Review + Photos by Frank Ralph

It’s been a while since I’ve been completely blown away by a support band, and actually the last Clutch support that really did that was Clutch when they supported themselves as The Bakerton Group, but tonight both supports managed to do exactly that.

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First up were the very eccentric 2-piece The Inspector Cluzo from France who combined a 4-octave vocal range with an enigmatic drummer who covered more of the stage than the frontman and finished the set by dismantling his kit piece-by-piece whilst continuing to create a killer beat on a diminishing set up. It felt like they had been handpicked by JP for this run, and the crowd was with them throughout.

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Second was The Picturebooks from Germany. An energetic frontman and an absolute lunatic who physically assaulted his drum kit for 40 minutes. He’s probably the nicest guy on earth but you had to feel for the drums he was beating the hell out of. Fantastic stuff, and when they come back in May they will no doubt have some new fans enjoying the show.

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Other than the majestic bald eagle backdrop towering over the stage there’s no fuss or fanfare at a Clutch show. Just 4 guys who walk on stage, rock the hell out for an hour and a half, then leave. Its what happens in that time that makes every show magical though.

For most bands you’d expect a level of apathy for a set heavily populated with new material from a new album but with Clutch the crowd are devoted and it matters not one bit – there’s no such thing as a casual Clutch fan. Every track is specifically designed to fit into any setlist they decide to choose, a process they famously take turns in doing. When you consider they don’t even play Mob Goes Wild or D.C. Sound Attack! tonight, among many other omissions, it shows you how strong their material is. New tracks like Emily Dickinson and the weaponised funk of In Walks Barbarella slot in easily and feel like firm fan favourites.

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The musicianship is second to none across the board. JP’s unmistakable groove twinned with Dan Maines’ crystal clear bass create a solid base for Tim Sult to build his psychedelic sonic masterpieces over, and as for Neil Fallon, well, we could all listen to Neil Fallon singing the phonebook and walk away happy. In fact, Hot Bottom Feeder is pretty much just Neil singing a recipe for Crab Cakes… and it’s incredible.

He punctuates his lyrics like an over enthusiastic preacher and he was in a playful mood tonight joking with the audience about levels of drunkenness (his and theirs) and guitar noodling.

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Closing with Electric Worry and X-Ray Visions it felt like Christmas had come early – and had been renamed Clutchmas. After what felt like a lengthy gap they returned for Lorelei and Earth Rocker and completed their rock masterclass. Personally, I wish it could be Clutchmas every day, but will be looking forward to their return in 2019 as promised by Neil.

This was my final show of 2018 and I can’t think of a better one to have ended on. Merry Clutchmas everyone!

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See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

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