Live Review: Gary Clark Jr. + Spookyland – Sydney Opera House (04.01.16)

Delivering an electrifying and varied blend of blues, rock, soul and R&B, Gary Clark Jr. put on a brilliant show at the Sydney Opera House on Monday, 4th January. By no means holding back on the more amped up numbers due to the choice of venue, Gary Clark Jr. was well and truly in fine form, which was very clearly embraced by his riveted audience. The support act Spookyland similarly played an excellent set, putting on their best performance yet.

Sydney based act Spookyland opened the night with an exceptionally strong set, showing off their melodic and unique rock sound. Alternating between stripped back melodies and dark, heavy instrumentals – this band certainly caught the crowd’s attention with their emotive tracks mostly from their 2015 EP, Rock and Roll Weakling. Their song “The Silly Fucking Thing”, stood out as the highlight of the set for its beautifully descriptive lyrics, expressive vocals and escalating energy.

Not long after Spookyland, on came Gary Clark Jr. with his band, out to put on a mixed show that was to jump between (and at times blend together) his blues rock jams and soulful crooning. The set kicked off energetically with the smooth blues tune, “Bright Lights” from 2011’s EP The Bright Lights (and then 2012’s Blak and Blu album), which of course works itself into a soaring electric jam, with the mood to pick up even more for the faster and entirely dance worthy track, “Don’t Owe You A Thang”. Such songs across the night had the packed out venue absorbed and grooving along, particularly along with Gary Clark Jr.’s improvised guitar jams – with him early in the show after a particularly long jam during the crowd favourite “When My Train Pulls In”, saying, ‘Sorry I went a little crazy during that one.. It’s going to happen throughout the evening…’

Another sure favourite of the night would have to have been his cover of the stunning blues number, “Ïf Trouble Was Money”, which made it feel like we had the likes of Buddy Guy in the room with us – acting as testament to Gary Clark Jr.’s extraordinary skill and ability to continue the blues for an array of new listeners. Moving more into the soul and R&B territories, Gary Clark Jr. got into a different groove for a range of tracks from his 2015 album, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim. “The Healing” stood out as a catchy tune, as did “Grinder”, “Hold On” and “Baby Don’t Stop”, with fellow Texas based soul crooner Leon Bridges also coming out for a tune near the end of the set.

Closing the night out with a more stripped back blues/gospel song, “Church”, featuring harmonica and Gary Clark Jr.’s vocals at their best, this was indisputably an exceptional show. Packed with feeling and a brilliant level of talent, Gary Clark Jr.’s show at the Sydney Opera House will be a hard one to beat for the rest of 2016.