“Yes, indeed!” Neil Fallon declares, greeting the roaring mob as he and the rest of Clutch take to the stage before launching into the first song of the night, “Weird Times” from latest and best album, Book of Bad Decisions. It’s been quite some time since Clutch visited the UK (Download last year being the exception) and even longer since they stood in this same room.
Unfortunately, due to car trouble having plagued my set-off back to Glasgow after a night in Macclesfield, I missed the support bands and heard nothing with regards to their quality. However, mid-morning misfortune aside, by the time they kick into second song of the night, “How to Shake Hands”, it’s all forgotten. It’s Clutch presenting their ideas for a rock band running the United States – and let’s be real, it can’t be worse than the current administration.
Given they’re touring with a brand new album, there’s a good helping of material from it featured tonight with songs like “Ghoul Wrangler”, “Vision Quest”, “Lorelei” and “H.B is in Control”. However, in typical Clutch fashion, they’re more than happy to not deliver a couple of the obvious tracks from their back catalogue and not simply rely on the recent albums which led to their surge in popularity.
Instead, they dive into tracks from almost twenty years ago and everything in-between. Typically, they don’t deal in “ballads” as such but do bring it down with more doom and sludge-infused tracks added to their unadulterated hard rock sound. With guitarist Tim Sult providing riff after riff, it’s a lesson on how to wrangle six strings by varying his influences but ensuring it is sounding like only Clutch can. Meanwhile, bassist Dan Maines handles the low end, slinging his Rickenbacker’s lines with ease. It’s on even ground with Sult’s guitar work, the grooves providing so much of the band’s sound.
Whilst they remain relatively stationary, vocalist Neil Fallon more than makes up for bringing the energy. Constantly moving, bounding across the stage and providing every sort of hand motion and gesture imaginable, he’s leading the charge, his vocals rasping and booming just like they would on any of their albums. Elsewhere, Jean-Paul Gastier is in complete control of his small but well-used drumkit and there are more than enough to play with for him to ensure his own work is well varied. Locking in perfectly with Maines, their rhythm is perfect and the crowd are either nodding their head diligently or bouncing in perfect time with the engine room.
By the time “Electric Worry” and “X-Ray Visions” bring the main portion of the set to its close, it’s also when the crowd step their own efforts up a gear with the crowd drowning out Fallon’s choruses on the former. After a lengthy wait into the encore, the funk-loaded “In Walks Barbarella” leads into the parting shot of “Pure Rock Fury”. It’s 80 minutes of everything which makes rock music the best genre the human race has ever put its hand to. Sure, a couple of personal favourites like “Power Player” and “DC Sound Attack” may not have featured tonight but that’s one of the best things about going to see Clutch – it’s a lucky dip.
Characteristically bombastic and making sure many different albums get their shot in the spotlight, you can tell as always, not only are the crowd loving every minute – so are the band. As one of the hardest-working bands around and seemingly always on the road, they’re only just warming things up for the UK with the best I’ve seen them to date. And since I’m going to see them in Birmingham too, I expect that one to top this.