X Games: Gary Clark Jr. Ain’t Messin ‘Round

Local bluesman remains premium even in the cheap seats

Gary Clark Jr. now knows what his concerts would look like if his popularity suddenly plummeted. Austin’s smooth blues rocker performed to an embarrassingly absent audience on the final night of the X Games – Sunday – with the front two sections of the Circuit of the Americas amphitheater, the pit and the seats, at least 80% empty.

Photo by Gary Miller

Meanwhile, the general admission lawn in the back was packed shoulder to shoulder. Seems the issue was either that very few attendees purchased the premium upgrade for reserved seating, or those who did hadn’t stuck around after the day’s events. It looked ridiculous and should have, by all rights, killed the energy of the show.

Not here. Not in Austin. The guitarist’s performance was a lesson on playing the cards you’re dealt.

Opening with “Next Door Neighbor Blues,” the 30-year-old bluesman peeled off shiver-inducing slide guitar leads that cooled down the sun-baked crowd who’d survived an afternoon of watching action sports in the Texas oven. Clark kept the energy on high with a long-cut version of “Ain’t Messin ’Round,” then declared it time to “let loose a little bit” before jumping into a similarly extended take on “When My Train Pulls In.”

For both tunes, the homegrown shredder called on his prodigiously accessorized sideman King Zapata, wearing a long scarf despite the excessive humidity. The bandmates then engaged in a cutting contest. Although Clark’s been playing the same set for a few years now, the interplay between his and Zapata’s guitar leads continues to improve.

After a dynamic, falsetto-fueled “Please Come Home,” which inspired a woman to inexplicably jump onstage and do yoga, and the big “Come Together”–cribbing riff of “Numb,” the band closed with “Blak and Blu.” Its line, “They say you get just what you pay for” rang especially true for us in back with the cheap-seat blues.

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Gary Clark Jr., X Games, King Zapata

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