Review by Jason Guest and Photos by Sean Larkin
There’s something wrong in Nottingham tonight. Not just Nottingham; or just the Midlands for that matter; but all England. There’s a big orange burny thing in the sky – a sky adorned with barely a cloud, no less! – and the temperature is in double figures. Something’s wrong, definitely wrong. But for all that the crowd outside of Rock City care, it could be that the earth has spun wildly off its diurnal course and set the controls for the heart of the sun because Clutch are in town in support of their latest album, the remarkable-as-usual, Earth Rocker (Ed: Jason’s review of the album is here).
All the way from sunny Coventry, show openers General serve thirty minutes of elephantine rock grooves laced with immense amounts of doom, stoner, and sludge to an already-packed house that guzzle down every note as if it’s the only thing that will drag the temperature down and save them from extinction. The heads of the crowd do what they’re supposed to and nod their constant rhythmic approval, and at the end of each song and of the set, the heads disappear beneath a sea of clapping hands.
Sons of Icarus get the same steaming reception from a crowd hell bent on making the temperature inside Rock City the same as that outside and baking us all to death. But such miseries are brushed aside as this Guildford quartet bestow upon us a healthy dose of straight-ahead rock driven by cool riffs, head-banging rhythms, Andy Masson’s melodic vocals and singalong choruses, and the very impressive lead-work of Steve Balkwill. While the band’s songs are already enough to keep this sweaty crowd more than happy, it’s his leads that give the songs that distinct boost to mark Sons of Icarus out as a band to keep an eye (and maybe an ear or two) on. The crowd’s roaring response to their set confirms that.
As good as General and Sons of Icarus were, Clutch is the band that everyone’s here to see. One quick glance around the crowd and despite being garbed out in T-shirts of bands as diverse as QOTSA and Behemoth and even the odd obscure black metal and punk band, it’s the name Clutch that dominates the crowd’s attire. Jeans and T-shirts are of course the uniform of the subculture, but nowhere else is it so apt. Clutch don’t need an image; their music is all that matters, and all that matters is in their music. The lights go down, the cheers go up, and Clutch stroll on and kick out the title track of their new album. A perfect opener to any set, Fallon is as much preacher as he is frontman, the crowd singing every word as if it were straight out of the gospels and Rock City were a cathedral of all things rock. Hallelujah brothers and sisters! Clutch have arrived.
That the set list is comprised mainly of material from Earth Rocker doesn’t pose any problems for this crowd. They know it inside out already and so after second track ‘Mr Freedom’, there’s only one thing that’s needed to push this gig through the roof: cowbell. And so out it comes for ‘D.C. Sound Attack!’; harmonica too. Oh dear. What with the temperature outside at an all-time high (probably; I’ve not done any research to back that up) and the temperature inside threatening to defeat the air-con (again, probably; I’ve no claims to being an air-con specialist), this might just mean that Rock City is about to explode. It doesn’t, not literally anyway, but the boundary between band and crowd is but a blur of blues-drenched rock tempered in the best venues and the shittiest dives known to man.
There are no pretensions with Clutch. Not in their music, their lyrics, nor their stage show; just four men who know how to get the job done. When JP tickles the ride or crashes the cymbals, hammers the snare, or kicks the bass drum, it’s got purpose, meaning, and depth. The same goes for Dan Maines’s bass lines, Tim Sult’s guitar work, and Fallon’s lyrics. The difference is that it’s not buried in elaborate tracks that take an eon to come to grips with and eventually garner a vague understanding of. Nope. It’s right there on the surface, staring you in your sweat-drenched, bearded face. And you won’t be able to forget it. Nor will you want to. Like the song says, ‘If you’re gonna do it, do it live on stage or don’t do it at all.’ That’s Clutch in a nut shell. No bullshit. That’s their appeal and that’s their success. And Rock City – with its very limited and crap selection of alcoholic drinks on offer (sort it out!) – was witness to it. Gig of the year. Even if you weren’t there.
D.C. Sound Attack!
Book, Saddle, and Go
The Mob Goes Wild
Unto The Breach
The Wolfman Kindly Requests…
One Eye Dollar
See more of Sean’s photos here: