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Gary Clark Jr., Alice Smith, & Givers Go Singin' In The Rain

by Photo of Alexander Trimes

Not even torrential downpours could put a damper on a concert this good.

Gary Clark Jr., Alice Smith, & Givers Go Singin' In The Rain

Photo credit: Courtney Beglin

It was a gloomy Saturday in central park and thunder storm warnings were in effect, but when SummerStage says “rain or shine” they mean it. And good thing too, because poncho-clad fans packed Rumsey Playfield early, eagerly awaiting what promised to be a memorable concert.

A low murmur emanated from the crowd when opening act Alice Smith took the stage, but all quickly grew quiet when the singer started her set. Her calm bluesy voice soothed the audience into silence, occupying everyone’s full attention. And then, suddenly, a rapid crescendo, a burst of energy pierced the humid air, wooing the audience back to life—and this is just her first song. Smith had no problem keeping the smiling crowd impressed as she moved through her performance, varying between songs slow and fast, serene and upbeat, all the while backed by a talented band (comprised of a drummer, a bassist, and a keyboardist) that complimented her voice perfectly. Emotion shined through Smith’s eyes with each word sung, and as she walked off stage after a cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Fool For You,” the crowd appeared genuinely happy with their decision to brave the weather watch and head to Summerstage.

Photo credit: Courtney Beglin

Shortly after Alice Smith finished her set, Givers danced on stage to start theirs. With energetic tunes like “Up Up Up” and an enthusiastic presence, the indie-pop band from Lafayette, Louisiana had the audience clapping and moving from first song to last. Vocalists Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco belted out beautiful harmonies, contributing to the band’s overall incredible live sound—so good in fact that even torrential downpours failed to shake the animated crowd from their engagement with the music. But soaked fans weren’t the only ones absorbed in the sound; each band member was totally dedicated to their instrument and at times appeared completely unaware of the sea of people right at their feet. They noticed though, and before leaving the stage they thanked the audience for bearing with them through the weather. Yet, if you were to ask me, it looked like the crowd was having too much fun to even notice.

The rain had stopped by the time Gary Clark Jr. walked quietly onto stage with guitar in hand. Pausing when he arrived at the microphone, the guitarist looked out over his fans, crowded together on the sopping Astroturf, and greeted everyone with a brief smile. With formalities now out of the way, Gary glued his eyes to the frets and dove into one of the most talented, most captivating live performances I have ever seen.

Photo credit: Courtney Beglin

Starting with an extended version of “When My Train Pulls In,” Gary’s set emphasized stunning instrumentals over his enjoyable lyricisms. But this is not too surprising coming from Clark, a musician known not to converse much during his concerts, sticking mainly to the music rather than chatting with the audience. Despite the lack of banter, ecstatic fans screamed and wooed through favorites like “Don’t Owe You A Thang” and “The Life.” To conclude his set, Gary transitioned straight from Hendrix’ “Third Stone From The Sun” into a haunting performance of his own popular track, “Bright Lights.” And of course Clark wouldn’t take off without a proper encore. He played two songs, including a moving solo cover of Elizabeth Cotten’s “Freight Train,” before the concert was officially over.

Prior to arriving at Central Park, I had been told that Gary Clark Jr. puts on a great live performance, and that I would definitely enjoy the show. Nonetheless, I was still surprised by just how great it was—even after astounding performances from both Alice Smith and Givers. So if you ever find yourself with the opportunity to catch any of the three live, my advice to you is this: Go! It will be worth it, rain or shine.

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