Coming into this gig I knew little of this four-piece from Maryland. Upon leaving, I now know what I’ve been missing since 1990.
Venue: Rock City
Date: July 9, 2013
Clutch’s journey is a long and prosperous one. Not long and prosperous in the league of current en vogue rock dinosaurs The Rolling Stones, but lengthy and illustrious all the same.
Since their inception in 1990, and from their debut record in 1993, Clutch have fused genres with the deft touch of a studious alchemist, marrying funk, blues, stoner rock and metal with elements of hardcore punk.
The four men who comprise this rock ‘n’ roll fusion are masters of their art because, when fusing genres, and continuously shifting your barriers and altering your sound, caution must be applied, as it can be a dangerous exercise with disastrous pitfalls. But by sticking to a stern rock ‘n’ roll blueprint as the common denominator, and by not alienating their army of fans by “doing a Radiohead” or something equally as leftfield, their altered states are subtle yet beguiling.
Leading his charges is Neil Fallon. A man whose bellowing larynx and impressive beard makes him look like a younger, slimmer Brian Blessed. He conducts the band and the audience in equal measures, masterfully parading back and forth across the stage like an evangelist preaching his rock gospel to his devotees, who tonight have packed Rock City.
He’s the band’s focal point; the fulcrum of this Maryland four-piece with a knack of keeping the crowd motivated by way of a flurry of hand gestures and unmeasurable energy reserves. But he’s not the band’s most talented member. That accolade must go to Tim Sult on guitar. He’s no showman. There’s no clichéd rock posturing or fret-licking bombast, but his work is that of pure, undiluted riff-tickling dexterity.
Fallon’s virtuoso assault on our senses starts with the title track from their new album, ‘Earth Rocker’, which already sounds fit for stadiums with its fist-pumping grandiosity.
From there it’s an almost breathless charge through the new album, interspersed with the best bits from a very extensive and disparate back catalogue, with perhaps their trump card being the song that launched them into the American mainstream, The Mob Goes Wild. Needless to say, the audience portray the mob superbly.
When they do slow it down, it’s the Sabbath-esque ‘The Regulator’ that’s most enthralling, with Fallon grabbing his harmonica before strapping on his guitar and belting a cowbell.
Clutch are a band that have lasted the test of time. Veterans of their scene, they remain one of America’s finest.