After a days work, a bus that turned up late, an hour on the motorway and a sprint from the Quays I walked into The Academy literally two minutes before the funk of Chuck Brown’s ‘We Need Money’ heralded the arrival of Clutch onto stage. The sold out crowd was in place well before me and more than ready to party.
Opening with ‘A Quick Death in Texas’ from 2015’s Psychic Warfare it was evident from the start the band was in the same mood. They have the unassuming look of a group of accountants or geography teachers, and apart from frontman Neil Fallon they aren’t the most demonstrative of bands, but Neil couldn’t put on the performance he does without being able to rely on his bandmates to keep the wheels turning. Turn they did, in a show that managed to fit eighteen songs into an hour and twenty minutes. I once interviewed bass player Dan Maines who told me that the band take it in turns to choose the set list every night on tour, thus ensuring the set never becomes boring or stale. I wonder who was the master selector for Dublin?
Last night was a real mix of new and old, with ‘Unto the Breach’ from Earth Rocker being followed by ‘Passive Restraints’, originally released in 1992. Neil Fallon is a fascinating character on stage who remains still only when he’s playing guitar. He’s at his best when he moves the mic stand to one side giving him the whole stage to stride around, waving his arms and gesturing like a manic TV evangelist. He seemed a bit surprised when he heard the roars of the Academy crowd, commenting “I’m actually really enjoying myself tonight“. From my vantage point I could see how into the gig the crowd was, a sea of head banging hair on the ground floor and on the balcony fans hanging over the barrier singing along as Neil gestured up at them.
‘How to Shake Hands’ was the first of two new songs we were treated to. I don’t say this flippantly but it’s a song to rival their very best. The finest songs come when a songwriter has something to say, and Clutch certainly have plenty to say about the political uncertainty currently swamping their country and beyond. This politically charged track is all about becoming President of the United States, making more sense than the current President has in his lifetime. The intention to “put Jimi Hendrix on a dollar bill and Bill Hicks on a five note,” seems a good one to me. Neil Fallon for President in 2021?
‘Earth Rocker’ sparked some massive reaction from the crowd as the intensity went up a few notches, not that it was ever less than sky high. ‘Regulator’ and ‘Firebirds’ were followed by the second new track of the night, ‘Love a Good Fire’. Neil introduced the song as being one very close to his heart, very emotional but he was going to try to keep it together and not fall apart as he sang about something so special, i.e. drinking beer and listening to Black Sabbath. He joked after the song, “I did it, I held it together!” His dry sense of humour is a huge part of the Clutch oeuvre. As a band they are so many things, metal, rock, bluesy, funky, but over all these things they are intelligent lyricists. Watching Jean-Paul Gaster at the back was a treat as he almost sings his drum sequences. His concentration is so intense that it belies the relaxed fluidity of his style. Amazing.
‘Profits of Doom’ (an example of said intelligent lyrics) and ‘Noble Savage’ followed before the closer ‘The Wolfman Kindly Requests…’ After a short break the band came out for an encore to a chant from the crowd that had changed from the initial “one more tune” to a demand for “ten more tunes.” They were somewhat indulged when the band added an extra song to what was on the setlist. Neil mentioned that there was no club night on so they could do what they wanted. (Previous shows in the venue have been hampered with time constraints). With that they ripped into a furious ‘The Mob Goes Wild’ and finished us all off with a double whammy of ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘X-Ray Visions’.
It’s so true that no two Clutch shows are ever the same and last night they gave Dublin more than Psychic Warfare, they tantalised all the senses and left us baying for their return.
Photos by Down The Barrel Photography