JUST because a band doesn’t get out of second gear, that doesn’t mean they can’t work up a head of steam. Case in point: Clutch: a hi-rolling, much-loved quartet from Maryland (USA) who can lay down a groove as deep as an 18-wheeler tyre tread.
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Chugging along since 1990, given their impressive CV, Clutch really ought to have taken Queens Of The Stone Age’s place as the rightful Gods of palatable-to-the-mainstream stoner rock. In fact, given lead singer Neil Fallon was diagnosed with cervical spinal stenosis and two herniated discs (head-banging takes its toll) last September, it’s a wonder they showed up at all.
But they did, and last night’s 90-minute workout at the Liquid Room was a largely sweaty, beer-chugging, head-bobbing affair. A sell-out show, ticket-less fans hung around outside the venue hoping for returns, whilst inside, the black-clad throng were getting ready to receive their heroes.
Leading the front, Fallon displayed no visible ill effects as a result of his recent health problems.
With his Rasputin-esque beard and yes-I’m-seeing-you eyes, he remains a more animated figure than his more fit ‘n’ healthy band mates.
One minute he’s throwing mad shapes around the room, the next, he’s banging out some loud, distorted slide-guitar notes that would surely have scalded the earlobes of anyone standing too close. He knows how to spin a catchy rhyme, too.
By contrast, Fallon’s right-hand man, Tim Sult, cuts an unintentionally disinterested, yet devilishly potent figure.
Hunched over his guitar, rarely looking up from the strings, Sult’s funky blues riffs come with a deep hook that locks deep into your brain. And while Dan Maines’ heavy, low-frequency bass-lines sometimes made you feel like rushing to the toilet, it was clear that colossal drummer Jean-Paul Gaster is cut from the same cloth as Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham.
Ripping through the tunes, then, there was little time for chit-chat.
There were plenty old favourites in the set-list to keep hard-core fans enthralled, and even the newer numbers were granted a lager-soaked reception by the Clutch faithful.
In short, it was a gas.