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On-air DJ and Assistant Program Director Ben Holt took the stage introduce and get the crowd excited for Gary Clark Jr., who played a late afternoon set at Newport’s Quad stage on Sunday. The 28-year-old bluesy guitar wizard– based out of Austin, Texas– has performed at an event at the White House with greats like B.B. King and Mick Jagger, and now Rhode Island was lucky to be his stage. The soul, blues, and rock Clark offers has gotten him a lot of good attention so far in his career, and he can already call himself the recipient of several Austin music awards. He has a handful of released albums to his name, and he’s earned critical praise in many circles as a solo blues musician.
Everyone could instantly tell there was something really, really cool about this guy. It may have been in the way he glided around the stage, letting the guitar riff carry him forward. It also had to do something with his tall, slim figure and slick appearance. In my opinion, he might be the only man on earth who can rock the deep V-neck shirt, especially when paired with his classy, nonchalant hat.
His voice comes out smooth and soft when he sings, and while his voice was shown off less often during the set than his guitar abilities, the vocals served as a wonderful accent to his riffs. From one part of the set to another, and even within each song, the music was always moving back and forth between incredibly chill to incredibly revved up. The opening number ran on some heavy riffing that lasted almost ten minutes and kept the crowd –who were on their feet before Clark even began– up and cheering for him the whole way through.
It was like I hadn’t witnessed such an enthusiastic audience all weekend, and the good vibes bouncing back and forth between the stage and the crowd were impossible to ignore. People were flanked on all sides, groovin’ along with Clark and the band.
Following that, the band played “Don’t Owe You A Thang”, “3 O’Clock Blues”, and “Bright Light”, among others. While he kept conversation with the audience to a minimum, the audience had plenty of fun shouting encouraging words and cheering at him, and Clark’s guitar work served to be the main vessel for his expression, anyway.