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Gary Clark Jr. preps for 'SNL' with intimate Antone's show

Peter Blackstock
pblackstock@statesman.com
Gary Clark Jr. performs at Antone's on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019, in Austin, Texas. [NICK WAGNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

This weekend, he'll play for millions of TV viewers worldwide on "Saturday Night Live." But Monday night, Gary Clark Jr. played to a few hundred locals who crammed into Antone's as part of a special Spotify-sponsored show at Austin's home of the blues.

Fans filled out an RSVP form online last week hoping to attend the free show. Things were expectedly hectic at the door of the club on Fifth Street around the time doors opened at 9:30 p.m., but commotion settled down by the time Clark and his four-piece band took the stage just past 10:15 p.m.

They played for an hour, charging through 11 of the 16 songs on "This Land," Clark's third Warner Bros. studio album. Due out Feb. 22, it's a wide-ranging record, something the crowd at Antone's appeared to appreciate as Clark shifted from the sweet soul of "When I'm Gone" to the reggae-tinged "Feelin' Like a Million" to the blitzkrieg punk-pop of "Gotta Get Into Something."

He saved the much-talked-about title track for the end of the set. "This Land" was released as an early single and video last month, immediately getting attention for Clark's searing lyrics about encountering racism firsthand. At Antone's, he kept the lid on it a little bit, slightly toning down some of the song's harshest language, but it still burned brightly as the most memorable number from the new album. A one-song encore featured "The Guitar Man," one of the new record's more melodic moments.

Compared to Clark's three sold-out shows at ACL Live in December, this was a shorter, tighter set, with more focus and less bombast than the high-volume wall of sound he unleashed at those shows. He'll return to ACL Live on March 5 to tape the "Austin City Limits" television show for the third time.

PHOTO GALLERY: Gary Clark Jr. at Antone's on Feb. 11, 2019