TVD Live: Gary Clark Jr. at The Great American Music Hall, 2/15

Gary Clark Jr. was SPIN magazine’s Breakout Artist for the month of November, and Rolling Stone magazine ranked Clark’s Bright Lights EP number 40 on its list of Top 50 Albums of 2011. He’s been called the next big thing out of Austin, TX for some time now, but now with a major label (Warner Bros.) behind his critical acclaim, 2012 is primed to be the year of the blues.

It’s easy to compare a bluesman from Austin to Stevie Ray Vaughan, but once you see Gary Clark Jr. for yourself, there’s really no other way to describe the phenomenon. Just as SRV seemed to channel the spirit of Jimi Hendrix, Gary Clark Jr. does the same with his own unique twist. This guy has the chops and the songwriting to bring the blues back to the forefront of modern music.

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the sold-out jam-packed Great American Music Hall here in San Francisco last Wednesday to witness Clark Jr. blow the roof off of the venue. It was his 28th birthday, and the crowd greeted him accordingly by serenading him as he walked out on stage. I had seen him before in Dallas many years ago, and you could tell he was something special then; he just put the exclamation point on it last week.

The cozy music hall was packed to the gills with a surprising mix of hipsters, bluesmen, and guitar geeks. (I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.) You could really get a sense of the fact that this was a group of folks who love real music, something that is becoming more and more difficult to come by in the age of digital bombardment.

Highlights from the set included the barn-burning instant classic “You Don’t Owe Me a Thing,” the heartfelt and emotionally charged “Things are Changin'” (which should be a massive crossover hit—think John Mayer crossed with John Legend’s “Ordinary People”), and of course the encore that everyone was waiting for, “Bright Lights.”

Were you lucky enough to see this show? What other players are at the forefront of bringing the blues back? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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