In typical un-Christmas type weather, the fog outside is getting denser, making the distant glow of the festive lights in the city hard to see. It’s also unseasonably warm. Tonight Clutch are playing the Institute as part of their final dates of 2016. There’s no new album to promote, but they love playing live and we love seeing them.
Opening is Lionize, who supported on the last Birmingham visit at the Academy. Lionize are a wonderful rock band, raw and bluesy, with gorgeous harmonies, and clearly very good friends of Clutch as Tim Sult accompanies them on one song. Their new ‘Alpha EP’ is out now and worth a purchase. Sadly their half-hour slot isn’t long enough but they have set a high standard for the evening.
Next we have Valient Thorr, a South American band I’d not heard of before and who are impossible to define. Take metal, rock, blues, punk mix them up and you’re still nowhere close. Led by Valient Himself they are incredible. The energy is electrifying and within two songs he’s bare chested, prowling and dancing and covering every inch of the stage. He must be a photographer’s nightmare as he never keeps still; even when lying on the floor, across the monitors he’s scraping his hair back and pulling his impressive beard. He tells us there may be robots amongst us and that if we want something we should get it, “by stealing if necessary, no, I don’t mean that”. They play for nearly an hour and despite trying to squeeze one last song in there’s no time, instead he gets the crowd to wish Deimos Thorr ‘Happy Birthday’, but instead opting for a Lisa Simpson style version.
I’m not quite sure what I have witnessed, the set-list was scribbled and made no sense, Valient Thorr made no sense, and yet they made perfect sense. They were just brilliant. How could anyone top that??
Well if there’s a band that could it is indeed Mr Fallon and co. I’ve seen Clutch many times and they never cease to amaze me. Full-on rock, metal, blues, stoner who cares? Their last album ‘Psychic Warfare’ is one of my favourite albums, I think the last count was that I had four different vinyl versions, some would say sad, I would say you can never have too much of a good thing, and the same is seeing them live.
Clutch are very basic, there’s no fancy lights, no gimmicks, just four very talented musicians who know how to rock and blast your ears. Tim Sult has already been on stage earlier with Lionize and watching him at close range it is incredible just what a fine guitarist he is, and yet at times he looks almost uncomfortable at the adulation of the packed venue. I also remain amazed at how Jean-Paul gets the powerhouse drums out of what must be the smallest drum kit on the live circuit, but he does and the power shakes your internal organs.
Sporting a Motorhead shirt, Dan Maines rarely makes eye contact with anything other than his bass; he’s solid and never puts a foot (or finger) wrong. And then we have the co-ordinator, Neil Fallon. It’s hard to take your eyes off him, strutting the stage, pointing and gesticulating, looking you right in the eye. Opening with “Crucial Velocity” it’s evident they are here to kick our arse, with a coverage of all their career and not just the last album, we even get a rare outing of “Passive Restraints” from their second E.P. “10001110101” is also a highlight and “D.C Sound Attack” is as good as ever as “we get our farming implements out” referring to the cow-bell.
It’s all over too soon, and with a perfect encore culminating with “X-Ray Visions” they wave and leave, with Jean-Paul passing out drum-sticks and set-lists. It’s great to see a near-full venue for Clutch, they are just one of the best live bands there is, and with tonight’s full listing for £20 very good value for money. It’s safe to say Santa came early to Brum tonight, but rather than a white beard it was black with grey flecks.
Sea of Destruction
50 000 Unstoppable Watts
Pure Rock Fury
Quick Death in Texas
D.C Sound Attack
Reviewer – Glenn Raybone
Photography – Chris Bowley