Life in KC

The Big Show: Gary Clark Jr. at the Uptown

By Bill Brownlee

Special to Ink

Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. Warner Bros. Music

Thursday, March 31 at the Uptown Theater

Every generation claims a guitar-wielding blues hero as its own. Just as older music fans have embraced B.B. King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan, people born in the ’80s and ’90s have designated Gary Clark Jr. as their pre-eminent blues man. They’ve made a wise choice.

As countless uninspired blues musicians unintentionally prove every night, it’s extremely difficult to make the music compelling in 2016. The form may be timeless, but it often seems completely played out.

Clark reinvigorates the blues. The Texan applies his evocative voice, solid songwriting skills and virtuosic guitar playing in an innovative and often experimental approach. While his 2015 album “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim” is rooted in the blues, it includes hip-hop beats and flourishes of modern R&B.

Just as he’s not afraid to alienate blues purists, Clark takes political stands that are likely to cost him a portion of his audience. The music video for “Hold On” intersperses vintage footage of civil rights activism with images of recent riots in Ferguson as he sings “seem like new news is the old news from a different angle.”

Having toured incessantly for much of the last decade, Clark, 32, is entering his prime. He’s likely to validate his status as the world’s most vital blues man at the Uptown Theater on Thursday.

The show is sold out.

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