It’s half past six on a Tuesday evening in Nottingham city center, and the place is awash with perhaps the most diverse crowd to ever hit Rock City at any one time, from huge bearded men in Down Tee-shirts to slight looking gents in QOTSA regalia and the even the odd punk, Clutch is certainly a band beloved by a broad audience, all who serve to pack out the venue so tightly that the walls were positively creaking.
We’re welcomed to Clutch’s tour, both figuratively and literally by General. Rivers of distorted twanging float out across the crowd as they produce volumes of heavy metal that sound both perfectly heavy and mightily metallic. “Get yourself some drinks” cries their frontman “This is a partay!” Heavy, noddable and thoroughly groovatronic, General alternate between being energetic and being downright ballsy, they produce an Alice In Chains style grungy rock at times, while shaking the ground with their distorted bass at others, what a way to start the night.
The second and final support act of the evening are Sons of Icarus, arriving with speedy electrical stoner rock mixed with unconventionally high vocals, as pedals stretch and bend their universe-traversing solos. They mellow down for a couple of songs though, before heating back up and delivering another pair of chugging hard rock tunes and retreating offstage.
The crowd go to get a beer before resuming their positions against the barrier, waiting remarkably patiently for Clutch to appear. Suddenly, the lights drop and the crowd roars like an army, bellowing and whistling for the Maryland rockers. Two searchlights on the stage light up and Clutch appear. They launch wordlessly into ‘Earth Rocker’, from their latest album, of the same name. Frontman Neil Fallon gets the crowd jumping for them in a matter of seconds. The crowd adores them, and rightly so, they play with a quiet skill that says ‘Trust me, I’ve been doing this a while.’
“Thank you so very much for coming out” smiles Fallon, to the room full of people who wouldn’t be anywhere else, before launching into ‘Crucial Velocity’, another track from the new album, with all the thrust that the name entails. Clutch play in the bright white light of the stage, preferring blinding musical skill to theatricality, blasting through songs perfected by years of playing. Even while playing the much more acoustic ‘Gone Cold’, they manage to project an air of pure southern rock that others can only fail to match. Fallon summons up a round of applause for Generals and Sons of Icarus from the volatile, shirtless crowd. They steal off the stage as the floor lights go up.
The crowd, however, isn’t having any of it. Nobody budges an inch as they start to shout and cheer and clap for Clutch, for what seems like whole minutes, before the lights drop once more and Clutch emerges once more to play another couple of songs before leaving for good.