Published by JB on August 11, 2015
Concert Review: Gary Clark Jr. and Black Pistol Fire at the House of Blues – Chicago, IL – July 30, 2015
All photography and reviews by Ed Spinelli
Gary Clark Jr & Black Pistol Fire were a fast and easy sell out for the House of Blues in Chicago. The show was billed as a “Lollapalooza Aftershow” though it took place on the eve of festival that has been holding court in Chicago since Perry Ferrell named it home in 2005. This would be the second time for Clark playing the HOB stage but not knowingly to the general public. The first time he played this stage he joined Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos for a song during their set at a $1,000.00 a plate charity event on the eve of Eric Clapton’s Crossroads concert in June of 2010. The Crossroads concert was a huge staple in Clark’s career that has skyrocketed since that glorious day that he proclaimed that we will know his name. I was fortune enough to witness both of these events and shall follow him until one of us stops rocking and I don’t see that for a very long time and I’m certain that he will outlast me.
The Black Pistol Fire hit the stage and at first I thought they were the crew doing some last second inspections. It turned out that these two Canadian cats are the band and from the very first note on the guitar to the very last crash of the cymbals these two guys did not stop rocking! I knew nothing about them walking into the venue that night other than they were kicking off Lollapalooza the next afternoon. Guitarist Kevin McKeown has an Angus Young (AC-DC) quality in him and only because he literally cannot stand still for very long. In between microphone visits he was like the wild child that you would just dread having in your home. Drummer Eric Owen had no problem at all keeping up with the high energy that McKeown demanded on this hot Chicago night. Running back and forth on the stage to taking jumps on and off the bass drum he would then end up in the pit that divides the stage from the audience where he eventually leaps over to join them. I’m guessing their set was an hour long filled with originals and cool covers like Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well”. They closed their set with the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie because they gotta go yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah.
The curtains opened to unveil a dimly lit smoky stage with Gary Clark Jr and band slowly working their way into “Bright Lights.” The slow paced into was perfect as the crowd really didn’t know what they were working on until the song started with a huge Chicago approval! With each song the musical genius effetely performed crowd favorites “Things are changing”, “Hold on”, “Our Love” and “When my Train Pulls in” He then started pulling out the tracks from his upcoming album “The Story of Sonny Boy Slim.” His playing and vocals can transform you into a zone that only tears can carry you back. All the critics along with Buddy Guy and Eric Clapton hail Clark as the future of the blues and I agree 100% but Gary has equally the same amount of soul in him. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone mature as a performer like he has. Sharing the Stage with Clark are a band fit for a King! Sharing riffs with Gary all night hidden under his huge brim is the real King. King Zapata wore something that I could not make out but proudly read “I’m King.” Though he seems to be shy, hidden under his huge hat and sunglasses he would come up front for perfect leads and backup vocals. Clark’s rhythm section with Johnny Bradley on bass and Johnny Radelat on drums are as irreplaceable as Double Trouble were to Stevie Ray Vaughan. A band-less Clark returned from his encore break to perform two songs and then two more upon the band’s return to close out the two hour show. Chicago will be treated to Gary and company again on April 1, 2016 when he plays the Riviera Theatre. Check Gary’s website for tour dates, news, and his store.
No sooner than Gary Clark Jr and his band left the Sprint Stage after their headline set. Paul McCartney then takes to the Samsung Galaxy Stage just across the same field to close out day one of Lollapalooza 2015. I’m sure that Clark and company must have enjoyed at least a few fab songs before heading out to play a 11:00PM secret gig at an undisclosed place in the heart of downtown’s party central. Only 150 music lovers, mostly made up of WXRT contest winners would get to witness this unbelievable evening billed as “The Bud Light Lolla Loft.” Bud Light and XRT spared no expense as all guest were treated to great food, drinks, Bud Light swag, and Gary Clark Jr! WXRT’s Marty Lennartz took to the stage to introduce the playful Clark as he stood behind him grinning with his arms crossed towering over him. Gary and his band then took to the stage and performed an all acoustic 7 song set clocking in around 45 minutes. Blak n Blu leading into Bright Lights was to end the set until he informed us that he would like to do one more song. I wish I could tell you the name of his last number because it was the most beautiful and heartfelt seven minutes I have experienced at a concert in a very long time – the perfect way to end his triple show stay in the windy city.
– Ed Spinelli for TWTHS