of blues/rock.

For proof positive, check out a number of Clark's finest moments on YouTube. The Lane highly recommends searching: 'Gary Clark, Jr. Crossroads.'

There, you'll discover Clark's sizzling seven-minute live presentation of 'Bright Lights' from Eric Clapton's 2010 Crossroads Festival.

Not tomorrow, but today, you can include Clark's name alongside the likes of Derek Trucks and Joe Bonamassa, two of the planet's premiers players.

Hundreds of prospective singer-songwriters have flocked to Austin, Texas, a city whose iconic music community has few rivals.

Ironically enough, Clark was born and raised in the Lone Star state's Capitol city. He began playing guitar at age 12 and was not yet out of his teens when christened the Austin Music Awards Best Blues and Electric Guitarist.

Clark's setlist at the Hard Rock included a collection of songs from his first full-length CD, due out next spring on Warner Brothers Records.

That L.A.-based label was immediately smitten by Clark's Crossroads gig which was taped for an ensuing DVD.

I spoke with Clark's tour manager during last weekend's Pittsburgh performance. "I've seen Gary play hundreds of shows. It never gets old," he related. "The young man is an amazing talent." Amen to that.

The Lane was particularly impressed with Clark's diversity. There were elements of blues, rock, hip-hop and R&B on display.

If his playing is exceptional, Clark's vocals are equally adept. A cross between Hendrix and Marvin Gaye would not be inappropriate.

The soft-spoken, polite Clark made his way around the Hard Rock room last weekend, personally exchanging greetings with the venue's paying customers while a local band played an opening set.

Clark considers his heroes among blues standardbearers James Cotton, John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Pinetop Perkins, B.B. King and Buddy Guy.

His current tour which includes a pair of New Jersey stops this weekend finds Clark on the same bill with both King and Guy.

It appears his days of playing club dates are numbered. By this time next year, Clark should find himself an in-demand headliner on both the festival and arena circuits.

Next month, Clark is a major player and perhaps the hottest ticket during the annual Austin City Limits Festival, Sept. 16-18.

Joining Clark for three days of music nirvana are the likes of Stevie Wonder, Arcade Fire, Coldplay, Kanye West, My Morning Jacket, Fleet Foxes, Alison Krauss & Union Station, Randy Newman, Social Distortion, North Mississippi All-Stars, Gillian Welch, Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses and dozens more.....

CAN'T make it to Austin? A number of high-profile events are scheduled right here in the immediate vicinity.

Pittsburgh's Club Cafe welcomes ex-Mavericks' frontman/turned solo crooner Raul Malo next Tuesday for an over-21 show starting at 7 p.m.

September promises shorter days, cooler temps and an even cooler schedule of circle-the-date gigs. Pittsburgh's Total Trib Amphitheater has bluegrass favorites Bela Fleck & the Flecktones joining forces with Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, one week from tonight (Sept. 1), an all-ages show at 7 p.m.

The Steel City's Rusted Root plays a free Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4) show at Hartwood Acres during the 12th Annual Allegheny Music Festival. The all ages event begins a 5 p.m.

On Sept. 8, singer/songwriter John Hiatt headlines at Homestead, Pa.'s Carnegie Music Hall with Big Head Todd & the Monsters opening at 7:30 p.m....

Later in September, Keb' Mo' plays Greensburg, Pa.'s Palace Theater on the 16th....The Foo Fighters are at the Consol Energy Center the 23rd for an all ages show at 8:00.....Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs perform at Pittsburgh's Stage AE on the 27th at 7:00....

Gibson may be reached at



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