Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival: Gary Clark Jr. Ignites Kodak Hall

Gary Clark. Jr held the headliner spot at the beautiful Kodak Hall for day six of Xerox Rochester International Jazzfest.

Beth Hart opened the show and sufficiently warmed up the crowd, belting out the blues with her confident and strong voice. The stage must have cooled a little in the changeover though. Clark Jr.’s rhythm guitarist, King Zapata, took the first solo in their set-opening “Bright Lights,” getting the heat at just the right level for Clark to step in and finally take control. From then on, with one or two short exceptions, the stage was owned by Clark, and the temperature continued to rise.

Rochester Jazzfest Gary Clark dkemp (13)

Zapata, standing far off stage left, had a fuzzy organ tone that complemented Clark’s leads well. Bassist Johnny Bradley and drummer Johnny Radelat kept a steady and solid rhythm tucked tight together in the back and center. Clark stood equally far off to the right spreading the four piece well across the Kodak Hall stage. The band seemed a bit disconnected with this setup and perhaps the energy could have been raised with a tighter grouping.

Though, the energy in the crowd more than made up for any possible losses on stage. A huge roar let out at the opening notes of “When My Train Pulls In.” The audience was rewarded with a scorching solo that saw Clark fake a strum to finish before heading right back in to get in just a few more quick licks.

Clark Jr. has two voices with which to play the blues. Not only is he a master at speaking through his guitars, but his singing is also impressive. He showed incredible vocal range on his brand new soulful number, “Hold On.”

Switching between a couple of Fenders and an SG, his guitar voice also showed incredible range from song to song. His solos were played with deep feeling and seared right through you. It was fortunate that things had been preheated properly.

After a somewhat short 75 minute set, the crowd ravenously called for more. People had been creeping out in the aisles throughout the evening, and now descended into the pit, ready to rock out on a couple more tunes. Clark obliged, coming out solo for a one-two punch of new songs “Healing” and “Church” before getting the full band back out for a ripping rendition on Albert King’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

Setlist: Bright Lights, Ain’t Messing Round, When My Train Pulls In, Hold On, Our Love, Numb, If Trouble Was Money, Catfish Blues, Don’t Owe You Thing, Please Come Home

E: Healing > Church, Oh Pretty Woman

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