Gary Clark Jr. at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Paul Wellman

Gary Clark Jr. at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Gary Clark Jr. at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Gary Clark’s Bigger Blues

At Friday night’s Gary Clark Jr. show, the young gun out of Austin turned the Santa Barbara Bowl into the outdoor roadhouse of your dreams. Clark, who has mastered the alchemy of putting on a great stage show, never took a false step. “Bright Lights,” an unforgettable original that’s also an homage to the great Jimmy Reed, opened a propulsive set that built steadily to a satisfyingly wild close. Clark and the band then came back for a lengthy and dynamic set of encores that was almost a second show.

Gary Clark Jr. at the Santa Barbara Bowl
Click to enlarge photo

Paul Wellman

Gary Clark Jr. at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Like Chuck Berry or Keith Richards, Clark conducts from the guitar in constant, dazzling conversation with his drummer, Johnny Radelat, and his bassist, Johnny Bradley. And even though there are four musicians onstage, including rhythm and slide virtuoso Eric “King” Zapata, the band comes across as more of a classic power trio like Band of Gypsys or Cream than a two-guitar, Southern-rock/blues quartet. This economy of expression pays off in impact. A Gary Clark Jr. audience feels each and every note in their bones.

Clark’s not crossing over; he’s just bringing a bigger blues to the 21st-century stage. As with Alabama Shakes, who played the Bowl last season, we’re hearing something that sounds contemporary in 2016 but that could have torn the roof off of either Fillmore in 1969. Music doesn’t progress; neither does it decline. The musicians of today aren’t better than those of 40 — or 400 — years ago, and they’re not worse. What matters is great music, music like Clark is making, music that plays tricks on time.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Evacuees Across Santa Barbara County Allowed Back Home This Evening

Mandatory evacuation order lifted for all burn areas.

New Scam Involves ‘Ground Stability Testing’

Fake 'land tech' tried to enter a home on the Westside.

Family Sues Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office For Wrongful Death

Five deputies shot Bryan Carreño 20 times.

County Race for Auditor-Controller Turns Ugly

An unexpected bloodbath erupts between Jen Christensen and Betsy Schaffer.

Gun Restraining Order Used 20 Times in Santa Barbara County

Only Los Angeles County used the order more frequently.