“If I fall out up here, it’s been great,” Gary Clark Jr. joked to the sold-out crowd as he took another shot of tequila, while on stage at the Fillmore Charlotte on Wednesday night. By then, the Grammy-winning bluesman had already given his craft beer-drinking fans and other guests, who were dressed in cowboy hats and graphic t-shirts, an unbelievable show.
Ahead of his two-hour set, intense selections like “Twisted” and “Superfred” from metal band Lettuce broke out on the foggy, purple-lit stage as music drifters gathered inside the intimate venue.
As scheduled, the concert started at 8 p.m. with a mysterious five-person band up first. Taking mere seconds to take shape on stage with their exclusive instruments, they squared-off for their epic rendition of “Elvis Presley Blues.”
Later revealed as Los Coast, Trey Privott — the cinque’s thunderous lead singer — was indeed the mastermind behind pleasing the jittery crowd. His charred, yet fine vocals, were in good form while his edgy electric guitar skills were in even better shape.
Fifteen minutes after the twistedly satisfying band made their exit, the clock struck 9 p.m. and Earl King’s classic “Those Lonely, Lonely Nights” blasted through the venue’s sound system.
Shortly after the bluesy introduction, the man of the hour and his murky band emerged from the shadows of the night. Wearing a suede brown fedora and a monochrome outfit, Clark, with his first of five guitars of night, stalked and gazed at his room full of eager spectators.
With just one outburst from his rowdy guitar on the dim platform, fans wailed from all sides of the venue. Their screams and roars functioned as the dispatcher to proceed with the live experience.
But rather than go into a number from one of three full-length albums, Clark decided to edge the excitement that slumbered within each concertgoer with more improvised playing. Once he saw the crowd was feeling his striking sounds, he officially opened his set with an invigorating version of “Bright Lights,” the title track of his 2011 EP.
Soon after, Clark summoned the crowd with his Grammy-nominated thrill “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” from his avant-garde debut Blak and Blu. Crazed by his own wicked guitar powers, his twanged character showed up in his faulty stage presence.
As soon as he returned from his musical possessed state, he plugged his new album This Land and sent out a special bulletin to the psyched audience.
“I’m about to get loud. I don’t feel safe,” Clark shouted in the mic to the audience, who had just thanked him for coming.
He launched into “Low Down Rolling Stone,” a heavy record that describes he’s too troubled to advocate for anyone else’s welfare besides himself.
Clark kept his deranged demeanor under wraps as he grabbed his third guitar and settled for complex swag during his blazing rendition of “What About Us.” His dramatic undertones and chilling falsetto had a male patron in the front with his arms open wide.
Before shifting into the love section of his show, Clark needed a drink. His beverage choice was tequila — straight.
Taking a swig of his alcohol close to the rear of the stage, Clark walked back to the mic and used the next three numbers to flaunt his versatility and make show supporters fall deeper in love his performances and their dates — if they had one.
Out of his three-piece romance combo, Clark carried audiences souls away with “Our Love” from his second album The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. Aside from unleashing divine vocal fury on stage, he let loose on his electric guitar and attacked each string with beautiful revenge.
Following his crowd pleaser “Feed the Babies” and his foreboding wake-up call “Got to Get Up,” Clark made his fifth guitar change and almost came out of his halfway buttoned shirt performing “I Got My Eyes on You (Locked & Loaded).”
Clark had everyone in the venue shouting Ric Flair’s infamous buzz word on “Gotta Get into Something.” He later paged the blues for “When My Train Pulls In.”
“Damn. C’mon, Gary. C’mon, Gary. That’s what the hell I’m talking about,” said an intoxicated fan to the right of me.
Clark’s soul-rattling two-hour set neared closing after delivering a Prince-esque ode of “Pearl Cadillac” and timid version of his politically-charged song “This Land.” Interestingly, he avoided saying the N-word. It’s possible he didn’t want to cause an uproar for those living Black in a Trump America.
For the final three minutes of his encore, Clark moved the packed house with an explosive cover of “Come Together” by The Beatles.
Although I wasn’t new to the concert scene at the Fillmore Charlotte, it was my first time witnessing a talent quite like Clark’s. He isn’t into gimmicks. He’s all about his guitars, his tequila, and putting on a hell of a show — and that’s quite alright.