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Sunday, 18 December 2016

A View From The Back Of The Room: Clutch (Live Review By Paul)

Clutch – Great Hall, Cardiff

The final gig for 2016 saw the mighty Maryland outfit Clutch play one of just four UK dates at the Great Hall. Supported by Montgomery County’s Lionize and North Carolina nutters Valient Thorr.

This show had sold out and the Great Hall is always a sweaty venue when full, so we got in early and settled onto the barrier for the start of the show. Lionize (9) were first up, full of their funk fused rock. Frontman Nate Bergman was wearing a camo pyjama set and the cleanest pair of trainers I’ve seen since Jax Teller in Sons Of Anarchy. It didn’t matter as the band delivered the goods in magnificent style, with their 30-minute set over in a flash. The band is cohesive and tight, with drummer Chase Lapp battering the kit whilst keyboard player Chris Brooks and bassist Hank Upton supported Bergman with superb backing vocals. Their playing was pretty damn fine too. The band were joined at one point by Clutch guitarist Tim Sult, who laid down a sweet solo before humbly exiting to allow the band to finish their set. A massive ovation from the packed hall was fully deserved and let’s hope these guys continue to get recognition over here.

With three bands on the bill turnover was sharp and bang on cue the craziness of Valient Thorr (6) hit the hall. Now, I appreciate the effort that the band put in but they unfortunately didn’t do a lot for me. The chaos on the stage in front of us, which looked like a redneck convention, was bewildering with frontman Valient Himself off the scale of nuttiness. The band play hard rock but it often sounds like they are playing three different songs at the same time. The muddy sound didn’t help. A decent reception from the masses although by now there were also quite a lot of bewildered faces who didn’t quite understand the band from outer space.

I’ve seen Clutch (10) many times now, starting in TJs back the summer of 2009 and they never disappoint. In fact, they continue to amaze. Not only do they mix the set list up every night, but they just lay down the most incredible music. Tonight it was exactly the same. How many bands would open with the title track from their second EP, released in 1992? Well, Passive Restraints was the song, and that pleased the old school immensely. The band followed this with a track from their debut album, The House That Peterbilt from Clutch before hitting hard with Pure Rock Fury which got the place moving. With Clutch it’s all about the music, little chat between songs but quality at every turn. Sole Earth Rocker tune The Face was up next before the stomp of Sucker For The Witch and the frenzy of Power Player and You Can’t Stop Progress. As ever, it’s Neil Fallon who captured the attention with his hyperactive movement and crazed expressions. Tim Sult, Jean Paul Gaster and Dan Maines are more reserved, content to play the music.

Unlike recent tours the band didn’t focus exclusively on their most recent release with a modest five tunes from the excellent Psychic Warfare, which included Quick Death In Texas and Decapitation Blues. To the joy of many, the band returned Burning Beard from Robot Hive/ Exodus to the set list and it was welcomed with open arms. The pit in full flow, the air hot and humid, beer sloshing around. Yes, it was a good Clutch gig. Chris Brooks joined the band to play the anthemic 10001110101 and Escape From The Prison Planet before another treat, The Regulator from Blast Tyrant closed the set. A blistering encore of Electric Worry and X-Ray Visions followed and then they were gone. One of the quickest 1.5 hours of my life. Clutch live is the quintessential live experience. See them. Change your life.

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