WORDS: Perran Helyes
CLUTCH have managed to sell out the 1500 capacity Ritz tonight while a number of notable and fantastic bands recently have not, an impressive feat that promises a triumphant evening.
Sweden’s GREENLEAF are the first to take to the stage, gaining a decent reaction with their bulky stoner rock. Arvid Jonsson vocally has some strong presence, certainly enough to maintain his influence when the band behind him occasionally drop out. Indeed some people at the front seem to know the songs and the band are obviously encouraged by this, a little bit more confident swagger in their stride. The distorted guitar when played at the higher end creates a hurricane of noise giving their sound a tad more edge even if it’s not enough to elevate them far beyond moderately enjoyable. They lack the hypnotic power or the emotional heft to truly carry their slower sections; instead, GREENLEAF are at their best when embracing simply being a raucous rock ‘n’ roll band.
GREENLEAF’s fellow Swedes BOMBUS provide the most frenzied kick to the chest tonight. Their dual vocalists delivering their lines simultaneously creates a cacophony of hoarse roars that almost gives off the impression of being attacked by a gang in a back alley. An aspect of them seems to bridge the gap between MOTÖRHEAD and the much more guttural HIGH ON FIRE, but that sells them short. Their songs also have a melodic sensibility to them primarily stemming from the guitars rather than the vocals which is a nice dynamic for music of this style. Enter the Night from 2013’s The Poet and the Parrot is an absolute blast, the sheer vigour forcing the crowd to sit up and take notice, and the new songs off their upcoming 2016 follow-up sound very promising indeed. Of the many hairy, lairy Swedish hard rock and heavy metal revivalists, BOMBUS are one of the ones to pay attention to.
The roar that greets CLUTCH is genuinely deafening; they have sold the place out after all, and it’s clear before they’ve even played a note that people really do have unreal amounts of love for this band. New albumPsychic Warfare’s lead single X-Ray Visions kicks things off and chaos ensues, the throng totally compelled to move. Every single word of this ingenious track is roared back at the stage right through to the astrology-themed mid-section, and the same is true for the following Firebirds with its stratospheric chorus despite the album only being released a mere couple of months ago. The band are immensely casual in their playing, especially guitarist Tim Sult and bassist Dan Maines simply nodding along like they’re playing the coolest downtown bar in the world, letting their songs do the talking. The energy levels on stage drop when frontmanNeil Fallon also picks up his guitar for obvious reasons which is for an unfortunate amount of the set, physically unable to work the crowd in the same way as CLUTCH partially lose their one focal point, but not so within the audience who continue to lap up the still very well delivered songs like they’ve been deprived of sound for weeks. When let loose Fallon is fantastic, the mad poet thrusting his arms around purveying his prophecies to those who will listen which tonight is indeed everyone. Meanwhile it’s not the first time it’s been noted that Jean-Paul Gaster is one of the closest things we have to a John Bonham in modern rock music, the indomitable backbone providing so much swinging groove and pure thumping power in his hits.
Fans of the older material may be disappointed at the amount aired from the likes of The Elephant Riders and Blast Tyrant in comparison to Psychic Warfare: they play the entire damn thing. Luckily though there doesn’t seem to be many of these people in the room. Psychic Warfare is as good as anything CLUTCHhave done before it and every song is greeted like a classic. The aforementioned opening one-two of X-Ray Visions and Firebirds is as good as it gets along with tunes like Sucker for the Witch in terms of debaucherous singalongs, Noble Savage is a riot, and Our Lady of Electric Light and especially Son of Virginia bring that whiskey-soaked Southern saloon vibe that proves especially captivating when in the hands of this band. The moments older songs do appear are equally impressive, the funk boogie of The Soapmakershitting insane peaks and conjuring the dusty American wilderness in The Regulator showcasing Fallon’s range as a singer. Moreover Earth Rocker as a closer is brilliant, as is any song that can make an entire crowd in unison unironically bellow a noise like they’re trying to amuse a baby while simultaneously grooving this hard. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actively dislikes CLUTCH and it’s more evident than ever why after showings like tonight. This is a band eleven albums into their career and arguably only now hitting their peak, and sold out shows like this are well deserved as the modern landscape’s shining beacon of rock ‘n’ roll mastery.