Words by Alan Daly
© Olga Kuzmenko
Photos by Olga Kuzmenko
Just over eighteen months ago, Maryland rockers Clutch kicked off their Psychic Warfare world tour here in Dublin, and tonight they have returned to dish out a second helping to the insatiable Irish fans at this sold-out show in the Academy. Once again, the giant Psychic Warfare album artwork hanging behind the drumkit is the only prop required for these no-frills performers, and the recorded cover of Chuck Browns “We Need Money” lets us know that the show is about to begin.
Frontman Neil Fallon is first on stage and is greeted my massive cheers. His familiar bandmates follow and all are looking remarkably well groomed. The opening track is ‘A Quick Death in Texas” from the last release followed by ‘Unto the Breach’ from the previous Earth Rocker. Fallon charges around the podium, engaging with the ever-responsive crowd, manipulating them like marionettes, and creating the feeling that he is addressing each and every one of them individually through his anecdotal lyrics.
Next up are two older tracks, ‘Passive Restraints’ from the 1992 EP of the same name and ‘Escape from the Prison Planet’ from their 1995 eponymous album Clutch. Fallon comments that “it has been entirely too long” since their last visit, which to be fair, is not strictly true, but going by how quickly tonight’s show sold out, more regular visits would not go unappreciated. After a few more tracks, Fallon tells us that they are going to play two brand new songs tonight and the first one is apparently titled ‘How to Shake Hands’ and features the satirical lines “I’m going to be the president of the United States. The first thing I’m going to do is get a ride in a UFO and put Jimi Hendrix on the twenty dollar bill”. Now what sort of president would need instructions on how to do something as simple as shaking hands?
After a few more tracks including a trio of particular crowd-pleasers, ‘Earth Rocker’, ‘The Regulator’ and ‘Firebirds!’ prompting extended and heartfelt rounds of applause from the audience, Fallon introduces the second new track as being based on a very personal topic: Drinking beer and listening to Black Sabbath. The new songs are received really well and if the last two albums hooked you on Clutch, the next one seems on course to follow along with the same lines.
The setlist features no less than eighteen tracks spread widely across their career, but of course still skewed slightly in favor of the last two highly successful releases. The show wraps up with a knockout one-two of ‘Electric Worry’ and ‘X-Ray Visions’ triggering moshing and a deafening sing-along. Fallon tirelessly commands the crowd and leads a faultless performance by the quartet, proving himself to be one of the most entertaining frontmen in rock. It would be hard to imagine Clutch without him. Thankfully, their quarter-century career shows no sign of abating; instead, they go from strength to strength. Clutch ARE rock. At least in my book.