Live: Clutch @ The Waterfront, Norwich (08/07/2013)
Sons Of Icarus – General
Monday’s an inconvenient night for a gig – there’s the depressing fug of the return to work, potentially lingering hangovers, and the knowledge that there’s four more days of it to come. As such a late night doesn’t seem the best course of action. But then this is Clutch, and so all normal rules are off, do not apply, you can take your Monday and shove it. Tonight we rock.
Sporting their very own dark-haired Saruman on guitar, General (6/10) are old-school through-the-floor stoner. Perhaps weighed down by their own gravity, the frontman looks oddly awkward, as though he’s not sure what to do with himself – or still can’t quite believe he’s here. It’s no Wembley Arena but playing any stage requires taking a step up. As the groove rises though, so he loosens up in turn. The sound is fairly muddied, making it regularly sound more like a practice session than audience ready. But some of the riffs that manage to float to the top are pretty sweet – get them in the right soundspace and General just might gain some new troops.
In what seems to be a roadie pit-stop attempt, it looks like a lightning change for the Sons Of Icarus (8/10) – or perhaps not. It ends up a pace more akin to a small cow lumbering across a field. Still when they get there the sound is immeasurably better. You can hear the vocalist as though he’s stood next to you – disregarding the fact that he actually is of course – and the instruments are in the right places. It means those high notes could raise goosebumps on the recently deceased. He sounds like something of Myles Kennedy. Riffs, solos, and then a slow one – but in a Black Stone Cherry-ish way. We’re talking a lot of noise still but down a pace or two. They may be young, but there are definitely no training wheels on Sons Of Icarus anymore.
Because I’m a selfish sod I think Clutch should come on early. But I don’t think the wishes of me or anyone else in the crowd matter a jot. Neil Fallon is a preacher of his own religion, and any preacher worth his salt knows a bit of frenzy is good for the show. When they arrive, it’s without pomp or fanfare. Words are exchanged, but what’s said isn’t important. The music – that speaks well enough for itself.
‘Earth Rocker’ and ‘Unto The Breach’ – Clutch (10/10) are choosing their new material to start and it comes back at them full force from the crowd. You begin to suspect that Clutch could draw out any song, from any point in their history, and it the crowd would be on it word-for-word. In fact even at this early stage Neil could imbue any ideology he wanted, shout any slander, incite an uprising, and we’d take it to our hearts.
Instead he pulls out ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ and ‘Profits Of Doom’ as though he already knows what is in there. The setlist swings back to being Earth Rocker heavy – ‘Crucial Velocity’, ‘Cyborg Bette’, ‘The Wolfman Kindly Requests’ – there’s only less a handful that miss an airing tonight. But then an album of no duds offers such opportunity. Talking of swinging, a wonderful version of ‘The Regulator’ breezes through the room raising a collective shiver despite the shared heat. ‘Cypress Grove’ is missed but ‘Electric Worry’ finishes things off nicely, and ‘Mice And Gods’ and ‘Animal Farm’ provide the kind of encore that the second coming would be intimidated by.
Perhaps what inspires such devotion is that Clutch are one of the few bands who sound exactly as they do on record when playing live. Not in a bland carbon copy kind of way, but as testament to their impeccable timing and tight-as-fuck playing. I’d also hazard a guess that they do little in the way of pissing about in the studio because Neil’s vocals in particular are on the nose. They’re a band you can get behind, would follow to the end of the earth, would brave a Monday night for.
And you suspect they have no idea of how special it all is. It’s an inconvenient night for a gig, but a perfect one for a spot of religious reverence.
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