April 16, 2019 | Stephen Thompson — Gary Clark Jr. had good reason to sweat. The blues-rock singer and guitarist opted to play his first-ever Tiny Desk concert — in front of a huge crowd that warmed the room considerably — while clad in a thick knit cap and heavy jacket. Plus, he’d brought his young son on tour with him and had to contend with a traditional parenting dilemma: How do you bring your kid to the office and still get work done?
But once Clark and his formidable band got done cranking out three songs from this year’s blistering This Land, he wasn’t the only one in the room who needed to wipe away the sweat. Clark’s set leaned toward some of This Land’s softer sentiments — “When I’m Gone” is about missing his family on the road, while “Pearl Cadillac” exudes gratitude for his mother’s sacrifices — leaving its more politically incendiary material for louder live shows. But these songs still roared with the assurance and force of a showman at the top of his game.
“What About Us”
“When I’m Gone”
Gary Clark Jr.: lead vocals, guitar; Eric Zapta: guitar, vocals; Johnny Bradley: bass, vocals; Johnny Radelat: drums, vocals; Jon Deas: keys, vocals
Producers: Abby O’Neill, Kimani Oletu; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineers: Josh Rogosin, Patrick Boyd; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Kimani Oletu, CJ Riculan, Kara Frame; Associate Producer: Bobby Carter; Production Assistant: Adelaide Sandstrom; Photo: Amir Alfiky/NPR