The originally scheduled sold out show at the Shepherd Bush Empire venue is forced to move to the larger Brixton Academy merely days before the entourage arrives, due to a building inspection identified structural damage. It has been only a matter of weeks since Slayer, Anthrax and Judas Priest occupied the Academy stage and plastered its walls with their massive imposing metal, encapsulates how Clutch is now gradually moving into rock’s big time circles after 24 years in the business on the back of ‘‘Earth Rocker’’, and current album ‘‘Psychic Warfare’’.
But before Maryland’s finest two Swedish bands are in tow. First up is Greenleaf, who despite encountering a terrible muddy sound, my initial hunch is there is a good stoner rock band within and this is proved right by the time the sound is clearer for the last two songs. Vocalist Arvid Jonsson paces the stage back and forth looking like a younger Seasick Steve while they deliver nuanced stoner rock grooves with touches of the very underrated Screaming Trees thrown in for good measure.
Fellow Swedes Bombus follow; a heavier, robust, no-nonsense and direct sounding proposition, as they produce their brand of pounding metal. However, we all have to endure an appalling opening uneven sound, which has the double bass drum obliterating everything around until it is fortunately quickly sorted out. Looking classy all dressed in black, boasting a new refined stage confidence, they bombard the senses with a set peppered with new tracks from forthcoming new album which showcase a band stepping up in quality in all departments since I saw them support Monster Magnet at the beginning of this year. Although, as a support act there still is no need for the inclusion of a drum solo – come on guys!
‘Holy Cow’ says the astonished Neil Fallon as he views the Brixton crowd welcoming their heroes on stage. Before unleashing a pulverising opening six songs that the crowd responds with total engagement and commitment. Neil commands the stage animated like a frenzied Brian Blessed as the rest of the band are intensely focused on their instruments to deliver a blistering fast tempo rock groove and swagger. But there is more to Clutch than just rock fury and as the set progresses they incorporate the many elements of their unique sound from the sensational funk hard rock of ‘Your love is incarceration’ and ‘D.C. sound attack’, to the smokey drenched blues atmosphere of ‘Son of Virginia’.
Clutch portray a grounded, feet firmly on the floor impression, so has never taken success for granted and it is to their credit that they seem to be at the peak of their powers after so long in the business. It has taken them a long time getting here but they have achieved it on their own terms creating their own identity and stamp of a sound. They have never been in fashion so have always trodden their own path while maintaining a sense of level headedness as expressed in the lyrics of the fitting and rip-roaring closer ‘Earth Rocker’, which the crowd fully embrace and participate in by singing, grooving, or moshing along to. Neil wishes everyone a prosperous 2016 and we can only hope they return to help us fulfil a fully realised new year, and let us help them celebrate their 25th anniversary.
Clutch setlist: X-Ray Visions, Firebirds!, Crucial Velocity, Burning Beard, Book, Saddle, & Go, Noble Savage, A Quick Death in Texas, The Soapmakers, Doom Saloon, Our Lady of Electric Light, Behold the Colossus, Unto the Breach, The Mob Goes Wild, Profits of Doom, The Regulator, Your Love Is Incarceration, Son of Virginia. Encore: D.C. Sound Attack!, Earth Rocker