Fans will go to the Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena on Wednesday, Sept. 4 to see the Dave Matthews Band. They will leave talking about Gary Clark Jr., who opens the show.
Blues fans have been hoping for a new guitar god to come along ever since Stevie Ray Vaughan died in 1990. There certainly have been plenty of great six-string gunslingers who have emerged since that terrible helicopter crash, but none have become mainstream household names. Jonny Lang probably came the closest, but his music has gone in a gospel-rock direction.
The 29-year-old Clark captured the nation’s attention with his February 2012 performance at the “Red, White and Blues” show at the White House. The event featured B.B. King, Mick Jagger, Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy. It would be impossible to steal the show with this lineup, but Clark came close.
Clark is from Austin, and Texas has produced as many blues guitar stars as have Mississippi and Chicago. Here’s a sampling: Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Gatemouth Brown, Pee Wee Crayton, Lowell Fulson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, T-Bone Walker, Johnny “Guitar” Watson and Carolyn Wonderland.
But Clark probably needs to transcend the blues genre to gain the recognition his talent deserves. That perhaps is why the album “Black and Blu,” released just more than 10 months ago, touches on many styles, including R&B, pop, psychedelic rock, hard rock and soul. Maybe one will stick, and he won’t be stuck with the label “bluesman.” And while he can make the guitar tone fuzzy or sharp, Clark’s voice is smooth.
Credit Dave Matthews for having the courage to follow Clark in Tahoe onstage.