Comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan are apt, but the music of Gary Clark Jr. ventures far beyond psychedelic rock and Texas blues.
Wednesday night, Clark and his band gave a crowd of more than 1,300 at Crossroads KC nearly two hours of music that visited an array of sounds and styles: blues, psychedelic rock, Southern rock, classic soul, country blues and hard, loud metal-ish blues.
Clark, 32, is a reserved and reticent performer. He had little to say to the large crowd, which spanned a few generations: people in their late teens and early 20s to those who were alive when Hendrix issued his Big Bang into the world of rock. Instead, Clark let his guitar skills and his dexterous singing voice speak for him, and they did all night, loudly, no matter what genre he tapped into.
He opened with “Bright Lights,” a hard, chunky blues number from his “Blak and Blu” album, then swerved into some rollicking rockabilly blues with “Travis County,” a song craving some hellfire piano/keyboards a la Jerry Lee Lewis.
The rest of the show proceeded accordingly, hopping from one flavor and genre to another. “Next Door Neighbor Blues” bounced to a Mississippi John Hurt vibe; “Don’t Owe You a Thing” was a hearty gust of Delta blues; “Please Come Home” veered into old-school R&B/soul and showcased Clark’s falsetto; “Down to Ride,” a track from his latest album, “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim,” felt like a long-lost Shuggy Otis track; and “Numb” was an earth-quaking expedition into sludge-grunge/metal.
No matter where he took his music, Clark handled it with aplomb and minimal show-boating. Though they weren’t completely void of clichés or familiar traits, his leads avoided self-indulgence and steered clear of blowhard jams.
Most impressive were his forays into soul and R&B, songs that honored bands like the Chi-Lites, like “Our Love,” which may explain his appeal to a younger generation, one that typically shows little if any appetite for straight shots of blues and rock-blues — the roots of rock ’n’ roll. On this night, Clark, a child of the ’80s, sated a hunger for a variety of sounds rooted in timeless music from other, golden eras.