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I arrived at the Theater of Living Arts in good fortune, shocked to actually score a parking spot on South Street and thrilled to see the Clarks headlining at the venue. The opening bands Ike and Quick Step John both came as pleasant surprises, providing upbeat material and some righteous jams. Quick Step John demonstrated some talent and variety with horns, keyboard, drums, and guitars all blazing in and out of free-flowing segments. They were an enthusiastic, young crew of musicians that opened the night strong and slightly delayed my building anticipation for the Clarks’ set.
With a new record just released, the Clarks have launched a relentless touring schedule in hopes of promoting their new music to unprecedented heights. They came onto the stage with a cool swagger and took control quickly without ceremony and introductions, but rather greeted the now filled TLA with genuine rock n roll. It becomes difficult to categorize the Clarks’ sound into a genre of music. Their straight-forward sounds fall somewhere amidst folk, rock, and alternative, but this Pittsburgh quartet, beyond a doubt, thrives in a live environment and is able to convey their energy to an audience. The band, made up of old college friends, pushes their crowd-pleasing tactics with a confident intensity that demonstrates flair, personality, and composure. Their lyrics strike somewhere near familiarity and the music just feels damn fine, yet not overpowering or drawn out. They are a down-to-earth band, well respected by their loyal fans and ever-growing national fan base. Fans are absorbed by the Clarks unique sounds, personable qualities, and strong touring ethic, which in turn, has attracted legions of faithful who flock to both small and large venues searching for the groove the group provides.
Seeing the Clarks play live is a tremendous experience. They don’t ease up, they don’t break, they come to entertain and this show followed the rule, not the exception. The set featured songs from their new album “Another Happy Ending” released this June. For the hard core Clarks fans, this became both stimulating to hear the newly released material and slightly disappointing due to the absence of old favorites. The Clarks certainly endure a difficult task in choosing a set list from their abundance of solid works. Dilemmas occur because of their impressive arsenal of music that, “if brought out all at once, could hurt people”, according to front man Scott Blasey. Although a handful of songs could be marketed as singles from the new disc, the single “Hey You” when performed live is a moving and reflective tribute to the events of 9/11. “Hey You” transpired as only one of many highlights during the evening.
Between shots of Yeagermeister, the Clarks exhibited a crafty cover of Prince’s “Kiss” and after an improvised intro by lead singer Blasey, they broke into the classic, “Cigarette” with Marlboro lights in hand courtesy of generous audience members. Diehard fans were rewarded all throughout the show with short trips to the past with songs such as “Snowman”, “High Wire”, “Help Me Out”, and a classic Pittsburghian folk song, “Penny on the Floor” as an encore. With lead singer and field general Blasey leading the charge, guitarist and balloon kicking Rob James, bassist Greg Joseph, and the pounding engine of Dave Minarik, Jr. on the drums, the Clarks are gazing into a deep horizon of looming of possibilities. They possess a sound that has grown and evolved from previous years and albums. A polished maturity follows the band along with their fans, so when they play live in your town, grab the Marlboro lights, a shot of Yeager and may we hope for another happy ending…….