HOUSTON - 10 years ago, Gary Clark Jr. released his debut album "Blak and Blu" and in one of the tracks, "Bright Lights," he sings "you're gonna know my name by the end of the night." Well, after Red Bull SoundClash at 713 Music Hall, if the crowd didn’t know him then, no one would forget him now.
The crowd was electric from the start and waited anxiously for both performers to get on stage. And the wait was certainly worth it, as Gary Clark Jr., who performed first, wasted no time in giving the crowd exactly what they came for.
It’s probably safe to say fans weren’t sure what to expect during the show. I had firsthand knowledge about the show and got a preview of what the performers were looking forward to, yet nothing prepared me for what I witnessed.
(Photo courtesy of Red Bull Music)
Red Bull SoundClash somehow, successfully managed to give viewers a concert that featured two elite artists with different styles a chance to show off their talents, but also subtlety demonstrates how a fan of Paul Wall can easily become a fan of Gary Clark Jr. and vice versa.
Though the show was meant to give off the impression of a competition, it was more of a collaboration where two, as one of the hosts Blackillac called, "Texas cousins" were able to bring audiences together in a spectacular fashion. It’s understandable, just the same, as both artists told me days before the concert how impossible it would be to say who is better than the other.
"I mean, I'm going to be honest, man, if this is a competition I lost," Paul Wall said chuckling. "He's so cold. And everything he does, man, when he's playing the guitar is so mesmerizing on stage, man. It's just so mesmerizing."
"He can say that, but the dude's got hits," Clark Jr. responded. "That man’s got records on records on records, so much respect to him."
Those sentiments were then seen in action on stage, where audiences (if they noticed) got a glimpse of Clark Jr. genuinely enjoying listening to Paul Wall’s music.
Even Paul at times admitted on stage after a hypnotic performance from Clark Jr., "how am I supposed to compete with that?!"
This is not to say Paul Wall didn’t pull out all the stops during his performance. Especially during his rendition of Lil Troy's hit classic "Wanna Be A Baller."
Therefore, in a battle between two musical greats, who ultimately came on top? The answer was obvious: Texas. Only through bringing both performers together could listeners experience something so artistically beautiful, albeit making it intrinsic.
This is because Texas' deep musical history is rooted in an array of genres. So it wasn't a surprise to see Paul Wall and Gary Clark Jr. effortlessly perform respective hits like "Swanging in the Rain" and "When My Train Pulls In" with a Country twist or even throw Hip-Hop into the mix for a Hard Rock song like "Break Em' Off" and "BYOB."
It was also clear from the start both artists were having the best time bouncing their creative energies off one another, but a better question might have been, who was enjoying whose music more?
This reviewer would argue Clark Jr. because prior to closing out his set, he shared a heartfelt message to the audience sharing his admiration for Houston and Paul Wall. Considering the differences constructed among Texans who might playfully suggest one city is better than the other, it was a welcomed moment to hear the Austin-native say some kind words about Houston before delivering an exhilarating performance of "Bright Lights."
"Houston, I love ya'll man, I really do," Clark Jr. said. "I used to come down here and play Blues clubs when I was a teenager to get out of school and come rock with ya'll man, it's been amazing."
"Shout out to everybody over at Paul Wall man," he added. "I used to want to be in Swisha House playing I got 8-10 mild heat bars that nobody wants to hear, but shout out to them guys, a lot of respect."
The show did not end after that though. Not until both artists had the chance to literally share a stage to perform "They Don't Know" after being on opposite sides of the venue.
Gary Clark Jr. and Paul Wall (Photo courtesy of Red Bull Music)
Naturally, the crowd roared as Houston and Austin literally came together to represent all of Texas for one epic night. And despite cries from the audience for an encore, the mics had already dropped.