Monday, December 3, 2012

Review: Gary Clark Jr. ACL TV

Friday night's Gary Clark Jr. performance for ACL TV was the perfect bridge for Old and New Austin. Clark is a torch-bearer for a grand Texas tradition of Electric Blues. He is following in the footsteps of artists like ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughn but he also represents a new generation of Austin artists. In a sense, he himself embodies the two Austins. He plays the old Austin sound but he is making it fresh. He appeals to the folks who go to the Saxon Pub, Antone's or the Continental Club but he manages to slip Frank Zappa influences into his bluesy solos. Even his dress embodies this aesthetic pairing a slim, slate-colored suit with a Jed Clampett hat and some shit-kicker boots. Even the taping itself was a representation of the two Austins. Austin City Limits is an iconic show with 38 years on the air but this taping was in the new studio. Furthermore, the full performance was streamed live on the internet. Clark will only get half an episode when his performance hits PBS but those of us in the crowd and online got a full 60+ minute performance of scorchers.

The performance itself was electric in every sense of the word. Clark's family was seated in the row behind me and you could feel how proud they were, three generations of beaming family members thrilled to see how far he's come in his short life. Every solo seemed to send the crowd into a frenzy. Clark plays basic blues but the audience was reacting as if he invented the guitar and he was playing as if he had. He tore through most of his latest record, Blak and Blu with some blues standards and earlier songs mixed in. He didn't stick with the setlist and definitely played much longer than what will appear on television. With most of the songs stretching beyond the 5 minute mark I do not envy the editors who will have to trim his set down to 30 minutes or less.

Gary Clark Jr - Ain't Messin' 'Round video via YouTube

Both of this weekend's ACL TV tapings were streamed live on YouTube, which I think is a great idea. The demand to attend tapings is already huge so streaming the performances gives a lot more people the opportunity to be a part of the magic. Not only that, as I mentioned the performances that people give are always much more than what makes it to PBS so this gives the audience a chance to see what doesn't make it on the air. Austin is nothing like it was when Austin City Limits started and I'm glad that the show is changing along with the times and the city. I also feel very lucky to have the chance to attend so many tapings.

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