Gary Clark Jr. at First Avenue, 11/20/13

Categories: Last Night
Photo by Tony Nelson

Gary Clark Jr.
With the Wild Feathers and Max Frost
First Avenue, Minneapolis
November 20, 2013

There is a palpable electricity any time a big name band or musician makes their first Twin Cities live appearance. The anticipation levels reached a fever pitch as nearly ten years passed before Gary Clark Jr.'s first local performance, and it made for a very sold-out show at First Avenue on Wednesday. Clark's blues-drenched, cover-filled, nearly two-hour set reached a scorching level of its own, as the guitar virtuoso delivered on the hype and then some.

See Also: Slideshow: Gary Clark Jr. at First Avenue, 11/20/13

Clark and his three-piece backing back took to the spare stage unassumingly, with Clark settling in stage left, and the guitarist, drummer, and bassist giving him plenty of room to move. Clark is clearly the star of the show, and the rest of the group just tried to keep pace with him during his fiery, exploratory solos. The performance got going with a simmering version of "Ain't Messin' Round,' with Clark teasing the muted riffs at first before unleashing his raucous jams on his trusty Epiphone which he kept hammering on throughout the set.

Clark gave us a revealing look at where he comes from during a spirited rendition of "Travis County," before he unleashed the first of many covers, B.B. King's "3 O'Clock Blues," which found the guitarist clearly trying to channel the legendary talents of one of his idols. And that's what a majority of the set became, Clark showing us where the blues came from, but also where he plans on taking that style in the future. It was an untamed, lively mix, all led by the masterful hands of Clark himself, with one blazing guitar solo immediately sounding more inspired than the last.

Photos By Tony Nelson

"Y'all feeling all right?" Clark asked the swelling crowd early on in the show. "It's good to see you." But he kept the pleasantries to a minimum, as his focus was clearly on bringing the house down. The set steamrolled on with a rousing take on Robert Petway's Delta Blues standard, "Catfish Blues," which sat seamlessly next to Clark's own hit, "Don't Owe You a Thang." They showed his ability to bring the songs to a tranquil, elegant end without it sounding abrupt or out of place.

Clark was clearly settled in on the spacious First Ave stage by the time he tore into smoking versions of "When My Train Pulls In" and "Please Come Home," with the latter number sounding like a '50s prom theme for all of the cool kids who smoked instead of going to study hall. Clark's eyes were closed tight as he stomped and soloed away, completely lost in the groove of the song. "I got a little sweat in my eyes during that one," Clark teased. "I couldn't see what I was doing."

A smooth, toned-down take on "Things Are Changing" gave us all a chance to catch our breath a little bit, before Clark again showed off his influences and inspirations (and his deep record collection) by tenderly covering Albert King's "Oh, Pretty Woman (Can't Make You Love Me)," and Albert Collins's "If Trouble Was Money." We were in the middle of some deep, dark blues now. After a well-earned ovation, they turned the house lights on briefly and Clark seemed genuinely taken aback by how packed the club was. "Wow, I can see you finally," he said, before touching his heart and taking a bit of a modest bow.

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