24 April 2014
Hipster beards begone! The mighty Clutch have descended once again from their mountain compound, brandishing authentic whiskery righteousness. With an attendant road crew of similarly hirsute qualities it’s as thought the supporting cast of Justified had been let loose with Marshall stacks instead of meth labs.
Fitting right in to this grizzled scenario are opening act Lionize. The fellow Maryanders are signings to Clutch’s own Weathermaker label, and it’s no difficulty to see why. Each member plays in a near identical fashion to their Clutch counterpart, with a keyboard player giving their overall sound a close approximation of the Robot Hive-era; not yet as memorable, but they still win an appreciative response.
And as for the headliners? Well – playing before a backdrop the size of a small house, Clutch are now at the stage where the roaring surge of audience acclaim before they’ve even played a note means that the band have a platform to relax and perform. Proud frontman Neil Fallon is beaming from the off and when, midway through the set, a vigorous circle pit breaks out for Jean Paul Gaster’s drum solo it comes as no particular surprise.
Still surfing the wave of acclaim from last year’s superb Earth Rocker album, the band are headlining Academy 1 for the first time, and it’s a joy to see the organic incremental growth each time they return to the country. While set-lists on the last tour revolved around almost entire performances of the new album sprinkled with select older tracks, this time they mix things up to great effect. Thus, predictably, the returning Soapmakers and Cypress Grove get heroes’ welcomes, but it’s significant that new songs are greeting with equal fervour rather than the polite patience that is usually the case – opener Crucial Velocity being a prime case in point. Lionize’s keyboard player is deputised to allow a rare performance of 10001110101, which also sees a hearty singalong of the binary code chorus – a unique piece of Clutch charm – and even the brooding acoustic Gone Cold is greeted with rapture. One way or another, no-one leaves a Clutch show disappointed.