May 5, 2014 by Dan Swinhoe
Since the release of last year’s Earth Rocker, Clutch have finally made that jump from cult to class status, and on the strength of tonight performance, they’re more than good enough to go even further. This time they’re playing at the now-rammed London Forum after a sell-out gig at the Koko earlier in the year, and are joined by Maryland’s Rock-reggae outfit Lionize.
Openers Lionize have finally made it to the UK’s shores after ten years. For the uninitiated, they’re akin to Clutch if they fully embraced their funk and reggae desires, creating a dub boogie rock sound that really sets them apart in an often overcrowded scene. It’s hard to tell how much of the audience was previously aware of the band, as all but one song is drawn from their new album Jetpack Soundtrack. The only track from previous outings is a jammed out rendition of the epic Trustafarian, from 2011’s Superczar and the Vulture.
While old fans might be disappointed, their new stuff is solid and has a polish that will do doubt make it easier for newcomers to get into them. The high-tempo title track, funky ‘Breather’, lead-single ‘Reality Check’ and an extended version of reggae prog epic ‘Sea Of Tranquillity’ all get a showing. The band play with plenty of energy and in frontman Nate Bergman they’ve got a vocalist with a quality set of pipes. During an interview, frontman Nate told me he’s starting think the UK audiences are even better than the US ones after just a few gigs, and they supply plenty of appreciative noise after each song. A headlining return is needed soon methinks.
Clutch meanwhile, need no introduction. And by the time the opening ‘Earth Rocker’ has finished the Forum is already sweating. The band have gotten bigger with each album, and so too have frontman Neil Fallon’s stage persona – his movement are like those of a possessed preacher, but he never needs to goad the audience. They lap up his words and sing them back twice as loud. Rarely is a singer so drowned out by the crowd on every word. Even the tongue-twisting binary code of ‘10001110101’ doesn’t phase the audience.
The majority of the night is dedicated to their latest record, from the mighty ‘Crucial Velocity’, ‘D.C. Sound Attack’ and others right through to ‘The Wolf Man Kindly Requests….’ all being brought out, much to the delight of the crowd. Plenty of bands try to pretend their new album deserves the most air time out on stage, but it’s hard to remember the last time a crowd were so noisy for every track off the latest album.
The Clutch live show has remained relatively unchanged throughout their history. There’s no fancy stage antics; the rest of the band rarely move or look up from their instruments, instead letting the music and Fallon take centre stage. The band don’t dig too deep for classics – Blast Tyrant’s ‘ Profits of Doom,’ ‘the groovy ‘Cyprus Grove’ and ‘Subtle Hustle’ all get a showing, along with the usual trio of ‘Mice & Gods’, ‘ Burning Beard’ and the stomping, slide-guitar heavy ‘Gravel Road’ from Robot Hive/Exodus.
A fairly recent addition to the Clutch repertoire is the addition of acoustic tracks. An understated ‘Gone Cold’ provides respite for the sweaty crowd, while a stirring ‘Regulator’ shows the band are able to go from 0-11 in an instant and provides possible the highlight of a brilliant performance. The only moan is that there’s nothing from the earlier records, but with a back catalogue as strong as Clutch’s, it’s almost impossible to please all the people all the time. You’re only solution is to come see them again next time, for when a man is bored of Clutch is bored of rock in all its forms.