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Clutch In Dublin: Live Review
Maryland’s groove masters Clutch have been trekking across Europe recently, and stopped off in Dublin last Friday to deliver a raucous, riff filled performance. Dean Brown was there to witness them in full flow, and here’s what he made of the experience…
CLUTCH + LIONIZE
THE ACADEMY, DUBLIN – MAY 9th
For a band who have existed just outside of the mainstream’s reach since their formation at the beginning of the 1990s, Clutch have some of the most dedicated fans you will ever encounter outside of, say, Rush. It is almost like being in a secret sect to be a Clutch fan. You know the band’s music inside out and although you truly believe Clutch should be known the world over, you take sly satisfaction from being one of the few who hold this band dear and from turning other like-minded folks onto the Maryland band’s brand of blues-burnin’ tunes. Consequentially, the cult of Clutch grows insidiously, avoiding all hype and trends—and it’s been like this since the band’s hardcore-driven 1993 debut, ‘Transnational Speedway League’.
It is therefore a pleasant surprise to find that Dublin’s The Academy is sold out in anticipation of Clutch’s return to Ireland. It seems as though long-time Irish Clutch fans have been whispering the band’s name with more frequency and volume in recent years, and it’s heartening to hear the reception afforded to this blue-collar band of blues brothers as they shuffle humbly out onto the stage this evening following a superb warm-up set by Clutch affiliates Lionize.
Coming off a headline show at Temples Festival in the UK and after rolling through Belfast the night before, Clutch are as well oiled live tonight as you would expect from such road warriors. On their last couple of albums Clutch pushed Delta blues and Americana as far as it could go in the context of their sound. The release of last year’s barnstorming ‘Earth Rocker’ (voted number 6 in our Album of the Year List here at Terrorizer) not only reconnected Clutch with their heavier side that has been missing since 2004’s ‘Blast Tyrant’, but its critical acclaim appears to have turned more heads than ever before, as seen tonight by the varied crowd in attendance: young guys in Anaal Nathrakh and Mastodon t-shirts to middle aged couples who look like they’re on the way to church—and they kind of are.
Clutch’s live shows have become the stuff of legend amongst their fans, with tales of the band playing two sets one after the other now part of their folklore. Clutch, however, live and die by their fondness of tripping out on a jam. It can go either way live, not because the band are unable to keep chemistry intact by free-styling on previously established musical ideas, but more because their jams tend to outstay their welcome while the crowd aches to hear their favourite songs—of which there are many, all of which differ fan to fan. Tonight, Clutch leave the jamming to a bare minimum, instead they tear through a set that is top heavy on ‘Earth Rocker’ (the band play every song besides ‘Mr. Freedom’ and ‘Oh, Isabella’) while celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the mighty ‘Blast Tyrant’ with rip-roaring renditions of ‘The Mob Goes Wild’, the slow-burning ‘The Regulator’, and further fan favourites, ‘Profits of Doom’ and ‘Cypress Grove’.
“If you’re gonna do it do it live on stage, or don’t do it all,” sings vocalist Neil Fallon with venom during the title-track off ‘Earth Rocker’, and this statement sums up Clutch’s ideology over the years. The band are at their most comfortable while on stage, even though you wouldn’t think it by guitarist Tim Sult and bassist Dan Maines’ stoic stage presence—both men focused workman-like on nailing their parts while drummer John Paul Gaster swings like Buddy Rich (all loose limbs and jazzy flair) and Fallon stalks the stage wide-eyed and heavily bearded, delivering his ingenious lyrics with the passion of a preacher man.
The weed-fuelled astro-travel of ‘Spacegrass’ takes the set down a level, much to the delight of the crowd. ‘Gone Cold’ is also a welcome change of pace following the airing of a new song, ‘Mad Sidewinder’, which sees Clutch continue on in the same up-tempo, groove-driven hard rock they’ve returned to champion. And although they keep stage banter to your usual pleasantries and nothing more, the crowd hang on every note, especially when Clutch return for an encore to a huge round of applause and raucous cheers from the crowd and proceed to kick out the jams with the cowbell-battering ‘DC Sound Attack!’ and the bar-room boogie of ‘Electric Worry’.
The most underrated band in rock music leaves Ireland tonight for a well deserved rest and although Clutch may never fill a large arena, those in attendance tonight are happy in the fact that this band belongs to them and them alone. And that’s the real power of music—not album sales or massive wealth, but personal connections.
WORDS: Dean Brown
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